Shades of Gray
A Sailor Moon Fanfic
By: Aaron Nowack
Epilogue: 'Till All Are One
"Never let your sense of morals get in the way of doing what's right."
- Isaac Asimov
Disclaimer: Sailor Moon is owned by Naoko Takeuchi, whose creative talents far exceed my most humble own. Distribution and other rights to Sailor Moon belong to lots of different companies that I do not own. I make or imply no claim to ownership of Sailor Moon or its characters. However, the text of this fanfic is mine, and should not be used without permission. Thank you.
Sailor Mercury whirled around as she heard someone entering the alleyway. Theoretically, she knew that this meeting should be far less dangerous than the last one she had attended here, but it was hard to believe that everything was suddenly... over, just like that. She blinked as she saw a young man in casual clothes walking toward her, hands raised. It took her only a moment to place the face from her efforts at uncovering the Champions' identities.
"Urawa Meno," she said. "So you are Hermes."
"You didn't know?" the man asked.
"I wasn't sure."
Meno nodded. "You had a more difficult job than I."
Mercury frowned. "What makes you say that?"
"We had only been Awakened for a few weeks," Meno explained. "There was no time for those of us who didn't already know each other to develop the relationships that made it easy to determine who all of you were once we knew one or two."
"I suppose." Mercury paused a moment. "Why did you come like that?"
Meno shrugged. "I was hoping that this time we could go someplace more comfortable. We are, after all, technically allies now. And there's hardly any point in hiding our identities... Ms. Mizuno."
"Don't call me that. Not when I'm like this."
"As you wish. So, shall we?"
"I suppose." Mercury wasn't sure she liked this. It wasn't what she had anticipated when Hermes had asked her for another meeting, before they had all left the ruins of Castle Charon, though she wasn't quite sure exactly what she had been expecting.
"Very good." Meno stood for a moment, waiting, then spoke again. "Well? Aren't you going to change back?"
"I would prefer that you not watch."
Meno blinked in surprise, then suddenly flushed. "Oh. Sorry." As he turned to leave the alley, he added, "There are less... revealing ways to detransform. I could show you sometime, if you like."
A few moments later, Ami joined him outside the alleyway. Meno nodded as she approached. "Shall we go to the Crown?"
Ami shook her head. "Somewhere else." She didn't feel up to running into Unazuki right now. At least Meno had never been someone she had considered a friend, so things were relatively simple between them. She wasn't sure how to handle Unazuki or Motoki. She wondered briefly what it would be like for Mamoru, once he got out of the hospital in a couple of days. A good number of the Champions had been his friends, or at least acquaintances.
Once the two had found a small cafe and had ordered and received their drinks, the two were silent for a moment. Eventually, Ami decided to break the ice. "Why did you want to meet with me?"
Meno laughed softly. "Very direct." He paused, becoming serious. "I know you must have many questions. I will do my best to answer them."
Ami sat back, pondering what to ask first. To say she had many questions was an understatement, but eventually she decided on one. Best to stick with simple ones first. "Metallia was..."
"Serenity the Dark, yes." Meno shook his head. "I only wish we had known that during the Silver Millennium. It would have made us all take the threat much more seriously, much earlier. Who knows what might have happened then?"
"I do not see why this would change so much for you," Ami said. "What difference does it make, that the threat we face has another name?"
Meno sighed. "If you had seen the fall of the Golden Millennium, you would not ask the question. I do not know or remember much of those days, but what I do is more than enough. In all I have seen and done for eight thousand years, nothing compares to the last battle."
Meno suddenly laughed. "Even now, after I've fought in so many other battles, I call it the last battle." But what little mirth this thought brought to him, it swiftly vanished. "But to answer your question, for one, it called upon a more binding oath than the one that calls on us to fight you. And two, there was no longer any reason for the war to begin with."
"Oh?" Ami asked, her face neutral.
"I suppose you think there was never any reason to begin with."
Ami was silent.
"We fought for a number of reasons. At first, for revenge." Meno's eyes were hard. "Not a pretty reason, is it? But you are lucky, that you cannot remember the Silver Millennium. Neither side in that war was blameless, nor innocent. The Senshi did many horrible things during that war. I could tell you of a thousand things, but there would be no point. If it were Princess Mesyne that was sitting before me, I would want little more than to see her dead. I might be able to ally with her for a time, but I would not be able to make peace with her."
Meno sighed. "Nor she with me, I fear. But you are not Princess Mesyne, are you?" He paused. "But by the time we knew that, there were already other reasons to fight."
"Saturn and Pluto," Ami said. The Champions had made that clear enough.
"The reasons why Saturn no longer applies are obvious," Ami said. "But what about Pluto?"
"I am surely not the only one who noticed the Gates of Time were gone, when we returned to Castle Charon."
"Without them, she is not nearly so dangerous."
Silence was all the passed between them for some time, until Meno sighed. "You do not trust me, do you?"
"How can I? Not after knowing what you planned, if you had won the battle."
Meno nodded. "It was my plan. I cannot say I would not have carried it through, either." He paused. "But if it helps, before we went to Castle Charon, we voted to only use the fleet as a bluff."
"And which way did you vote?"
"I voted to go through with it," Meno replied calmly. "It was the only way I could see of stopping Pluto."
"But why? What was she doing that would make you do something so horrible?"
"So horrible? You yourself told me the future that Pluto seeks. This entire world, frozen for a thousand years. If you are willing to sacrifice the lives of billions for some questionable utopia, why should not we sacrifice far fewer to stop it?"
"They will not die," Ami said. "They will sleep, until the ice lifts."
Meno snorted. "No force in the universe could preserve five billion people for a thousand years, much less the ecosystem it would take to support them when they awoke."
"And how do you know that your plan would have stopped the Great Ice?"
"How do you know it wouldn't?" Meno's eyes were hard. "It comes down to whether or not you trust Pluto that hers is the best possible path. Maybe you do, but I do not."
"And why not?"
"Pluto is still the same person as she was during the war." Meno paused. "And even were she truthful and her goal worthwhile, the Gates of Time are dangerous beyond belief. One misstep, and all of humanity might be wiped away as though it had never existed. No paradise is worth that risk."
"This issue could cause problems," Ami said, in what she felt was by far an understatement.
"It will," Meno said. "But trust me, all of us feel that stopping Serenity the Dark is far more important. The possibility that Pluto could do evil with her powers is nothing next to the certainty that... Metallia would."
Ami sat back. "I suppose we will have to put that issue aside for now. There are far more pressing manners."
"I suspect that will have to do for now."
Ami nodded. "Now what?"
"There are a number of things that we need to investigate." Meno began to tick items off on his fingers. "One, what did happen to the Gates of Time? Two, what will happen to the Dark Kingdom and the fleet, now that the Great Seal is destroyed?"
"Is it?" Ami asked.
Meno frowned. "I assumed so, but... it could simply be gone too."
Ami nodded. "Also, we need to know what the situation in the Dark Kingdom is now that Metallia has returned. And Jadeite might still be alive, also, for all that he hasn't shown his face again."
Meno frowned. "Also... we thought Saturn and Chronus died together. If Saturn still lives... might not Chronus as well?"
The two began to discuss the issues in earnest, though little progress was made. A few possibilities for avenues of investigation were proposed, though both agreed they all needed more work before they could be implemented. After some time, Ami found herself sipping up the last of her drink.
Meno sighed. "I don't think we're going to make much more real progress right now. Let's think on everything, and meet again in a few days, perhaps?"
After a moment, Ami nodded in agreement. As the two rose to leave, Ami decided to ask the question that had been preying on her mind for some time. "By any chance... do you have a relative named Urawa Ryo?"
It was night. Through the blinds on his window, Ikawa could see the never-dying lights of Tokyo. Combined they made the view from his window seem hardly darker than it would have been had it still been daytime. His mood, though, was more than dark enough to make up the difference.
The war was over. He was glad for that, he supposed. Yet, it was hard to deal with. He had sacrificed so much to the war, ten thousand years ago. He had sacrificed in this life as well, though not nearly so much. Certainly nothing compared to the thousands upon thousands who had died under his command, and the many more who had died by his command. Yet still it hurt.
For now all those sacrifices were in vain. They had accomplished nothing, save for destruction. The horrible threat of the Senshi of Silence was anything but exterminated. Indeed, once again it lay in the hand of evil, just as it had when the Golden Millennium fell. The Gates of Time might be gone for good, he truly could not say, but Pluto lived, and certainly would not give up her efforts to force the future onto her path.
Yet he knew that compared to Serenity the Dark, that issue was nothing. He would rather all the dead have died in vain then see those that lived enslaved once again to her reign. He would rather have the threat of Sailor Saturn continue to exist until the end of time then have her lie one more moment in the dark queen's hands. And he would rather trust Pluto - the very thought made him wince - then leave any weakness in the Earth's defense against Serenity the Dark.
That did not mean it was easy to accept, however.
He was shaken from his musings when he heard a light tapping on his door, and he knew who it had to be. It took him a moment to find his voice. "Come in. The door is unlocked."
The door opened, admitting his guest. Before the sound of the door shutting had faded, Ikawa spoke again. "We need to talk."
"I know," Rei said, her voice somehow at the same time soft and hard, calm and filled with emotion.
Ikawa did not turn from the window. "I admit I am somewhat surprised you came."
He could hear Rei crossing the room to stand behind him. "I was surprised you asked. But we do need to talk. Best to do it now, and in private."
"My thoughts exactly." Ikawa's fists clenched, and it took some effort to relax them.
"I hope you do not expect me to forgive you," Rei said. "What you did to me is beyond forgiveness."
Ikawa's eyes closed, seemingly of their own volition. "I know." He paused. "But we will have to work together, now."
"We will." He could almost feel Rei's eyes flash. "But if you ever give me reason to think that you plan to go back on your oath, I will kill you."
"You should know me better than to expect me to betray an oath, after all I did for the last one I took."
"I don't know you at all," Rei said. "I thought I knew Ikawa, but I didn't. Maybe Phoebe knew Deinas, but I do not." She paused. "Usagi might trust you, but I do not. I will be watching you." She turned to leave.
"Wait," Ikawa said, and she halted. "It does not change anything, but I would like to say I am sorry I had to hurt you like I did."
Rei half turned back to Ikawa. "I don't care what you say!" she shouted, then took a deep breath. When she resumed, her words were softer but no less angry. "I don't love you and I will never love you. I don't even like you. If I ever felt differently, it was only built on a lie."
Ikawa turned around. "Then I think we are done here. I suppose I will see you soon."
"If it is necessary." Rei once again turned to leave, and this time Ikawa did not stop her.
And for a long time after that, Ikawa did nothing but stare out his window at the night sky.
The crowd roared. It was a cacophony of sounds, of lupine howls and insectile clicks, a fearsome medley of all the noises that humans were bred to fear and detest. It came from a sea of demonic forms, the nightmares of mankind given flesh and blood. Not all that long ago this palace had been dusty and nearly abandoned, but now every Overlord with any sort of power that still lived had gathered here.
Behind the throne stood Loriel and Scalae. The Dragons of Fire and Water, the only two known to survive, they were perhaps the only beings who could challenge the Dark Kingdom's new ruler, yet they could no more confront her than they could go against their very natures. They were bound to her, bound as they had been for more than ten thousand years. She was as much a goddess to them as she was to the swarms of youma that filled every last foot of the cavernous throne room.
To either side stood her two Generals, with whom she was well pleased. For it was they who had finally succeeded in that which at all her servants had failed, all through the countless millennia from when her reign had been usurped. Nyxan had taken the position to her left, while Ishamanar stood with his consort to her right. All three youma showed no signs of the terrible wounds they had taken the previous day, for though the dark goddess was more concerned with destruction, she had the power to heal her servants as well.
At her feet knelt Sailor Saturn, a fact that caused the gathered youma no small consternation. Her face was calm and showed no expression, even when the dark queen's elegant hand reach out to caress her head, as one might a favored pet's. Her mind was once more tightly in the queen's grasp, and even now her mental probes were searching through the Senshi's mind, twisting every thought and emotion, binding her ever closer. With but a thought the goddess could have crushed that mind, leaving nothing more than an empty puppet, but that would leave her nearly useless. This way was more risky, but Metallia was a master at this art.
After allowing the crowd's celebration to continue a moment longer, Metallia gestured for silence. It came almost instantly, the cacophonous noise swiftly becoming an air of hushed expectation. Metallia smiled. "Bring forth the false King," she said in a soft voice, her magic making it clearly audible to all the countless youma who attended.
A clear path quickly formed among those youma as two guards dragged the bound form of Jadeite forward. Unlike Metallia's servants, the former General still bore the fearsome wounds he had received, and he was hardly recognizable as himself. Only Metallia's will kept him from lapsing into unconsciousness, and most likely death as well. As he reached the foot of the stairs that lead up to the throne, his guards forced him to kneel.
Metallia smiled at the mix of rage and fear that filled the human's eyes and mind. He might not know it, but he was just as bound to her as all her other servants. He had lost himself to her long ago, in the icy wastelands of Terra's utter north. And now it was time to drive that bond home once again.
Jadeite seemed to wilt at Metallia's smirk, his body shuddering as terror overtook rage. He knew that he was totally at her mercy. He had no power left, having spent it all the previous day. He had nothing to bargain with, no supporters to rescue him. Nothing but the knowledge that Metallia was anything but known for her mercy.
But it was not mercy that would stay her hand this day. Instead, it was the suspicion that the former general might still have a use. He could be a powerful tool, in no small part due to his ability to blend in on Terra far better than her other servants, save perhaps Saturn, who could not be trusted on such a mission in any case. Not yet.
Metallia caught the kneeling man's eyes and spoke. "Will you beg for my forgiveness?"
Jadeite stilled, and he was silent a moment before answering. "No."
"I see," Metallia said, fighting back her anger at the human's insolence. "You cannot hope to escape me. No matter where you are, I could find you."
Jadeite growled. "Just let me die already. This farce is pointless."
"A farce?" Metallia asked, her voice deceptively light. "It is you who chooses to make it a farce." She rose, and a sparkling red gem appeared in her hands. "Do you think that you could fight me with this?"
Jadeite showed no surprise at the appearance of the Flame Diamond. Metallia waited for his answer, but he showed no signs of giving one. Metallia smiled, and with a snap of the fingers of her free hand Jadeite's bonds fell to the floor. An instant later she tossed the Diamond at him.
He rose and scrambled to catch the gem. When he was done he cradled it in his hands, staring suspiciously at Metallia. "Why do you do this?"
Metallia's only answer was a slight smile.
After a moment the Flame Diamond suddenly came to life, blazing in Jadeite's hands. At that very instant Metallia struck, her mind forcing its way into Jadeite's. With all his mind bent on controlling the Diamond's power, he could mount no defense against the sudden assault. Even as the flames continued to speed towards Metallia, Jadeite screamed, falling to his knees once again.
Yet somehow in the bare instants this took, Sailor Saturn interposed herself between the fire and her mistress, summoning a Silence Wall with a soft intonation. The fires beat against the wall for less than a second before fading away.
It took only slightly longer for Metallia's mental claws to sink their way into the former general's mind once again. The ancient spells she had used to bind him to Beryl's service so very long ago were still present, and they provided a easy way to reassert her dominance over Jadeite's mind, already weakened by pain and despair. Even before the Flame Diamond had finished falling from Jadeite's limp hands, her work was finished and Saturn had returned to her place at the foot of the throne.
As the Diamond hit the ground and began to roll towards Metallia's feet, she repeated her original question. "Will you beg for my forgiveness?"
It took several seconds for Jadeite's scattered mind to reassemble itself enough to form a coherent answer. "Yes, my Queen."
Metallia smiled. "Then it is granted." Sounds of shock emanated from the watching crowd, and the goddess knew the only reason Nyxan and Ishamanar did not join them was that they had been warned of this. The Flame Diamond rose from the ground at her feet, then floated over to where Jadeite knelt. "Take it, and serve me well."
Jadeite grasped the Diamond in one hand, even as his wounds began to heal. "Thank you, my Queen." For an instant his mind rebelled, straining against the bonds Metallia had placed upon it with surprising strength. But only for an instant, as the struggle quickly ended in defeat.
Metallia stepped back onto the stairs, and slowly settled herself into the throne once again. At long last, that which had been interrupted had begun anew. On this day, her reign was reborn.
And this time, it would last forever.
Author's Random Revised Ramblings
1) And that's it. Again. All comments, of course, continue to be welcome.
2) My thanks yet again to Angus MacSpon for prereading the original versions of both this and Chapter 15, and to Michael Chase for commenting on them and the revisions.
3) Not planning to do a revision of the Author's Notes and Annotations, as I want those to remain a record of my feelings on completing my first fic.
4) I will, however, restate my dedication of this work to my sister, Rebecca Nowack.
Released: April 09, 2003
Revised: December 16, 2003
Final: December 30, 2003