Chaos Lord Productions Brings You.
The No Life Queen
Written by Chaos Lord
Disclaimer: All entities and devices in this story belong to their respective owners.
Chapter 8 - She is the One
Former police officer and current vampire Seras Victoria stood before a door in Japan's Hellsing branch. Staring at the heavy metal edifice, she could not suppress the trepidation she felt. In the room beyond, her master held court. Though she had grown accustomed to Alucard's moods, what she intended to do today could send him into a violent rage.
Something was coming though. She could feel it in her blood. It sang with anticipation and begged for an explosion of action. Seras needed to be apart of that action, to tear into her opponents with almost psychotic madness. The only way to achieve that end lay on the other side of the door.
As she raised her hand to knock upon the metal surface, Alucard's voice called out to her. "Come in."
Slowly, Seras opened the door. Immediately, she laid eyes upon her master's great black coffin. Even now, its massive size sought to intimidate her. So as to not allow a piece of furniture to beat her, Seras stood straighter and continued her path. As the door fully opened, it revealed Alucard, who sat upon what appeared to be a great throne.
"Ah, Police Girl," said the No Life King with feigned surprise. "What do you seek this evening?"
For but a moment, his question stilled her heart. The song of battle surged once more and Seras found her voice. "There is a battle coming."
"Yes," he purred almost orgasmically.
"I want to be there."
Alucard waived dismissivly. "I don't think your cannon will be of much use."
Seras stood straighter at the slight to her beloved Harkonen. "I want to fight."
"And what do you think you can do
Finally the former police officer's temper broke free of its bonds. "I can rip off their arms. I can savor their horror and swim in their pain. I will make them fear the dark. They will fear me. And I don't care what you say, I WILL FIGHT," she roared and in her eyes the fires of hell burned brightly.
From every shadowy corner of the room a dark laughter could be heard. It started low and quiet, its sound even. Slowly, it grew with increasing volume and madness until the room shook with insanity. Seras stood within this maelstrom and added her voice to her master's. As the world quaked at the sound of their laughter, Alucard rose from his throne.
In an instant, he stood before Seras Victoria. The laughter had stopped and he towered above her. "I have waited long for someone to ask properly. Throughout the centuries I have turned others, indoctrinated them into our dark world. Most have stood before me as you now do. In their eyes, I saw that their intention was to merely lord their power over humans, as if they were somehow above their roots. In you, I see the true needs of our race. You, Seras Victoria, shall walk in the dark places, bringing terror and justice in your wake. You shall be the blind one's hand on Earth. And in the process, you shall see some of the greatest battles ever."
In her minds eye, she could see it. On a hill she stood, Harkonen draped across one shoulder. Down her back, a gossamer cloak of pure darkness wafted upon a breeze. At the hill's bottom lay the bodies of all those who had dared to do harm to the innocent. Their death rattles gathered together into a glorious chorus of despair. It was a sight that stirred her soul. "I want to see that."
Alucard smiled wickedly. From his pale lips sprang a fountain of crimson warmth. Slowly the man and the woman embraced each other. Seras' pink lips joined with his own in a kiss. And in that simple act, the gates of heaven shook, for a new dark queen was born into the world.
Meanwhile, Usagi slept. But her slumber was not peaceful. Visions of carnage repeated one after another. Legions were laid low by a dark army. Though lead by generals of differing shapes and sizes, the young woman could see the vile being that was the true master of this unholy host. It was an amorphous creature, rolling, boiling, with hate and malice. It needed no features for Usagi to know its dread name, for she too had faced this terror before.
Before she could name it, another did so for her. "Metalia."
Usagi did not need to turn to know who spoke. The voice of Queen Serenity was as easy to recognize as her current mother's. "I had no idea she had caused so much pain."
"What you see now occurred long before Metalia came to our people," the deceased queen stated sadly. "In the pursuit of satiating her dark hunger, she trailed pain and death in her wake for countless millennia."
"And no one could stop her?"
The queen shook her head. "Even in that bygone age, there were few kingdoms with the power to even slow her march. And those with the power were only inclined to secure their domains."
Soon, the imagery shifted and a woman in white took center stage. "Our ancestor, Serenity the Second." The dark mass closed on the woman from all sides. Just as they were about to engulf her, a burst of radiant light surged out to banish the shadow.
Usagi watched with confusion. "She beat Metalia?"
"No. Metalia is too powerful to destroy. Serenity was only able to banish the beast's legions to a dark domain you call the Negaverse. As for Metalia, our ancestor chained her within the Sun. It was her hope that the star's power would be enough to bind the darkness forever."
"But she got out," blurted the younger woman; showing that, in her maturity, she had not completely abandoned her old ways.
"Yes my daughter. Serenity underestimated Metalia's desire for freedom. It took nearly a thousand years for her to break free. And with her escape, she vowed to make her captors pay. By that time, none of our people remembered her terrible legacy, so no one thought to watch for her escape. This left her free to plot her revenge."
"But how did Beryl fit into this? Was she just an innocent?" With the pleas of help and mercy from her former foe, Usagi needed to know more about the woman she would deal with.
The Queen shook her head. "Such things are not always so crystal clear. Had Metalia never answered Beryl's cries of retribution, there is no telling the path she may have taken. All I can say is, in the here and now, she is truly penitent."
As far as she was concerned, that last piece of information was all that Usagi needed. The coming battle would see her fighting clear of purpose. Still, there was one thing she needed to know in order to win the day. "How can we stop Metalia?"
"The only way to stop her is through eternal vigilance. You must seal her away, as I and our ancestor did. Warn those to come of her return. And always be watchful for it." The specter wished she had some better news for her reborn daughter, sadly there was none to give.
Usagi's shoulders slumped. She had really hoped for some greater wisdom from the dead than bottle her up and wait. "Dang."
Serenity smiled. "I know this is not the news you would have hoped to receive, but it is all I have to give. I wish you luck in your trials to come. But for now, you need to wake up."
"Huh," it was such an odd request that Usagi didn't know what to make of it.
"WAKE UP MEATBALL HEAD!" Though it was Queen Serenity's mouth moving, the voice was undoubtedly someone else's.
With that realization, Usagi's eyes bolted open. There, less than a foot away, she could see the red-faced visage of her friend Rei. Now, over the years, and the shift to quasi-undead, Usagi liked to think that she had gained a greater measure of maturity than she had held when she was just starting as Sailor Moon. Still, old habits die hard, even for defenders of love and justice. With a high-pitched scream, Usagi scooted away from the menacing presence. "REI! Don't do that," she yelled as she tried to recover from her fright.
Rei, who was slowly returning to a more healthy color, smiled at the antics of her friend. "You were the one drooling into your sleeve."
Reflexively, the blond woman wiped away any of the offending liquid. At the same time, she proclaimed, "No I wasn't. And you said you'd stop calling me that."
The other woman had the good decency to look ashamed. "Yeah, well, I had to wake you up somehow. And just yelling at you wasn't helping."
Usagi smiled at her friend's apology, her previous ill feelings were swept aside by the words, "Well thanks. What's up?"
"Naru just came in, apparently Zoecite's up. He . . . she . . . whatever, is talking with Ami right now."
For everyone, the sequence of events was quite peculiar. The fact of the general's female gender had been quite clear when they found her unconscious in the alley. Then, there had been definite curves that only a woman could pull off effectively. Those had vanished soon after Usagi had transported Ami and Zoecite to the shrine. In fact, when she arrived at her home, Rei found her friend nearly delirious with fright that she had somehow ruined the general's life.
Resolving to put the matter aside for the moment, the Senshi placed the two unconscious souls in separate rooms. Ami woke up soon after, though she remained steadfastly silent as to why she had lost consciousness, only saying that she was fine before finding a corner to read in. While everyone allowed her her peace, they all noted that there was something off about their blue-haired friend. At the time, Rei remembered thinking, "She almost seems like Minako after landing a new boy." Given who those thoughts were entailing, they were pushed aside nearly as fast as they were formed.
While Ami awoke quickly, Zoecite was another matter entirely. Ami had proclaimed that the level of trauma endured by the general had temporarily shut his brain down, even though his body had been completely repaired by Hotaru and Usagi. Whatever the reason for his continued unconscious state, they were all left with only option, they had to wait.
During that time, the group had scattered somewhat. Some had decided to take a walk around the compound while others continued with their routine patrols. For Usagi though, the strain of healing Zoecite then transporting them to the shrine had finally gotten to her, and she had fallen into a deep slumber. One that Rei had been forced to awaken her from in a rather unfortunate manner.
Wide awake, Usagi cast a worried glance toward the general's room. "How is she?" While the gender pronouns were confusing, for now she decided to stick with the one they found Zoecite in at the alley.
Rei winced at the definitiveness of her friend's gender assignment. "Naru said that Zoecite seemed fine, though she didn't spend much time in the room once "she" had woke up."
Usagi smiled, "Well I guess we can just find out for ourselves."
Haruka, who had remained in the back ground as the two friends talked, took that opportunity to step forward. "Are you going to go like that?"
The blond looked down at herself and saw only the clothes she had put on that morning. "What's wrong with what I'm wearing?" Quite frankly, she thought it was one of her better outfits and the notion that it was somehow wrong was mildly insulting to her.
"Well how can we be sure that all this talk of peace is real? I mean, what if its all a ruse to get us to lower our guard so they can kill you without any real effort on their part." Though she tried hard to adopt the more pacifist ideals of Usagi and the others, Haruka was still unwilling to fully trust a people who had so completely destroyed the Moon Kingdom.
The smile on Usagi's face never faded, but to Haruka and Rei's eyes it somehow changed, becoming more feral. Dark shadows began to creep across her form, obscuring her features behind a veil of impenetrable blackness. Slowly, blood seeped into her normally blue irises giving them a menacing look. Soon, all that remained of Usagi was a pair of eyes and a fanged smile, all the rest was consumed by the swirling mass of darkness. "You forget," she said as a chill filled the room. "I'm not just a normal woman anymore."
Both Rei and Haruka looked on in horror as the transformation swept over their friend and leader. They had known for some time that Usagi was a Vampire, but the blond had always tried to minimize what others saw of that side of her. Teleporting via shadows was easy for the mind to grasp. What they were seeing now was like if Alucard had suddenly appeared before them. That same level of menace and darkness filled the room. For Rei, it was like someone had set of an atom bomb, the energies grated and tore at her mystic senses. Even Haruka, who was not particularly sensitive when it came to any phenomenon other than an internal combustion engine, felt ill at ease with the emanations surrounding her. Just as both women could no longer stand the sight of what their friend had become, the dark apparition abruptly vanished, its evil presence washed away in a glowing tide of Moon Power. The pair felt their fears flow away as all that was left was a giggling Usagi.
"Sorry guys," said the blond as she struggled for control.
Their minds no longer addled by horror, Rei and Haruka both glared at their friend. "Never do that again," screeched Rei. "You gave me a heart attack."
Haruka growled. "Yeah queeny, you need to cut it with the bad joojoo."
Usagi had the good grace to be genuinely apologetic. "Sorry, I just wanted to show you both that I would be fine no matter what they tried. Something that I don't even think they will do."
"Well you sure as hell could have reminded us differently," retorted Haruka.
"You're right," Usagi sighed. "I guess we should be checking on Zoecite. Maybe Ami got something out of her."
The trio made their way towards the back room. Along the way they picked up Naru, who had yet to return to her civilian state. Despite the overtures of friendship, Zoecite was the one person that it would take Naru a long while to even remotely trust. It was probably wrong of her, and she new that, but the guardian on Earth could not totally forget the image of her first real love dying in her arms. Even though she loved Umino with all her heart, she couldn't forget it, and he never asked her to. One day, she may forgive the blond, but not today.
Taking note of her friend's towering appearance, Usagi raised an eyebrow. "What's with the getup?"
Terra shrugged, "Someone has to be ready for a fight." As an afterthought, she added, "Just in case."
Haruka looked at her friends and angrily pointed at Naru. "See! At least someone is taking this seriously!"
"Yeah," sniffed Rei. "Well if you two want to stand around and polish your swords then stay out here and keep quiet. The last thing we need is to spook a possible ally." Though she did not yell, there was a certain something about her voice that left both Haruka and Naru with the distinct feeling as if they had been seriously scolded.
With the more militant women silenced, Usagi continued on to the door. Schooling her features to appear as friendly and open as she could, the blond opened the door. There were several different scenarios she had formulated for what was on the other side of the wooden frame. Most involved Ami and Zoecite quietly talking to each other. One involved the blue-haired woman beating the blond across the face and head with a book. None of those had anything remotely in common with what she was currently witnessing. All she could do is stand they and wordlessly mutter.
Hearing her princess' muttering, Haruka peered around her and got an eyeful of what had set Usagi off. The sight made her salivate but she as not so far gone so as to not say, "Well, she certainly got something off of Zoecite."
That something was the general's slightly charred gray uniform coat; currently that was bunched in a corner where it had been hastily thrown. On the opposite side of the room was Zoecite's undershirt as well, leaving the blond quite, quite, naked from the waist up. Not one to be a rude guest, the woman, and it was quite clear that she was, was in the process of helping Ami out of her own shirt. All either seemed concerned with was the other, as both were lost in an exquisite field of pure bliss.
As she brought her lips down to Zoecite's, Ami Mizuno's mind took a moment to marvel at the situation. Once, years ago, she had asked Usagi about her relationship with Mamoru. For the mousy, blue-haired, young woman they made no logical sense. It was many a month that the blond had complained about how big of a meanie Mamoru was. Ami had even seen some of his rather disgraceful shots at her friend's looks and intelligence. But then, as if someone had flipped a switch somewhere, the two were all smiles and doe eyes. That the change came with the realization of their past selves made things all the more concerning for Ami.
She was Ami Mizuno, straight A student and loving daughter. That was the person she wanted to be. Sailor Mercury was a cape, a nice jacket, that she put on from time to time. It was the kind of thing that gave her just that extra bit of confidence in her world. Like any jacket it could be put on or taken off, but it never dictated who and what she really was. Usagi's sudden turn threatened to shatter that ideal. Would something happen one day and all of a sudden she was someone else? Would Ami Mizuno die, only to be replaced by a woman dead so long that not even ashes remained of her?
Usagi's answer had never satisfied the young woman. Ami had been at the blond's home helping her study for what was looking like a rather challenging test the next week. On a whim, she had asked her friend how it was possible to make such a quick change. All Usagi had done was look at her and smiled. Now a smile from Usagi was nothing new, the girl had a smile for everything and Ami had seen a great deal of them during her tenure as the blond's friend. There was something different about that smile though. It was older, filled with a maturity that she rarely saw in Usagi. It spoke of things that the blue-haired girl couldn't yet comprehend. It was the kind of smile that your grandma gives you when she talks about something and knows that you, the child, have no idea what she is talking about, but one day you will.
Of course, she didn't understand. There was no way she could. Over the years, Ami had thought back on occasion about that smile and what it could have meant. No matter how much older, or how much wiser, she got, nothing really clicked into place. It was just another abstraction out there, like pi. And just like pi, maybe there was no real solution. At least, not for her. That was something that she had come to accept, at least she did rationally; that part of her soul that still believed in magic, the real kind not the Senshi stuff, just smiled.
And then there was that alley. When Zoecite had said Delphina, the floodgates had opened onto a world of untold possibilities. Suddenly it all clicked into place, the infinities canceled one another out and all she was left with was the marvelous glory of the Truth. Memories, thoughts, beliefs, everything that had existed in the mind of Delphina of Mercury flew through Ami's mind. Each was like a component in some grand equation of her soul. They would come up into the formula that was Ami Mizuno, some were canceled out, never effecting the end result, while others were added, strengthening what had already been there. In the end, it all balanced out and she was left being Ami, but better, more adult, than she had been a short while ago.
As she opened her eyes onto a world that looked much different than it had before, Ami realized that she couldn't reveal who she had become to her friends, not yet. There was someone else she had to talk to first, someone she had to confront.
When Naru had come in with news of Zoecite's awakening, it was all she could do to not jump up and dash to his side. Soon enough she saw him and the numbers in her soul became a song. That melody had dimmed a bit when she witnessed the shocking transformation the her Zo-zo had to undergo. But then, in time with her own love for this man, the song began to build, the symphony gaining strength with each note. In the deepest part of her being she could feel it leading her to a place she had known once, long ago.
She followed it into passion's heated embrace. There was no thought to the thinness of the walls, or to the fact that a few hours ago he had been at death's door. All Ami wanted was to show her man the depths of her devotion in that most primal of languages.
Neither Zoecite or Ami were in the room any more. No, both were in that special place reserved for lovers and poets. Their whole universe was each other. Clothes, flesh, these were just things that stood in the way of their soul's desperate attempt to join in perfect union. Neither heard the gasps of surprise that the others made upon seeing the pair joined as they were. What did break through their bubble was the loud, and rather recognizable, shriek of one Rei Hino.
"WHAT THE HELL?"
With the sort of suddenness set aside for the totally shocked, both Ami and Zoecite found themselves crashing back into the world. Like a pair of teens caught by an outraged parent, they looked at the quartet in the hall with utter horror. They stared there for a moment, both the reunited lovers and those who caught them. Both sides were in their own states of mental shut down. Soon enough, Ami and Zoecite caught back up with the situation and made a mad grab for clothes to cover themselves from the outsider's stares.
As the couple tried to extricate themselves from each other, Usagi had the presence of mind to slam the door shut. With a small amount of force, she pushed Rei, the still-leering Haruka, and Naru down the hall. "We'll meet you two at the table," she called out before she got too far away.
Ami and Zoecite listened keenly to the sounds of the four women walking away from them. When the sounds had completely died off, the newly minted couple looked at each other.. They stared for several moments until one of them snickered; upon later thought neither quite remembered who started it though. The long torrent of emotions the pair had trampled through were like a perfect mixture of air and fuel. With that one sound, it was as if a match had been struck and ignited an explosion of laughter. Slowly, and a with a great deal of stumbling about, the merry couple managed to get themselves fully clothed and somewhat under control.
Just as Ami was about to open the door, Zoecite grabbed her arm gently. "Wait, what if they don't trust me. I mean, the last time they saw me I was trying to kill you guys," he said ruefully.
Ami cupped her love's soft, feminine, face in her hands. "Listen to me. That was not you. That was some demented Youma in your body." Suddenly, her face became much more seductive as she thought of something that would cheer her Zo-zo right up. "Besides, the last time they saw you was on the beach of the inland sea."
Zoecite's eyes glazed over in remembrance, "You were wearing a light blue number."
"Until we found that grotto," she purred suggestively as she traced circles across Zoecite's expanded chest.
The "man" shuddered at the thought and the sensation. "Yeah," he nearly moaned, "that was a good one."
"Well just keep that floating in the back of your mind. That way you have something to fall back on if you get flustered."
Mamoru's general smiled goofily, "If you keep that up, I'll be getting flustered right here."
"Save that for later," giggled Ami. "Then we can have all the time in the world for some proper flustering."
Zoecite jumped a little, doing some interesting things to his chest. With a quick salute, he said, "Then we better get this party started."
By the time the couple entered the shrine's main room, it indeed looked as if a party had been declared. Having been called as soon as Zoecite's awakening was announced, all of the Senshi and their major allies were gathered around waiting for the inevitable pow-wow.
Hearing Ami and Zoecite come in, Umino, who was the closest to the hall, turned to take a gander at the one his love hated so. Before he and Naru had joined, they had talked about their past loves and all the feelings behind them. He had seen first hand the raw seething hate that his love harbored towards the one that had killed Nephrite. As the years passed that hatred seemed to have faded into the background of memory. Now though, he knew that it had only been biding its time to be reborn. In the back of his mind, in that special place reserved for only his beloved, Umino felt a white hot ribbon of hate that screamed to be let out and vented upon the blond. As best as he could, the brown-haired man tried to send cooler, more positive, thoughts and feelings back down the line in an effort to prevent what could turn into a break with sanity.
As he walked into the mass of individuals, Zoecite could feel the angry looks. Without a doubt, he knew that, should he make the slightest provocative move, no matter how innocuous it may really be, he would be quite, quite, dead. Just as he was about to bolt and wait for tempers to die down, say a few billion years, the currently feminized man felt his wonderful Ami squeeze his hand. That was enough to stay his feet. There was at least one person in the room who would have his back, no matter what her cohorts may do.
Slowly, the pair walked over to the table and knelt down. Everyone in the room watched them silently. There was an air of importance floating about. Something big was about to transpire before them, but no one knew just what that would be. No matter how important the events though, more than one person had their fingers on the trigger, so to speak.
Looking about at the angry, the curious, the hoping, and the loving faces of those around him, Zoecite took a deep breath. "Before we begin our discussions, there is something I feel I must do. I do not know you all, but to those people I remember, I would like to apologize."
Ami touched her love on the shoulder. Unlike the others, she knew the truth of the matter, "It wasn't your fault."
Zoecite smiled as he looked into the comforting eyes of this woman he cared for so much. "It's okay. I need to say this." Turning to the others, the transformed male continued. "I would like you all to listen to my story before you determine whether or not what Ami says is true."
Never ones to miss out on a good story, the assembled mass scooted a tad closer.
"I remember the day well," started Zoecite. "Ami had just gone back to Mercury for a summit on new methods of extracting energy from the Sun. Though she had only been gone a few hours, I already missed her terribly. The court was up to its usual shenanigans so I slipped out. After a quick hop through the transit network I was walking along the side of the Vedic river near Atlantis' southern coast." The blonde smiled as the sight played out in his mind's eye. "It was warm that day, spring was showing its first signs. As the smell of season wafted passed me, I got caught up in the memory of a time I had taken Ami to that same spot. I guess that was why I never noticed Kunzite.
He was the first you know, he had been at a meeting with Beryl when she drugged him and the Youma possessed him. Of course, I didn't know that at the time. His arrival so shocked me that I never noticed anything wrong with him. He had said that he had come looking for me, that they needed me back at the palace. Believing him, after all he was my best friend in the world, I turned and headed back to the transit pad. That's when he hit me with the stunner. Every muscle in my body locked up, I couldn't scream, I couldn't do anything.
As I laid there, I could hear Kunzite walking towards me. In my mind a million thoughts vied for dominance. I couldn't believe he had done that to me. But, as he flipped me on my back, I started to wish that stunning me was all he did." Zoecite's body began to shiver as his memories took a decidedly darker turn. Without even thinking about it, the feminized man leaned into Ami. "I saw it floating beside him, a dark shape. Even stunned, I could feel the hate and the darkness rolling off of it. It was enjoying my condition. What made it all worse was Kunzite. I could see it in his eyes, he wasn't the same man I knew. Oh sure, the voice and the mannerisms were there, but the eyes, they shined with the same hatred that the creature did.
Suddenly, it jumped at me. I don't know if any of you have been dropped into acid, to be honest I never have myself, but I think that must be what it feels like. Every fiber of my being was torn away by that thing. Every scrap of good, every cherished memory, was devoured by it. When the pain finally went away, I was as you see me now, a woman as complete as any of you. In my mind, it had control. It sought only to destroy, to revel in my despair. And it had a lot to feel good about. In the back of its mind I was there screaming, begging, praying to be released to be reunited with my love and to punish the abomination that had done such harm to me.
After turning the others, condemning them to the same hell that I was in, the creature took me to Ami. She was so confused to see me at the head of the army. The sadness and the horror on her face made my tormenter moan with ecstasy. I don't think any of you can comprehend what it feels like to see the one you love die over and over again and never be able to turn away or change what you see. When Serenity's final attack washed over my body I sincerely wished that I was able to join my love in death.
Instead, I lived. I was the silent watcher of all the depravities my Youma committed between the fall and their attempts to regain a footing in this dimension." By now tears were streaming down Zoecite's cheeks as his voice barely got above a whisper. "You have no idea how much I enjoyed watching you all beat back the Youma we sent after you. And when you finally killed me, I hadn't been happier in millennia. But now, I guess I get a second chance. I'm doing my best to make things right. I know that it wasn't really me who caused you all pain, but it was still my hand, still my body, that did it all. I can only hope you all find in yourselves to forgive me."
Everyone in the room stared at the blonde with open mouthed shock. They all knew the rudimentary story surrounding the rise of Beryl and the fall of the Moon Kingdom, even newcomers like Anderson and Terra and Earth. Everyone expected Zoecite to spout some drivel about how they had been lured to the dark side with promises of power before seeing the light or some other self-effacing nonsense. None of them had ever even conceived of what the blonde had outlined. To be betrayed by a friend, possessed by a Youma, then forced to destroy everything you loved while being made to watch it all? If it wasn't exactly Hell, then it sure seemed close enough.
Looking at the sobbing woman, Naru felt all the rage and the hatred she had accumulated over the years just burn away. There was no way this was the same person that had so coldly killed Nephrite. That was some evil twin, a dark doppleganger out to destroy anything good in the world. What sat before her was nothing short of a rape victim. Zoecite's mind, body, and soul had all be traumatized by the creature. Hell, it was a miracle that the man . . . woman . . . whatever, was even able to talk, instead of staring blankly at some corner of the room. With tears in her own eyes, she dropped her transformation and moved over to the blonde to place a comforting hand on his shoulder. "Listen, I forgive you. I,I don't think I would be as strong as you are if it had been me."
Through the tears, Zoecite spied the one who forgave him and his eyes went wide with recognition. "You're the one who was in love with Nephrite, weren't you?"
A quick stab of sorrow pierced her heart before ducking away, "Yeah, that's me."
"T,thank you, for forgiving me I mean. I can only imagine how much you must hate me."
Naru smiled sadly, "Something tells me that there are levels of hate that only you can even conceive. Let's just say that all is forgiven and let it go. Okay?"
Usagi sat forward, the Silver Crystal erupting into being to flood the room with warmth and good cheer. "Yes, let's all forget about it. We have a future to plan for. But Zoecite, if you ever need a shoulder to cry on, I think you just made a whole roomful of friends willing to spare one."
Zoecite glanced around the room and took in the multitude of warm and welcoming smiles. He had never been to attract a great deal of friends, his build and manner just turned most people on old Earth off. Here though, that was looking like it was not the case. "Thanks, thank you all."
Setsuna, who had allowed the conversation to go on without her input, took that moment to chime in. "Good. Now, it would probably be best to begin in on the more pressing concerns of our upcoming battle." Though she hated to bring down the warm atmosphere, the Senshi of Time knew that there would be ample opportunities for fellowship after the violent confrontation with Metalia was concluded. Until then, she would do her best to keep them all on the path without trying to seem to severe or uncaring.
It was over an hour later that their planing and discussions reached something of a conclusion. While all of the talk was interesting for them, some of the Senshi found themselves itching for a fight. The head of that group was none other than Haruka. "Great! Now all we need is some freakin' Youma for Miss Wizard to figure out how to kajigger our powers."
"Actually," said Zoecite with a smile, "I may be able to help with that." Seeing the questioning faces, the currently feminized male elaborated. "Up till now you've been working with just Artemis's memories and Ami's skill with the Mercury Computer, right?"
From his perch on Minako's lap, the white Moon Cat nodded. "That's right. Unfortunately, my memories were swiss-cheesed by the long sleep."
Zoecite nodded, "Right. That's what we thought. Luckily, I happen to remember the good ol' days. Back then, Ami and I talked a lot about Senshi armor and some of her theories on how to improve it. I should be able to help cut down the time needed for the "kajiggering."
Usagi sat up and looked at the assembled group. "Okay, that means we could be ready any day now. I want you all to be prepared to go whenever its time." The blonde waited to see everyone's acceptance of her order before smiling, "Good. Until then though, I want you all to try and get some fun in."
Deep within the Holy See there is a room that only a select few know of. For nearly two thousand years this room has seen the plotting of schemes so far reaching that only the craziest of conspiracy theorists would ever believe in their reality. From this place Enrico Maxwell ran the Vatican Section XIII, codenamed Iscariot. Over the years he had seen and heard many astounding and awe-inspiring things. The reports of his most trusted assassins though stretched even the boundaries of his acceptance. "How can we be sure as to the veracity of these claims you make. Surely this Vampire can not be a child of our Lord."
Yumiko and Heinkel stared straight ahead, neither displaying the anger that their superior's reservations engendered in them. "Sir, our report is accurate and complete. If ve had been tainted by any Vampiric powers the vards vould have sounded," responded the blonde assassin tersely.
She had a point. The wards of the Vatican were some of the strongest on the planet. Anyone with the slightest trace of a dark taint would not have been able to enter the room. They were telling the truth, at least as far as they knew it to be. Such truths had been told numerous times throughout the vatican the last few days. Heinkel and Yumiko had not been idle in telling all of their encounter with a supposed divine being. Matters were made all the more problematic by the samples that they had brought with them. "And you swear that these items are authentic?"
Again the blonde answered. "Yes sir. Ve took them to Matthew and they checked them against our reliquaries. They all vent off like sirens."
Maxwell heard the tone of his agent's voice and mentally winced. There was an unmistakeable amount of displeasure in there. The questions, with their answers on the sheet before him, were starting to annoy the assassin. In the past, he would have rebuked her if the displeasure even made itself known in the first place. Situations were becoming perilous these days though. For those who had thought about it, this was a nightmare scenario. While it was true that he wanted God to descend from Earth and wipe the world clean of sin, the reality was that, as soon as a truly divine figure came along then all his, and the Vatican's power would probably come to an end. In the fullness of honesty, the Vatican was the voice of God on Earth, if God could speak directly to the masses then who needed the Vatican? It was already occurring around him. Whether she knew it or not, this Usagi Tsukino was unraveling the foundations of an order that had gone unopposed for nearly two thousand years. And what made the whole situation so much more infuriating was that he could do nothing to stop it.
Unwillingly, he nodded. "Very well, as head of Vatican Section XIII I certify these reports as accurate and beyond reproach. As such I will inform the Pope that a Level 2 divine being has been located. Further, given the nature of these reports and the dire events ahead, I will suggest that the Paladin corp be dispatched to aid said being in her quest."
Tension visibly drained from the two women. "Thank you sir," exclaimed Yumiko happily.
In a hopeless move to retain his grasp on the situation, Maxwell sat up. "Remember, these will just suggestions his excellency. Nothing is official yet."
"Ve are avare sir," replied Heinkel. "I haf' no doubt that his excellency vill agree." And everyone in the room knew that he would. News of their discovery had reached even the Pope and John Paul certainly was enthusiastic over the events.
With one last burst of pure pleasure, Naru watched her beloved slide to his side of the bed. After getting the equivalent of "Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die," from Usagi the group had split up. Naru had taken the advice to heart and quickly dragged her love back home for some rather rigorous merrymaking. Knowing now that the final battle was soon to come, she wanted to make every second count with Umino, lest one of them not make it back.
"We're both going to make it," announced Umino. In his words there was no ounce of doubt to be heard.
Naru turned on her side to look him in the eye. "You say that so confidently."
Umino slid a hand across her exposed hip. He wasn't able to look her in the eye though. "If you die, I don't think I could go on. And I'm pretty sure you feel the same way. So, either we both live, or . . ." He couldn't finish the thought.
He didn't need to though, Naru understood perfectly. "I do feel the same. Together forever."
"Together forever," he copied with a smile.
With him laying on his back, Naru slid over and positioned herself on top of her love. "What do you say, up for another round?"
For not the first time, Umino thanked the heavens that he had become the avatar of Earth. It was only because of that link that he was able to maintain the stamina to smile and grind himself against her. "You tell me."
She moaned with appreciation. "If we keep this up, we'll be too tired to fight," she groaned.
"I still say that its not fair damnit," groused Minako as she downed another shot of the finest chocolate ice cream in Tokyo. After the meeting she had retreated to the tiny shop and proceeded to drown her sorrows in the bottom of a crystal bowl of the frozen treat.
"What's not fair," asked a voice from behind.
The blonde woman jumped and whirled around to face the speaker. To her surprise, it was none other than Setsuna. "What are you doing here?" As a rule, none of the Senshi every really saw their enigmatic comrade outside of some dire circumstances.
Setsuna gracefully slid into the booth across from Minako. She smiled as she got settled. "I thought that I would come by here and talk with one of my fellows."
"And you decided to talk to me. Why not Haruka or Michiru?"
"To be honest, you looked like you needed someone to talk to. So, again, what's not fair?"
Its odd how things work. You go through life seeing every day as the same and not having any issues with it. Then, one day, an event happens. It may not even have anything to really do with you, but when it hits your whole stable little life shatters and you see it for the illusion that it is. "Why can't I get someone? I mean, Ami's got herself a hottie. Ami! I'm supposed to be the love one, yet none of the guys ever seem to want me."
"I can't say for sure. Back in the old days, you and your predecessors had the same difficulties. Senny always thought that it was your views on love that caused it."
Minako didn't know how to take that. On the one hand, she was glad that there had been some sort of precedent for her plight, but the other was really not liking the way Setsuna explained it. "What do you mean, my views on love?"
Setsuna sighed, "You all set up for yourselves this little world were there is a perfect guy for every girl. People see each other across a crowded room and immediately know that they are fated to be. And, in your world, all the men are handsome and the women are attractive. Don't deny any of this, I've seen how you and your ancestors have talked remember."
"But that's how it works, isn't it? I've heard tones of stories like that." And she had. Over the years Minako had gobbled up those stories like Usagi and sweets. They fueled her days and comforted her nights. Such tales had shaped many a dream of happiness for herself and all those around.
"We have all heard those stories, and I am sure that there are a hand full of instances where they actually happened. They are the exceptions rather than the rules, I am afraid. For most, love is something that evolves between two people when they realize that the other person will accept them more than most and try to change them less than others. For as long as I've done my job, that is the kind of love a considerable measure of the population ends up with."
"So what are you saying?"
"I am saying that, in a rather short amount of time, we will all be in an unpleasant place doing unpleasant things and now is probably not the time to be bemoaning any inequities in your love life; be they real or imagined."
Minako flushed red but did nothing to deny her comrade's words. "Yeah, probably not the best time."
The green-haired woman smiled and decided to add a bit of hope to the younger woman's day. "But remember, the people we are going to be working with remember the old days, know about our club and can help out, are attractive, know relatively little about the modern world, and are probably single." Her smile grew even bigger when she saw Minako's eyes grow and then fog over as a line of drool worked its way down her chin.
It had been several days since the 'traitorous' Zoecite had 'tricked' his way into the enemy's hands and the remaining leaders of the Negaverse were gathered to discuss the ramifications of that defection. Once again, they were in their secure command room and each secretly hoped that the wards and shielding were everything their scientists promised.
"So, Zoecite made it through," asked Beryl.
Jaedite stepped up to the console and started a video. "Yes. As you can see, Zoe has managed to make it to Tokyo and has started working with the Senshi. He's been mostly conferring with Mercury from what we can tell and his contributions have let them halve the duration of an attack."
Mamoru watched the video intently and smiled at the closeness displayed by Ami and Zoecite. "Good. They both needed that. How much longer on the Senshi front?"
At the outer most edge of the light, Nephrite was working on a crystalline rectangle. His fingers flew over the surface as numbers and equations of both a mathematical and magical nature danced across the display. So engrossed was he in his work that it took two callings from Mamoru to get his attention. "Wha? Sorry my lord. You were saying?"
"How much longer until we can expect to see a Senshi attack?"
"A few days. The end of the week at most. Zoecite brought me up to speed on some of the aspects so I could better predict the attack, still the calculations are complex. We should keep sending the Youma through as we have. Each attack brings them closer to being able to unlock their powers."
Beryl nodded, the Senshi aspect was a real sticking point for the whole plan. Neither group could openly communicate in any way, yet so much rested on them being in contact. "What should we expect in the way of allies for the Senshi?"
"Alucard is a given," started Kunzite. He waited for the shivers to die down before continuing. "I also suspect that Hellsing's other vampire will join in, her cannon could be of some use. Additionally, given the video reports from the Youma, we should expect the Vatican's assassin, Anderson, to be there. And the two Earth fighters should also attend."
"Do you think that will be enough," asked Mamoru.
"There is no way to tell, my lord. Given our plans, most, if not all, of the Youma should be gone in response to their attack. If that happens, then we will just have to deal with Metalia. If something happens though, and there are still Youma in place, then their numbers will factor greatly as to our success or failure."
"I would like to take this moment to again remind you all that you do not have to fight," stated Beryl firmly. "I fight to save my people, but the rest of you could live long, happy, lives."
The men looked at one another and shared a look. "We're staying, love."
Kunzite nodded at his lord, "Right. We all have reasons to be here."
She graced each man with a smile. "Thank you. If we live through this, you all get a vacation." Beryl's happy smile then smoothed back into her business face. "What of Omega?"
Jaedite, who was the architect of Omega, typed up several screens. "Its ready for activation. Just say the word and every ward in the castle will be inverted. They should hold long enough to shield the outside world from the magical black hole created by the destabilization of the main core."
In the old days, before there were any Silver Crystals or Serenitys to wield them, the inner planetary bodes were always at some war condition. For the most part, the planets used mana taps to power transit nets and hover cars. When it came to the defense of the major citadels though, such methods were seen as not sufficient to supply the power needed. So, for those structures, magitechs devised cores that siphoned off the energy created by the constant interaction of life and anti-life. Normally, they were so shielded that it was practically impossible for them to destabilize. Even then, everything was designed so that any failure of the shielding would result in the whole matrix collapsing in on itself leaving only some residual background magic. As a final solution to the whole Metalia problem, Jaedite had suggested that they completely disable the safeties on the core. In theory, with all of those off-line, the core would create a miniature black hole that would last for only a few seconds. But it should be more than powerful enough to totally destroy both the castle, Metalia, and anything else within the outer wards.
"Good, good," muttered Beryl. "If we make it through, how hard will it be to redo the safeties?"
The blond-haired man waved off the question. "Not hard at all. Maybe twenty minutes, if I take my time."
"Well then," started Mamoru, "it looks like we're ready."
"And now comes the hardest part of any battle," said Kunzite, "the waiting."
Even with Zoecite's help with the calculations, it still took Ami some time to figure out the intricacies of altering the Senshi. She was nothing but patient though, and eventually the blue haired wunderkin had all the equations sorted out and a clear procedure set up for the changing of their powers. Since they were all operating blind in this instance, she had advised that the procedure take place far away from anyone who may get hurt as a result of a misfired spell. Setsuna had suggested a high mesa in the American west. It was within a day's hike if something went wrong and they got stuck, but it was high and far enough away that no one could possibly be injured.
One Senshi teleport later, and the nine woman, two cats, and one former General were in place. The rest of their team were back in Tokyo to defend against any potential Youma attacks.
Being ever vigilant, Haruka looked out over the vast, arid, landscape below. Rationally, she knew that there was no possibilities that there were any bad guys around, she was not taking a single chance. Now when they were so close to the invasion. "Okay, we're all here. Now what."
"We all stand in a circle around the Mercury computer. Each of us powers up and focuses on Usagi. She will channel that power into the computer and it will guide her in making the changes."
Everyone looked at the little blue device with trepidation. "Um Ami. How is it going to do that? Its just a computer right," asked their blonde leader.
"Its magic AI was originally designed to interface with the Senshi's armor. It was probably used to create each of us," surmised Ami. "Zoecite and I have modeled the changes in the computer, so it knows what to do. It will just be providing the instructions while you do all the work."
Usagi, and the rest of the women, felt a load lift from her shoulders. It felt a lot better to know that there would be a human at the wheel for this, so to speak. "Okay. We should get going. We don't want to leave Naru and Umino with no back up for too long."
The others agreed with their leader and arranged themselves in a circle as per Ami's instructions. Standing outside, as both spectators and possible aid should something terrible occur were the Moon Cats and Zoecite. "We're ready here," said the blonde man as he readied wards around him and the cats.
One by one, each Senshi called out her planet's name and summoned the maximum of their power. Before too long, enough energy to crack a planet in twain was being channeled directly into Sailor Moon. The strain of such power was staggering, even for one who had experienced such things before. Taking great care so as to not vaporize the tiny computer, she channeled the power through its crystalline matrix. As her mind made contact with the primitive consciousness of the AI, Usagi saw the strands that bound her to the Senshi and the Senshi to their worlds. Each could be changed to her whim, adding, subtracting, or even knotting them to fit her desires. But that was not what she was there for on this day. With the AI's help, she was able to find the stings that needed to be altered. Now that she was finally doing it, the amount of work Ami had put into the whole affair seemed insane. It was just so easy to do that she almost got carried away.
To the outside observer, the Senshi were encased in a column of white light nearly a mile high. Arcs of energy, colored the same as the various women, shimmered across its surface. It was humbling to be in the presence of such raw power. One could make the argument that such a show had heralded the coming of the universe so long ago. "How long is this going to take," asked Artemis after an hour.
Zoecite looked down and noticed both cats staring up at him. "Why are you looking at me? No one's ever done this before. I've got no idea how long its going to take."
Luna sighed and curled up on the warm rock. "Then I suggest we all get comfortable."
The blond-haired male nodded and pulled out a folding chair from his spell pocket. He could feel the stares on his back and he shrugged. "Its always good to be prepared."
When they synced their power with Usagi's, the Senshi felt themselves falling through space. The sheer vastness of the cosmos totally unfiltered by nature or technology was humbling. Before the universe shattered their minds with its size, a great weight tied each of them down, tugging them to one round orb or another. When they finally reached solid ground after falling for what seemed to be an eternity, each found herself alone in a gray expanse that seemed to have no bounds. Every sound but one seemed to be absorbed by the wisps of fog that drifted through the area. Only the sounds of tears reached the women's ears.
Since they had no idea where to go, each woman headed toward the sounds. None of them really knew how long their journey took, but eventually, a form began to coalesce in the distance. Slowly, they came to realize that it was a child whose cries had alerted them. All of the women, even Haruka whose matriarchal skills were not that prevalent, moved to comfort them. But, instead of allowing themselves to be wrapped up in an embrace, the children recoiled from them. In their wide eyes, the Senshi could see raw, naked, terror writing within them. At the same time, they noticed the symbols that glowed upon the children's foreheads.
A while ago, Setsuna had told them about her world. At how she had seen its heart and heard its screams. Even then, just as the green-haired woman had been describing it, they had all be horrified. Now, confronted with their own planets and seeing the horrors that had been wrought upon innocents, they felt sick to be called Senshi. Falling to their knees, great heaving sobs wracked their bodies. How many times? How many times had one of their attacks also hurt the poor creatures before them?
They were frozen, their bodies paralyzed by unfathomable sadness. How long they stayed that way, none of them could say. Eventually, the roles of child and adult switched, and the representations of planets came up and tried to wrap their tiny arms around the crying women. Soon, every source of sorrow in their lives came pouring out in one long stream. All the while, the children stayed with them, giving the grieving women all the support they could.
After what seemed like ages, the tears dried up. All of the pain and sadness of their lives were extinguished. Slowly, hesitant to relive such an experience, they looked up into the eyes of their bond planet. Instead of pain there, they saw only love and acceptance. Together, Senshi and Planet had gone through the worst pain imaginable. And in the experience they had become bonded, in the truest sense of the word. One would go out to fight while the other would stay behind, giving comfort, support, and a whole host of things that neither being could imagine right then.
It was then that they felt a tug on their bodies. For a moment they were confused, but soon they knew the source of the pull. The spell was reaching its end and they were being called back to their real bodies. With a smile and a wave, the children bid them a fond farewell as the world faded.
After nearly a day of waiting, the light coruscating across the Senshi came to a halt. For those that had been waiting, this moment was a welcome relief. The first few hours of their vigil had been fine, Zoecite having brought a great deal of supplies with him. Soon though, board games and reading lost most of its luster. The man and cats eventually settled into shifts, with one keeping watch while the other two slept. Even that only held boredom at bay for so long.
So it was that, by the time the Senshi returned from their magic unconsciousness, anything different was met with astonishment. Still, the sight of the nine women was more than a little awe-inspiring. Though the light of the spell had faded, the Senshi, their clothes, their hair, even their eyes, glowed with an inner luminescence. Obviously something had happened, but none of the observers could say what that something was.
A part of the Senshi marveled at the glowing countenance of their comrades, but mostly they were consumed by wonderment. Power coursed through their veins like never before. Even when they had finally ascended to the their level at the start of this whole affair did they not feel so invigorated. Intertwined with that all, there was a sense of peace and contentment.
"So I take it that all went well," asked Luna.
Sailor Moon smiled at her feline companion and nodded. "It went . . . Mercury, what did happen?"
Neptune looked at the resident genius, "Did we really touch our planets." Her voice was soft and it held a hint of pain from intense experience.
Mercury picked up her computer and began examining the readings from the event. "I don't understand. The readings here say that we did have multi-planar interactions with out individuals planets."
"How can that be Mercury," asked a confused Zoecite, "that was nowhere in our calculations."
"You're right. Both of us decided that it would be too much to worry about right now. I have no idea how it could have happened."
"Could it have been me," asked Sailor Moon.
Saturn stepped up to her friend, "Why you?"
"Its just, I heard what we were doing to the planets and I was so sad. I wanted to do something about it right away, but Mercury said that we couldn't right now. Maybe that did something when I started this."
The Senshi of Mercury ran that through what she knew. "That's possible. We know that the Crystal works as much on your will as it does on any real rules. It will probably take Zoecite and I some time to work through this data though."
"Um," said Uranus, "as interesting as this is, your worshipfulness, we should probably get back to Tokyo."
"You just want to beat up some Youma," quipped Venus.
Zoecite butted in, "She's right though. We've been gone nearly a day. There's no telling what has been going on."
All of the Senshi started at that. While it had all felt like an eternity, a part of them thought that it had been the magic stretching time out. A few minutes, or maybe an hour or two, of passing time they were ready for. That almost a whole day had been burnt by the spell was staggering; especially since they felt more awake now than they had before entering it. Who knew how many Youma were currently attacking the city.
Straightening up, Moon looked to her non-Senshi allies. "Quick. Get your stuff cleaned up. We're leaving in five minutes."
Thanks to Zoecite's spell pocket, the clean up didn't take up anywhere near the full time. Soon enough the Senshi were once again gathered in a circle for a return trip to Japan.
Umino and Naru did not stay to see their friends off on their journey. The warrior couple knew that, with the Senshi gone, the pool of protectors was drastically diminished. So they stayed behind, the lone guardians for all of Tokyo. It was true that Alucard and Anderson remained behind as well, but there was something about the Senshi that said they were really there to fight by your side. As for the two men, it was better to just stay out of the way and pray they didn't attack you in their bloodlust.
At first they really didn't think there would be much to do while their friends were away. All involved assumed that the process would be a reasonably short one. In addition, the attacks had been occurring at a pretty regular intervals; something that Zoecite confirmed as being part of the plan. The operation was planned for a time between attacks in hope that by the next one there would be a small army capable of handling the infernal beasts. Unfortunately, the plan failed horribly. Instead of arriving at a predictable rate, more and more Youma were appearing faster and faster. Even with all their power and their speed, Terra and Earth were becoming increasingly incapable of handling them all. Casualties were starting to mount and more than once the couple had landed at the site of an attack and found only the bloody remains of innocents who had counted on them to protect them.
Should one happen across Terra and Earth it would be rather easy to confuse them for the Olympians of old. Their bodies looked to be sculpted from marble and covered by flesh. Both possessed power over the elements that seemed to rival only the gods. In battle it looked as if they could shatter whole planets before their wrath. The real truth was that these people were just that, people. Behind the godly visages, they were just two people trying to make their way through life while in that nebulous zone between teenagedom and adulthood. Seeing so many bodies torn asunder by the creatures shook the couple to their cores. Had they the time, it was quite probable that they would have shut down.
So it was that the couple was greatly relieved to hear their communicators ring. "Where have you been," gasped out Terra desperately.
One the screen Sailor Moon's face had a mixture of sadness and concern. "We just got back. How bad is it?"
"Pick a ward Moon, there's probably a few Youma there. Why didn't Zoecite warn us?" From her tone, it was quite evident that Terra knew why the blond-haired general hadn't said a word.
"He thinks that Metalia somehow found out that we left the city and upped the attacks."
"Well whatever. Just start attacking something," she growled.
"We're on our way," chorused out the rest of the Senshi.
The Sailor Senshi rushed through the city as if the hounds of hell were upon them. For a while now they had been unable to defend the people as they so earnestly desired. In battle they had to fight delaying actions while they waited for Terra or Earth to come and deliver the final blow. They were the Senshi with a proud tradition of pushing back the darkness in the name of Love and Justice. Even when the situation called for one of their own to be unable to dispatch a given fiend, there was always the consolation prize of knowing that a fellow Senshi could step up and take it out.
Now though, things were different. Power coursed through their veins like never before. Today the call had gone out and now they were finally able to answer it to their satisfaction. Across rooftops and down empty roads did they run in search of their quarry. The first to find a Youma was Sailor Jupiter.
Black and fearsome, it loomed menacingly at the center of an intersection. At seeing the creature, the brown-haired woman grinned ferally as the antenna on her tiara extended. Lightning arced towards her from high above and she made quick work of redirecting to towards the fiend. With a yell she hurled twin balls of lightning at it. Those who watched, if there had been any who remained, would have looked on in awe as Jupiter's body seemed to blur then vanish. Only the seething mass of electricity that had encircled the Senshi's form remained as it continued towards the Youma. Even as it tried to avoid the oncoming storm, the twin bolts slammed into it. The creature writhed in agony as enough power to light up a city block roared through its body. Had it the capacity, the vile beast would have prayed for the pain to stop, no matter the cost. Whether or not it appreciated it as such, the universe did answer that prayer. Mere moments after the first attacks landed, the mass of pure, unleashed, electrical chaos blew a massive hole straight through the Youma's body.
Down the road from the rapidly disintegrating Youma, the ball of electricity that had plowed through the creature dissipated to reveal an astonished Sailor Jupiter. "D,did I do that," gasped the woman as she looked back at the fiend that had given them all so much trouble in the past. All she had intended to do was rush the thing, maybe wail on it with some lightning enhanced punches. Instead, something seemed to have grabbed hold of her and catapulted her to fantastic speeds. Her musings were cut short by another roar emanating a block or two over. So, putting her confusion aside, Sailor Jupiter rocketed towards the next battle.
All across the city similar events were occurring. In each encounter, the Senshi discovered newer and more powerful abilities. Mercury managed to freeze one Youma to nearly absolute zero, while Venus completely vaporized another. Even Saturn, whose powers for destruction needed no boosting, found her ability to heal greatly enhanced; something she discovered when she came across an exhausted Terra and proceeded to completely restore the woman's flagging energy reserves.
In short order, the Senshi and their allies managed to completely thwart the Youma invasion. Across the city, men and women paid witness to their heroes once again saving the day. For so long their faith in their protectors had waned. Now, as children were placed in the outstretched arms of their parents, as the old and the infirm were snatched from the icy clutches of death, the people felt that faith renewed and more. Soon enough, the Senshi didn't need roars or Mercury to point them towards a Youma, the men and women of Tokyo were pointing them towards the nearest foe.
Even with their newfound power, the work was exhausting. So it was that, as the Sun set on the day, the Senshi and Earth's own guardians staggered into the shrine. As soon as the outer doors closed, all of the transformations were dropped and with them every soul in the room fell into a tangled mass. There were only the slightest of groans in protest to the event. It was just a token protest as everyone more or less fell asleep as soon as they came to a stop.
For a while they just laid wherever gravity had deposited them. The vagaries of propriety, or even comfort, were forgotten as they relaxed in Morpheus' gentle embrace. Finally, as darkness filled the space, Nobuyuki Hino slowly stepped into the room. During the day he had listened to the radio as it told the grisly tale unfolding in the city below. So it came as no surprise to see the mass of arms and legs before him. "To think that such young people can do so much good," he marveled. "Though I wish they they had laid out in a manner that looked more comfortable. If they stay like that they will all me sore come the morning." Looking at the shadows, the priest stood to his full height. "So vampire. Will you help place them in more dignified positions?"
The darkness chuckled and a face appeared. "Interesting. I would not have thought you were aware of me."
Nobuyuki made a dismissive sound, "Please. Your kind might be masters of shadow and stealth but I've faced your kin before and the lot of you positively ooze darkness. I could feel you as soon as you entered the temple grounds."
Those blood-red eyes narrowed in thought. "And yet you have not done anything about my presence."
"Like I could. While I may have faced others like you, you are far more powerful than any I have met. So I left you to them. If they haven't complained then who am I to? So are you going to help me or not?"
Alucard stepped from the shadows and looked at the tiny man who had challenged him. "I suppose I could give it some thought." Despite the noncommittal tone he used, the No-Life King worked silently to arrange the young people into a more comfortable position. It was not every day that a human, aware of his power, treated him so. Such behavior was to be rewarded.
As he was leaving, the elderly man's voice called out to him. "Are you going to fight alongside them?"
The Vampire turned, his eyes shining with barely contained madness. "Yes," he purred, "I will fight. I will shred. I will maul. And when my work is done, not a single one of those poor copies will ever walk this earth again."
For a while, Nobuyuki had been repressing the fears that welled up in him by just being near this dark creature. Those efforts failed completely upon hearing Alucard though. The creature before him was worse than he had even imagined. He just hoped that Usagi and the others would keep a tight hold on him, lest the world feel the vampire's wrath.
Across town, in a hotel room far too small to adequately hold him, Father Alexander Anderson sat in silent meditation. Here, in the silence, soul and God communicated effortlessly. With a heart full of sorrow, he prayed to the Lord to see the souls of the dead safely into his arms. So many lives had been snuffed out on this day. So many who had never given themselves to God and attained eternal salvation. For a man of God, such was a terrible crime. And, as if the situation by itself was not thoroughly lamentable, Anderson knew that, had he just been there, a great many of those lives might have been saved. Instead, fate had conspired to place him somewhere else as the hordes of Hell were unleashed upon the people of Tokyo.
Another probably could have done it. One of the Hellsing Organization's countless lawyers could have interfaced between the Vatican and the Japanese government. Hell, it didn't even require someone like that, a faceless file clerk in the Diet would have been able to do the job. Instead of all those options, the Vatican had asked, ne insisted, that it was he that would be the liaison between the government and them. He was the one that had to obtain visas for the people the Vatican was sending. He was the one that had to smooth over all the ruffled feathers and make sure that none of his former associates didn't try to kill some well-meaning cog in the great bureaucratic machine. He was the one that had to sit in some claustrophobia-inducing room while a tiny man in tinier glasses gave him the run around, all the while, in the background, a constant stream of news reports detailed the deaths that were occurring throughout Tokyo.
It was strange, as he thought about all those deaths, Alexander looked back to the man he was a year ago. Back then things had been so simple, life so clear. Catholics were the chosen people of God, and all others were aligned in a descending scale of heresy. Those who would not conform, those who did not submit, those who spoke aloud falsehoods designed to push others down paths that lead away from the Lord, they were all enemies. He could, and had, kill a blasphemer. Should a non-Catholic die, there was no real regret. There had been multiple opportunities for the non believers to follow the Lord's path, if they were to blind or too arrogant to do so then their damnation was their own fault. Now though, such simplicity seemed like a rather distant memory.
Usagi, he reflected, she was the cause of this all. It was impossible to spend any time around the young woman and not have a bit of her world view rub off on you. In her world there were no sinner nor were there any saints, there was just people. People who just went about their lives trying their best to live up to society's standards. In many ways, it was a rather naive way of looking at the world. Reality demanded heroes and villains, even if they were the good neighbor and the bad shop owner. But, as Alexander thought about it, he began to wonder whether or not such views would be held by Jesus upon his return. Such ideas began to give the priest new eyes with which to see the world.
Well tomorrow would be the day. He would lead the host to Usagi and together the armies of light would wage war against the forces of darkness. For someone like Anderson, who had waded hip deep in the bodily fluids of those he had killed, such a battle made his heart rage with anticipation. Even with Usagi's new way, battle had been his business for so long that it was a part of him. And business was looking to be quite good indeed.
What neither Nobuyuki nor Alucard anticipated as they arranged the group was the room's position in relation to the Sun. At night this was not a problem, and everyone slept soundly with nary a care in the world. As dawn reared her bright, shining, head above the horizon though, such unfortunate positioning really started to make a difference. Slowly, a line of light worked its way across the shrine's floor on a path straight for the slumbering group.
As the light beam intersected with the slumbering defenders a collective series of groans were released. Given their role as nighttime vigilantes the room's occupants had developed into rather enthusiastic night owls. The presence of the Sun so early in the day was most assuredly not welcome.
"When I'm made queen," croaked Usagi, "remind me to outlaw the Sun." Several moans, one or two groans, and one salute from Haruka showed that everyone was quite on board with their friend's rather insane proclamation, at least for right now.
Like a zombie army, the brave defenders of Tokyo and the world, slowly shuffled away from the shrine and towards their respective homes. The plan, if one could call it that, was to bathe, get something to eat and then regroup back a the shrine in a few hours. After that things became sketchy. Luckily, working on the fly was a skill they had developed long ago and so no one was really concerned that the later plans were not fully in place. Instead, they busied themselves with enjoying the lull before the battle.
Several hours later, the Senshi, Terra and Earth, along with Zoecite all converged on the shrine. Their faces were considerably more lively than when they left that morning, still their smiles were grim. With their powers now more than capable of dispatching the new Youma, everyone knew that the last hurtle was finally over. Now, the only remaining hold back was Anderson.
"Where is he," growled Naru. "He wasn't out there yesterday either."
Usagi checked her watch. "I don't know. I called him earlier and he said that he'd be here." Of their two shall we say, eccentric, allies, Alexander was always the one that was the most into the whole team dynamic. His absence yesterday, and then his tardiness today, was most troublesome.
Echoing from all around the group, Alucard chuckled. "It is such a shame when the clergy becomes so unreliable."
Almost unanimously, the room's occupants thought, "And you are?" While everyone might have thought that, no one was crazy, or stupid, enough to actually say it. After all, it did not do much for a person's life expectancy to mock or question the dark creature.
Of all of the group, Usagi was the one least likely to do something that everyone else thought was wise. As such, she had no compunction in asking the question on everyone's minds. "Um, Alucard, I thought you weren't there yesterday either."
The red clothed man appeared for all to see. "Alas," he sighed, "there were other concerns that placed themselves before me. Such carnage," said the Vampire wistfully. "I do hope the battle to come is equally as violent."
Now she was really curious, "What concerns?" Things that separated Alucard from slaughter were things that the blonde really needed to know about, lest a new threat crop up to cause some problems.
While such things really didn't require it, Alucard felt that this occasion required a bit of showmanship. Stepping aside, he held out an arm to the woman behind him. "A new dark lady was born."
The woman he presented was none other than Seras Victoria. She stood erect and positively oozed confidence. It was clear to those that had met the vampiric woman that something had changed in regards to her. There was an air of darkness about her that was separate from Alucard's own. "Looks like I'll be joining in."
Pale faces and the occasional look of disgust followed Seras' announcement. While none of the people doubted the effectiveness of the Vampire's help, there was a certain distaste in using such a dark accomplice. The one smiling face was Usagi's. "Good for you Seras! See I told you that you'd get that."
Seras smiled at her friend. Though she had become a full Vampire, the woman was glad that someone still saw her as the human she once was. "Thanks Usagi," she chirped as she joined the group around the table. "I'm looking forward to the battle."
"Uh yeah," said Minako as she scooted a ways away from the woman. "But where's Anderson? Wasn't he supposed to be coming?"
Makoto sat up, "He'll be here. I have complete faith in him."
"That's not all that you have for him," muttered Haruka as she sipped her tea.
Whatever Makoto's response would have been, it was completely halted by the room's door opening to reveal Alexander Anderson. "Sorry Ah'm late."
"Oh we couldn't start without you, paladin," purred Alucard.
Not really comprehending the cornucopia of subtext behind the Vampire's words, Usagi nodded. "Yeah! You're a part of the team now Alexander."
"Though I would like to know where you were yesterday," asked Naru bitterly.
The man's face flushed with shame, an emotion so out of place upon it's visage that it appeared as if an alien creature took hold there. "Its true. Ah was not out fighting and a great many suffered because of that. If ye all follow me, Ah hope ye can understand my reasons." Not allowing anyone to answer in the affirmative or the negative, Anderson turned and strode out of the room.
They all shared a look as they mulled over his words. It had been quite clear that the man really regretted his lack of presence yesterday. If he felt so down, then his reasons for being gone might just be as good as he said. Once that collective thought passed through their minds, everyone scrambled to get up and out the door to see for themselves what those reasons were. Now as they followed the towering man, each person had their own idea as to what Anderson wanted them to see. Upon emerging into the light of day and laying eyes upon his surprise, no one found those ideas having any substance in the reality before them.
Just after the long flight of steps that led to the shrine proper stood two rows of the most formidable men and women that most people had ever seen. Individuals of every color and creed stood shoulder to shoulder as one unified force. Their uniforms were of simple Catholic clerics. These were people who held the word of God upon their lips and their love for the Lord shone from their eyes like a great beacon. At the same time, each exuded an aura of subtle menace that spoke quite clearly that they would spread the Gospel to the masses via the word or the sword.
At the center of the group, in the position of ambassador, was a blond-haired woman in priestly garb. By her side was a nun with wide glasses and a nervous smile. "My lady," spoke Heinkel reverently, "his eminence the Pope sends his greetings. He has asked Iscariot to send the Paladin Corp here to help you in your grand crusade against the darkness."
Right there, Usagi felt the world shift around her. It was the same feeling that she had gotten when her royal heritage had been made evident. Now she was no longer a monarch of a long-gone kingdom. The Senshi, though technically soldiers, were her friends through and through. Standing before though was not a collection of friends whose ties to her were just as much of friendship as they were ancient oaths of loyalty. Instead, for the first time in millennia, a heir to the silver crown had an army. And, as if to solidify that status, the men and women bowed as one; to her.
Sighing deeply at the hand destiny had once again dealt her, Usagi slapped on her most diplomatic smile. "Thank you all for your support. Though I don't know your names right now, hopefully we can all be friends. But I do have one request, please no more of the bowing and scraping. I'm just a person like all of you. Okay," she asked with a genuine smile.
A number of stunned nods and mumbled, yes' were the group's response. They had, of course, been warned. Warned that the woman that they were to meet was one who saw herself as no better than those around her. Some had thought that such humility was a further sign of her greatness. While most believed that she would, at the very least, insist on some sort of title. To see such true humility though was astounding and it only served to enhance their desire to please her.
Among the first to regain their composure after seeing the small army was Ami. The Senshi's tactical genius turned to the hulking priest with a critical eye, "How much do they know?"
Long used to how the Senshi operate, Anderson smoothly slipped into his role as intermediary, "Ah did my best tae bring them up tae speed on ye all and our plans for the battle."
"What are you thinking Ami," asked Minako as she looked at the assembled group and ran some of her own calculations, "pair two or three of them with each of us?"
Haruka grinned, "That's what we did in the old days."
"It should work," mused the blue-haired woman. "They don't need to know the whole plan if they can follow our instructions."
"And they can do that very well," assured Alexander. "They have to to have reached the rank of Paladin."
"Start splitting them into groups then," commanded Usagi. Seeing the looks of surprise on her friend's faces, she smiled. "We have all the forces we're going to get. And if we plan any more I'm going to go crazy. So I say we go, now. How about the rest of you?"
"You know that we've got your back," said Rei confidently.
Naru grinned and cracked her knuckles, "And we're not about to let you go out on a dangerous mission without us."
"Right," affirmed Umino.
Before anyone could say something else, Alucard's dark laughter sounded through the area. "Cry havoc! And let slip the dogs of war!"
For the third time in so few minutes the small room shook. As he grabbed hold of the central monitor to keep himself upright, Jaedite couldn't help but say, "Well at least we know that they can still blow things up."
"Yes, I suppose its just luck that we were going to clean up the place," said Nephrite gruffly. "Maybe they can suggest some drapes after they're done with the demolition! My lord," he exclaimed as he looked to Mamoru, "can we go now? Zoecite and the others are fighting for us."
Beryl nodded and stood to her full height, "We have let others fight for us till now. And now there is only one of two outcomes. It is time for us to fight for our future."
Nephrite grinned ferally, "Its about time." After sharing a quick nod with Malachite, the brown-haired man teleported away.
Before he went to join the battle as well, the chief general saluted his lord, "I too shall fight."
Jaedite stared at the spot where his comrades teleported from and shook his head. "Unlike those two, I'm staying here. Someone needs to co-ordinate our forces. I'll be on Tac Com 1. Now you two kids get out there."
The former queen of the Negaverse looked at the blond man and smiled. "Thank you Jaedite."
With the last of the fighters gone, Jaedite turned his attention to the situation board. On the screen tiny dots waged war against one another. "Okay people," he directed towards the technicians at the room's edge, "let's see if we can get a few more over to sector three. I don't like the way those Youma are piling up."
In sector three Sailor Mercury was watching a small group of Youma gather on top of one another. As the bodies pressed against each other, the separation between each began to fade. Meanwhile, her visor was detailing to her energy patterns and other data that disturbed her greatly. "Quick, attack on the left and right!"
Along with Zoecite, Mercury had been assigned two of the Paladins from the group. At her command they immediately went to work against the dread creature. The larger of the pair, a black man that made even Anderson seem minuscule by comparison, slung a massive cross from his back. From it launched three missiles in quick succession. A heartbeat later the missiles exploded into dozens of smaller munitions, all of which slammed into the congealing Youma.
The priest's companion, a nun of normal stature, lept over the giant and trailed behind the missiles. In her hands she carried a pair of daggers that gleamed in the half-light of the castle. Blurring like a chipmunk on cocaine, she danced around the Youma. Where her dagger passed, deep gouges appeared in its dark, bloated, skin; only adding to the damage that the priest had inflicted.
All the while, Mercury observed the beast's energy levels. With each attack upon its person, the levels, which had been increasing exponentially, dropped precipitously. Between the two Paladins, Mercury felt that the levels reached a point where it was safe for her to finish the writhing mass without causing a massive explosion in the process. "Quick! Get away!"
When the various individuals followed the blue-haired woman's order, Mercury started charging up her newest attack. As her energies reached their peak, Mercury called out, "Mercury, Ice Hurricane! Thrash!" Summoned by the powers of Mercury's Senshi, a mighty maelstrom hurtled toward the fel beast. Massive chunks of ice, which danced among the fierce winds, slammed into its thick hide over and over like some sort of insane sandblaster. The attack only lasted for about a minute, but when it finally faded there was nothing left of its target but a greasy smear embedded into a five-foot hole in the wall behind where the Youma once stood.
Everyone in the area stared at the hole with something akin to complete mental shutdown. Even Mercury was not immune to this condition. Since gaining the spell she had only used it once. On that occasion, the Youma in question had been in the dead center of an empty intersection. When the attack hit it, the creature was basically vaporized with little damage to the surroundings. She had never expected such damage to be inflicted this time. Quite frankly it scared her.
The first to shake loosed from their surprise were the Paladins. "Come mon'," said the male as he slapped Zoecite's back heartily. "D'ere be more out d'ere."
With the outside stimulus, Zoecite managed to shake himself free, "R,right! Let's go!"
When she had first forsaken the light to live as a child of the night Seras had been afraid that she would loose her humanity in the face of such darkness. And then Usagi came along. She straddled the line between light and dark with a grace that was inspiring. It showed Seras that she could be what her master wished her to become without sacrificing what she had been. With that realization, the Vampire woman lept head-long into the darkness that called out to her.
Now, as she tore into the flesh of the Youma, Seras wondered how she had ever turned this away. It was like that time the Valentine brothers invaded the London Hellsing HQ, only she was in total control. Maybe it was a worse condition, but Seras didn't care. In the back of her mind she could feel her human side watching dispassionately. It knew what these things were, what they had been created to do, and it had no problem letting the Vampire take charge for now. As far as she was concerned, it was like having a strong desire for chocolate; once you got some the urge went away.
Sometimes she would hold her Harkonnen under one arm and fire several high-explosive rounds into a Youma and delight in watching them practically vaporize the target. And then others she herself would explode into a ravenous horde of bats that seized their victim and ripped it to shreds. Once, on a lark, she even turned herself into mist and rushed down the foul creature's gullet. There, she reformed herself and tore it apart from the inside. Only once was enough to satiate her desire for such action, she may want to spill some blood but she didn't want to be drenched in it.
Seras' only companion on her campaign of slaughter was the violet-haired Senshi of Pluto. None of the others had been willing or able to accompany her. Despite all the things she had seen in her many years as guardian of the Gates of Time, Pluto was disgusted by the display before her. The few Youma that managed to get past were cleanly dispatched by a blast from her staff and she considered it a mercy. Sera's, leavings, on the hand, often required a Chronos Typhoon to clean up the mess and deliver the coup-de-grace.
"I hope she get's this out of her system," thought Pluto to herself. As soon as she made that silent wish, another Youma was violently converted into a gory cloud. "And quickly."
If one were to look at Sailor Venus as she strode through the halls of Beryl's palace they would be hard pressed to say that it was the same woman that used to smile and wink at a particularly cute man she happened to cross by. There was a cold ruthlessness about her that seemed at odds to the old Venus. All those who opposed her, died. Beams of coherent light several orders of magnitude hotter than any produced on earth lased out to pierce the hide of her enemies.
As she executed yet another of the dread beasts, Venus felt none of the satisfaction that she felt that she should feel. For years she had secretly harbored feelings of hatred towards the creatures that had caused so many so much pain back in England. The blond woman dreamed on many occasion about how it would feel to reap bloody vengeance against those monsters. In all those dreams the act felt good, it felt right but on the battlefield all she felt was a great big nothing.
With a cry of, "Venus Love and Beauty Cascade!" a veritable shower of coherent light rained down around her. As Youma were cored by the burning death, the only satisfaction Venus derived from it was of the workman completing a routine job.
Paired with Venus was the eldest of the Paladins still fighting the good fight. The graying woman had seen a great many things, both in battle and life. So, it did not take much effort on her part to see what was bothering her companion. "Yer never gonna find what ya want in slaughter dear," she said with the distinct twang of an American southerner.
"What are you talking about," asked Venus angrily. Though she wasn't sure whether that ire was directed at the woman, or herself.
"I can see the hate in yer eyes. They wronged ya deeply child, but killing ain't gonna solve nothing."
Venus knew who she was madder at now. As she dodged a Youma and poured several thousand degrees of coherent light into it, the orange and white clad Senshi sneered at the older woman. "Let me guess, I should turn myself over to God, eh?" The grief councilors back in England had suggested that. She had wanted no part of that then, and she certainly didn't want one now.
The woman shook her head and she took a Youma's. "When the Lord comes a calln' yer not gonna need me, or anyone else, to be telln' you what ta do." With a flourish, she whipped her staff around and sliced into a different creature with the long silver blade that emerged from the end. "But yer gonna hafta give up the past if ya want to fight fer somethin' other than revenge."
Instead of calming her, like the woman probably intended, her words only served to enrage Venus that much further. Such was her fury that she punched a hole straight through one Youma and vaporized the one behind it. "How dare you! Someone has to avenge them!"
"Yer not after that ya silly girl! Yer just telln' yerself that while ya really after vengeance! If yer really about love and justice then get yer head out of yer ass and act like it!"
She wanted to refute her associate's words but Venus knew that she couldn't. She vividly remembered shooting Usagi in the face with holy water and feeling righteous in her cause. Did that dark momentary burst of glee that she felt when her friend cried out in pain make her as worse as those she hunted? Venus wasn't sure as to the answer to that question, and that thought, more than any, worried her.
In spite of her current enterprise as a death dealer, the Paladin had entered the church to heal her fellow man. The elevation of humanity from its baser nature was a goal that she held near and dear to her heart. So to see the expression on Venus' face heartened her. Now at least the girl was thinking about her situation instead of just hating.
Integra Fairbrook Wingates Hellsing stood solemnly before one of the few unbarred windows in Hellsing's Japanese outpost. She would have probably, if asked, said that she had picked this room solely because of the window. In her heart of hearts though she knew that to be a lie. This particular room had no portrait of her father, or any of the other illustrious members of her family, in it. The newest head of the family could not bear the weight of their gazes on this day.
Under her stewardship, Integra had lead her organization half-way across the planet in order to track down threats to her country. Powers and principalities had stood in her way and she had ground them all into the dirt. She had even gone against her own country so as to better serve it. And yet, despite all that, she felt like a failure.
Right now, several thousand miles away and in another dimension, the final battle against the freak vampires was taking place and she was not there. Oh sure, she had planned to be there, in the thick of things. When she had boarded the plane to leave her beloved England Integra had made a vow to personally be there when the threat was finished. And she had held onto that vow once she reached Japan. Like so many things though, that all changed once she met Usagi.
Usagi's world was one of magic kingdoms and ancient battles. In her conflicts the fate of not just Japan, but the whole world lay in the balance. The unassuming blond woman wielded power and compassion to rival the Lord's own. Integra, since arriving in Japan, had seen battles of such destruction that it put the final confrontation with Incognito to shame. Usagi had even managed to cow Anderson, something that had seemed impossible a short while ago.
And now she was out there. Her and her tiny band of allies were fighting the final battle in a war so old that it made the Hellsing family's own crusade look like a childish squabble. Somewhere, out there, the fate of the world was being determined by a woman not much younger than herself. Yet where was the proud Integra? Was she out there fighting the good fight? Or was she cowering in a room, too ashamed to even look her ancestors in the face? At that moment she felt no better than those quivering simpletons in the Roundtable, and she hated every moment of it.
Before she could chastise herself any further, the door behind her opened. As soon as she heard the door move Integra knew who opened it and their state of mind. For a man who could slaughter an entire legion and not bat an eye, Walter Dornez could scream at the top of his lungs through the way he opened a door. Right now the former assassin was worried about his mistress but was too polite to actually say something.
"Do you care for any tea, Sir Integra?"
Ah, it was astounding how such an innocuous question held within it a wealth of subtext. "Thank you, but no." Though silence followed her statement, Integra felt as if she was being deafened. "I could have gone," she said to break apart the silence.
For a long moment, Integra considered just letting the unspoken question die away but eventually she chose against it. She could have, had she desired it, used the excuse of preserving the Hellsing line. She had cousins of course, two souls a fair sight younger than Integra. Her uncle may have been a duplicitous bastard, but he did his duty to preserve the family line. Unfortunately, even if they possessed the majority in age, their dedication and inclination mean that they were ill-suited to defend queen and country. The real reason was so much simpler though.
"I would have been useless, Walter. You have seen the videos of Usagi and her cohorts, am I right?"
"Against such forces, my presence would have been a liability. I can not shoot bolts of lightning, or command the elements like they can. My only possible contribution would have been an extra gun. And what is an extra firearm in all that power. I could do nothing . . . "
Walter let his master speak until he felt that she had reached a point where it was proper for him to step in. "If you would not think it impertinent of me, I would like to say something, Sir Integra."
Integra turned to look at her butler. Pearls of wisdom from the man were unheard of, at least during his employment as her servant. So it was with great interest that she said, "Go ahead."
"As you well know, I have served in many a military establishment in my years. In that time I have witnessed many different types of leaders both astounding and astonishingly bad. I have witnessed men of great courage take up arms to crest a hill leading their men. And I have seen men of heavy conscious agonize by the radio as reports of dead roll it. For the leader, the easiest choice is always to go and fight because the chances are high that you will die. Responsibility though is the terrible burden that all truly great leaders must carry. So do not fret Sir Integra, for I truly believe that you are among the greatest of leaders it has been my honor to serve."
The Hellsing heir stared at Walter with undisguised shock. Other than briefings, she had never heard him speak at such length. Certainly the passion he exhibited was unheard of. "T,thank you." Integra wanted to say more but for the first time that she could remember, no words came.
"Would you like some tea ma'am?"
Standing to her full height, with the power of the Hellsing family coursing once again through her veins, Integra looked at her employee. "That sounds excellent Walter."
Acting quickly, Sailor Moon ducked under a swipe from a Youma's claw. As it staggered to turn and slaughter the insect that dared oppose it, Moon burned a hole in the creature with her magic. Upon entering the Negaverse each team took an avenue by which to attack. She chose the path that headed straight toward her target, Metalia. The last time she was in the place she was scared little girl after her kidnapped prince. Now this semi-dark realm held no fear for her. Instead, it was she who sowed the fear.
And why shouldn't she? Sailor Moon lead into battle an army the likes of which no one in the Moon Kingdom had ever conceived. Vampires, Paladins, Senshi and the rest waded into the ranks of the psudo-undead Youma with gleeful abandon. Soon they were joined by the palace guard, who took great pleasure at throwing off the chains of their oppressors.
It was not too long after the start of the assault that Beryl appeared near the Senshi's leader. As soon as she laid eyes upon the former queen a dark, petty, portion of Sailor Moon's soul, possibly gained as a result of her becoming a Vampire, urged her to consign the woman to oblivion. Her better angels though showed Moon a woman who had been punished in ways she could never comprehend. So, after a quick nod, the blond moved on to the next Youma.
In the early waves, the Youma fell with great alacrity. Basically they just ran headlong into the enemy death cannons. A battle strategy that wins you points in wars where men were lead by people that had more crust than echelons in their uppers. As time passed their tactics became more and more complex and vicious, forcing the forces of light to work smarter. Things got so rough that the fighters that normally fought at range were forced to get in close and hit along with casting spells.
While she was struggling to keep a Youma from using its claws to eviscerate her Beryl glanced over at Sailor Moon. Serenity's heir was sweaty, covered in blood, grime, and evaporating Youma ichor. The part of the former queen that still held a residual amount of animosity towards the aloofness of the Serenitys felt a measure of satisfaction at seeing one of that family being so dirty. Even the last queen, in the fiercest moments of combat, never actually got any signs of battle on her person; as if she were too good for even dirt.
As she manhandled one of the Youma's onto its back, Sailor Moon caught Beryl's gaze. "Do you think Metalia knows about you helping us," she asked conversationally as she landed a killing blow.
A dark chuckle echoed throughout the hall where they fought the Youma. "Oh I do hope so. These things are only just becoming interesting." It was Alucard, obviously, but there was a certain quality to his voice that forced all fighting to stop as the combatants looked to find him.
But a moment later, one of the armored behemoths began to shudder violently. Blood and other vital fluids began pouring from every orifice as a terrible scream pierced the air. The tormented creature began to expand in various places. To everyone else, it was as if there was something inside it trying to get out. Some of the more kindhearted souls who witnessed this terror wished for the Youma's pain to end. They were soon retracting their wishes when the writhing mass exploded into a gory, insect leaden, mess.
Splattered all across the room was bits of flesh that had once been the Youma. Interspersed between the pieces were various types of the most vile insects imaginable; all of which were already moving back towards the former creature. Before the horrified eyes of the assembled masses, the insects piled on one another to form the shape of a human being. From them the No-Life King stepped out, his face split wide with a manic grin.
"Isn't this glorious," he exclaimed with an almost orgasmic glee. "The power of this place! I could truly be king here." For just a moment Alucard's form blinked and instead of a man in a red coat and hat, there was a massive king, the kind of which used to rule vast stretches of land with an iron fist. And in the next he returned to his customary attire. But even this was different, for his gloves lacked their runes and were just plain white.
One of the Youma fell down to the ground in four pieces and revealed a scowling Anderson. "Quit that, vampire," he roared. Covering the distance between himself and the maddened vampire, "This isn't the time for yer delusions, fiend."
"You were more interesting when you were with Iscariot."
As Moon watched the old foes argue, time seemed to slow down. One of the Youma that had been stationary during Alucard's entrance was now in motion. Its claw was raised and poised to strike down the angry Paladin. The blond Senshi ran forward, her arm outstretched in warning, yet for some reason her voice simply refused to work. Even her magic seemed to fail her in her time of need.
With lightning fast speed, the claw slammed into the giant frame of Anderson; spinning him around in a fountain of blood. As she ran forward toward the man, Sailor Moon felt his dismembered arm fly past her head. The Paladin was already crumpled on the ground by the time she reached him. In a distant fashion Moon felt a shot from Beryl pass overhead but she paid in no mind. All of her focus was on the wound and the vital crimson liquid that poured from it.
For several vital seconds Sailor Moon's brain just sort of shut down. It was one thing to see this level of damage on some random person in the middle of the street, it was quite different when it was someone you knew. Eventually though, she regained the use of her faculties and summoned the Silver Crystal. Before she could use it though an arm grabbed her's.
"Wait," exclaimed Beryl. "You can't do that!"
"You are the only one with any hope of stopping Metalia. If you heal him then you could doom us all."
She wanted to disagree with the woman. Wanted to say that it was not worth winning if everyone didn't make it. And a few short years ago she would have. Sailor Moon would have poured all her energy into Anderson and then, when the time came to kill Metalia she would've just put her all into it and hopefully came back at the end. That was then, and now she knew that she couldn't go around acting like that, not with the fate of the world in her hands.
Did that kind of thought come with age? Or was it the product of her transformation into a Vampire. Whatever the answer, it was chased away by the wounded Paladin.
"Go," he muttered as blood dribbled from his mouth.
"But . . ."
"Just go. Ah'll be fine."
The blond-haired woman could see that he was putting on a brave face for her sake. With the injuries he had sustained Anderson would be dead in another few minutes. "O,okay. I'll be back soon."
Alucard stepped forward. "I will stay with him. None of these monstrosities will come near him."
Sailor Moon gently laid the former Iscariot agent on the floor before standing. "Thank you."
Beryl, while understanding that some things take time, still was mindful of the time. "We need to get going!"
"R,right," said Moon with increasing determination. "Let's go."
The two men, well one man and one man-shaped creature from the pit, stayed where they had been left. When Moon and the others vanished from view Alucard kicked the fallen Paladin in the side. "Get up."
Now that everyone was gone, Alexander turned the full force of his glare towards the troublesome beast. "Ye didn't have to kick me so hard," he grumbled as he stood. "Ye mind handing me ma arm? Ah don't really want to spend a week re-regrowing another new one."
A dark tendril slithered out from Alucard across to the room where it grabbed the discarded appendage. "Yes," he chuckled darkly, "I imagine that such a thing would get irksome after a while." He watched the blond man push the arm against the ragged wound. It was interesting, in a distant fashion, to see the flesh join together at an accelerated rate. "I wonder, why did you make such a transparent ploy to stay behind?"
He looked away, "For whit is tae come, Ah am not needed. Whit about ye though? Ah though ye wanted to be there."
"I have already faced my own god. It is time for Usagi to face her own. And there was still more of these damn freaks to slaughter." The last bit was spoken with an almost greedy tone.
Anderson's grin was almost as feral. "Then lets get going."
When they had first entered the palace proper, Mercury had sent a schematic of the place to everyone' communicators. It wasn't as good as some of the new gps units that the upper crust were getting installed in their cars, but it was certainly better than the blind stumbling about that they had to face the first time they visited the dark fortress.
At the time, it had been decided that Sailor Moon would take the shortest, and most direct, route to Metalia's chamber. That was the real threat that they had to contend with. With Beryl's help, the route was made even shorter; going through sub-corridors and back channels that Mercury's computer could not see. So, not long after her group left Alucard and Anderson behind, Moon and the others arrived at the core.
It was a sphere of writhing darkness. Now darkness was nothing new for Sailor Moon, with a light as bright as her's the dark becomes equally as black. When Alucard wished it, he could summon a darkness which could blot out the sun. However dark he made the world though, there was always something about it that felt like it had a place in the world. Sure, it could make a person scream with unholy terror, but so do spiders. Metalia's was a different beast altogether. There was nothing about her that said to the observer, "Yes, I may be that shadow from your deepest nightmares, but at least you know that some light will send me running." It was greedy and had a sickly aura that spoke of being an intruder to this universe.
For a moment or two it chilled Sailor Moon's soul to look at the swirling blackness. Soon enough, she regained her metal and began walking towards the core.
"Stop!" The voice belonged to Sailor Mars who had, not a moment ago, entered to chamber.
Moon turned to look her raven-haired friend in the eye. There she could see all the fears and anxiety harbored by the woman. "She's waiting for me. I have to do this, you know that Rei."
"But you'll die!" Even as she said it, Mars knew that it was a lame, but she wasn't going to let her friend to go without a fight.
She smiled at the Senshi of fire. "I've been dead so many times that I should't exist. What's one more time?"
"You're mom never came back though." Mars was starting to sound desperate now.
Her smile faded a bit, "And if the same thing happens to me, then I name you my heir. I'm sure that you'll do a great job."
"But . . ."
Sailor Moon stepped close to her friend. "I know. And while I don't know how I feel yet, I can give you this." Before anyone could say a thing, she darted forward and captured Mars's lips in her own.
It was different, kissing another woman. With Mamoru, she was always looking up. Now though, she was dead even with her partner. And that was what it felt like, a partnership. "I could get used to this," she thought. As Mars ground herself into the embrace, Sailor Moon found herself having an increasingly difficult time extricating from the embrace. Eventually, she pulled together enough will to gently push the woman away. "Goodbye."
With that one final act, the blond heroine turned and dove into the dark mass before anyone could stop her.
Usagi slipped into the darkness of Metalia's core with a modicum of effort. The ease of her entry only re-enforced her notion that the dark god was waiting for her arrival. But while the she may have been as accommodating to allow her foe into the dark core of her being, Metalia became a much nastier host on the inside. Tendrils of dark power whipped at the golden-haired woman. Each malignant finger groped at her frame desperately, seeking an avenue through which the whelp could be drug down into the same soulless place that the creature called home.
The darkness could find no purchase upon Usagi's person though. From every poor of her being shown a brilliant light. Each tendril, upon touching that soul stirring radiance, shrieked as if it had been dipped in the greatest of acids. Usagi smiled at their pain, something new for her. So many were wronged by Metalia. So many deaths, whole worlds had been laid low by the being around her. It was about time that it experienced some of their pain, that it knew what it was like to be a victim. Before, such a thought was beyond the one called Sailor Moon. Now though, she had been touched by evil and while she retained her light, no one ever remained the same after such an experience.
Seeing that the direct approach was not working against her foe, Metalia tried a new trick. Flexing her mental muscles, the inner core of the creature gave way to a bleak and barren landscape. Instantly the temperature in all directions dropped to well below zero. Great sheets of ice thrust up from the earth, as if it was pushed by a great hand. Suddenly a mighty wind rushed across the landscape, carrying with it tiny flecks of snow that burned against the skin like fire.
With a grimace, Usagi braced herself against the chilling wind. As much as the environment conspired to freeze her solid, it was the memory of the place which stopped her heart. She knew it so well, every flake of snow, every sound, every smell, every sensation. Sailor Moon had been there before, a thousand million times. In all of her worst nightmares, she had walked this path and each time before it had ended with her death.
"Really Metalia! Do you think that this is going to scare me into stopping?"
"And why shouldn't it," asked a voice. It was the same as Beryl's, but Beryl of a lifetime ago. Far ahead, the darkness contorted and moved to form itself into the likeness of the dark queen at the moment that should have been her triumph.
"Because I've been here before," announced Usagi defiantly. From beneath her tiara, the sigil of the Serenity line shined brighter and brighter until it vaporized the metal. "I've been here so many times that it doesn't matter any more." The long streamers of her uniform began to grow insubstantial, pieces of material gently tearing loose on the wind. "It doesn't scare me. You don't scare me!" Soon, all that was left was the white, shaped, leather that comprised the core of her armor. And then even that was blown away, lost to the currents of air.
The silky voice laughed at the naked woman, "Of course you are. You little primates are terrified of everything. Just look at yourself, too scared to maintain even a paltry defense."
"I don't need to be Sailor Moon any more, Metalia." The broach, which represented her mantle as Senshi, crumbled apart; joining the rest of her uniform in the ever blowing winds of change. At the center of Usagi's chest, pulsing with a gentle warmth in time to her own heart, was the Silver Crystal. "I know who I am now." Across her lithe form, a long graceful dress materialized into being. " And I know what to do." The snow of Metalia's construct began to swirl around Usagi's head. Slowly they joined together into one glowing ring of the brightest silver; a crown for a new queen.
The dark being did not like what she was seeing. The maggot should be gibbering in terror at the prospect of her imminent demise. Instead, she seemed to be drawing strength from it. "Do you think you can kill me? You've tried before and failed. Even your mother could not stop my reign forever. You have no hope of defeating me!" In an attempt to assuage her mounting worry, the goddess launched several spheres of darkness at her opponent.
Darkness, even that of Metallia, must give way to light. So, when the energy hit its target, it was pulled in; transformed into fuel for a greater transformation already underway.
Usagi reached out with her hand, and once again the snow answered her call. As if it were pouring down into some great mold, the white flakes spun themselves into a regal staff, a symbol of office for the newly crowned monarch. "You're right." From every corner of the cosmos, all of reality felt the coming of the queen.
"I was too weak before." Deep down, everything heard her words, everyone felt her power.
"I was too blinded by the light to see the way out." Every soul, no matter how grand or how meek, knew what was being asked of them. The universe itself, every corner of creation, was right there in that dark place with Usagi.
"But now I can see." Unlike any of her line, all the way back to the very first Serenity, Usagi saw the duality of the universe. The delicate balance of good and evil, light and dark, order and chaos, red and blue, all of it was open to her. And in that knowledge, came a way out of the cycle. A way to end this war, not for a hundred years, or a thousand, but forever.
"And what exactly do you see," sneered Metalia. While she had managed to keep her voice dripping with disdain, inside the creature was terrified. Something was pulling her in. The shell of her core, that which had once protected her from even the greatest of threats, was now an impenetrable barrier. Her refuge was now her prison.
With a serene smile, Usagi raised her arms as if she were welcoming a lover. "If you can't destroy evil, embrace it."
The winds that had once been buffeting her opponent turned on Metalia with a vengeance. Stronger and stronger did the gail blow. Just as she thought that she could handle the gusts coming in from one direction, a new swell hit her from another side. Bit by bit, she felt herself being tugged apart by their fury. Even her terror was no match for their force, for the winds soothed even as they continued with their work. All she could do is stare, wide-eyed, at the woman who was doing so much with so little force.
After taking from the dark being, the winds carried their load outwards to every portion of the universe. No corner went untouched by their soft caress as they left their well cared package. Had someone else been there, the sight would have stunned them with its beauty and majesty. As it was, only Usagi, as the winds moved around her, wept silent tears.
Since Metalia was no longer there to support the construct, the ice and the storms all faded away to reveal the worried faces of all those who stood beside her through thick and thin. For a moment, everyone was in awe of the changed appearance of their friend, but at some unspoken signal, most ran towards Usagi and embraced her merrily. Laughter and tears abound at the knowledge that the fight was over and they had won. Finally, one of the group managed to speak.
"How did you do it Usagi?" Ever the calm one, it was Setsuna who regained her composure the quickest.
"She wanted the universe, so I gave her to it," she said softly.
"You mean you didn't kill her," asked a wide eyed Ami.
The queenly woman shook her head with a smile. "No, you can't destroy evil. Metalia was right about that. My mother tried, and she doomed all of the solar system. There was no way I could do that." Over the heads of her friends, she could see Alucard at the edge of the room. "I realized something they would have never even thought of; a little evil in the world can be a good thing. It makes us think, to strive to make the world better."
Still, the Inners were not completely convinced. They had already died twice because of that thing, and they were not about to let the matter rest until it was certainly gone. From tight grip on Usagi's arm Rei asked, "Are you sure she can't come back?"
From the shadows, Alucard's dark laughter echoed out. "You fool. Can you even understand what she is talking about?"
All eyes turned to the No-Life King. In their depths incomprehension and irritation shined. "Well obviously we don't," said Haruka carefully.
"She's still here," said Seras. "Metalia will never be gone. But she is now in all of us. A little darkness to balance out the light.
And Seras Victoria was right. In the thousand years since the final battle against Metalia not a single soul suffered as a result of the long vanquished creature. There was no great ice to chill the hearts of man. With the help of Beryl's people, individuals of great strength and courage, humanity returned to the stars. Mankind traveled beyond their pale blue dot and brought with them a drive to discover and to share.
Through it all, humanity had a shepherd. For that was what man truly needed. In the blackest of nights, she fought evil. She saw to it that love did win to see the daylight. When a real fight came a calling, she stood fast, never running, never submitting.
She was the one.
She was Sailor Moon.
Author's Notes: And so, after nearly six years of work, we have reached the end of this story. No-life Queen started as a lark, a result of watching too much Hellsing. When I started all I knew was that I was going to turn Usagi into a vampire. I certainly never had any clue as to where the story was going to end up. That definitely led to some problems for me along the way. Often I had to stop and ask, "Okay now what?" Certain issues that arose because of Umino and Naru have helped me in the writing of my other stories though. I guess that it was those problems that made the writing of this hard. Other stories, with more wizbangery, drew away my attention. But I never stopped working on it.
This chapter in particular kept going on and on. I kept wondering when I'd get to the battle but there were so many things that needed to be talked about. And, to be frank, I suck at battle scenes. I mean, I've read some people's fight scenes and they spend five pages on a three second skirmish. That's bloody insane. Reading should be as much about the reader's imagination as it is what is written. Using that as a guide, I try to write just enough for you to know what is happening, but no much that you have to stop to figure it all out.
For a while, I had toyed with the idea of doing a full up epilogue filled with information about where everyone was. The more I thought about it though, the more I realized that I didn't really know where they would be; nor did I really care to come up with it. So I will let you, dear reader, imagine where are heroes are a thousand years to come.
As I said, this was the hardest so far to write, but I am glad to see it finished to a point where I am satisfied with it. Now, I can allow myself to turn to my other works and get some time done on them. I hope you have enjoyed this story, I look forward to entertaining you further in the days and years to come.
King of the Wicker People.