AN: So Mists of Pandaria is like 500x more addictive than I thought it would be, and I started training for manager two weeks ago, so my time has been very, very strained. Also, my sister is in labor right now and we're just waiting around so here's a chapter for you while I wait on my little nephew ^.^
Chapter 25: The Last Betrayal
February 20, 8983 – February 27, 8983
"Good. Maybe the rest of us will get some sleep tonight."
Haruka glared at Rei, her stormy blue eyes narrowed at the Martian's comment. "Next time someone has to channel a dead spirit, you do it, Pyro. I could live without your screams for a night."
"I do not scream!"
"You do," Ami replied in her matter-of-fact way, engrossed in the book of prophecies; "you might scream less than Minako, but you are much louder and we can always tell when she uses the chains."
Minako chuckled at the blush on Rei's cheeks, pulling her lover into her arms as she stretched out on the low couch across from Haruka's. The guest tower Meika had given them was huge, with five floors of bedrooms, a spacious sitting room on the top floor, and even a private swimming pool in the walled-off garden below. They had been there for three days already, and with Haruka still recovering from her mother's antics and the vision she had spent so much energy to show, they had decided to stay for a few more. It was the most comfortable palace they had visited, and they even had rooms far enough apart that they didn't have to worry about overhearing each other, despite Haruka and Rei's banter. Haruka and Michiru had taken the room on the bottom floor closest to the garden and pool, Rei and Minako were on the second story, Ami and Makoto were on the next level, and Serenity had her own room on the top sleeping floor, two floors above all of her senshi on the most protected level. Having just returned from the tumultuous meeting on Titan, they were relaxing together in the large sitting room, the afternoon sunlight warm against the green curtains. Michiru had gone outside to swim, leaving Haruka time to recuperate and endure the merciless teasing of her friends.
"Have you found the Rebirth prophecy that Uranus mentioned?"
"Not yet," Ami replied, struggling to translate an especially difficult passage. "Honestly, it could take days, depending on how obscure it is. I only found the first four so easily because they were the first ones in the book. If Setsuna didn't understand this Rebirth prophecy, she probably buried it among these hundreds of other tiny, obscure little snippets. The least she could have done was give me a table of contents."
Makoto chuckled, tapping on the computer in the corner as she scanned through news and gossip reports from the other planets, sparing a glance for her studious girlfriend. "You should offer to rewrite her book," the Jovian replied.
"I might." Sighing in frustration, Ami closed the book and pushed it to the other side of the table, groaning and dropping her head into her hands. "I don't want to read anymore. Makoto, what are you up to over there?"
"Gossip from Uranus."
"My planet doesn't have gossip," Haruka replied, stretching out on the couch and closing her eyes. "How could you have found anything like that?"
"Well, it says here that some priest in the High Temple of Uranus on Titania was turned into a white stag earlier this afternoon. It wore off after a few hours, but he couldn't remember anything other than the goddess Uranus appearing before him in a navy dress and ordering everyone to leave her temple."
Haruka chuckled, running her fingers through her hair modestly. "That was me he saw. I'm kind of flattered that he thought I was the goddess. But as for the deer thing . . . it's not gossip, and it's not the first time in the last three thousand years that a priest has been transformed into a game animal in that temple."
"How did it happen?"
Haruka grinned. "Uranus has been sleeping with Artemis recently, a goddess who has a habit of turning men into animals after they've seen her naked. Usually she has her Amazons hunt them down afterwards; I suppose Uranus is a calming influence on her."
"Why would Artemis be naked in Uranus's temple?" Haruka leaned up at her wife's voice, the aquanette entering the room with a towel in one hand, a simple blue knee-length dress covering her still-damp form. Michiru dropped her towel on the table beside the door, joining her wife on the long couch.
Haruka shrugged, wrapping her arm around Michiru's shoulder and pulling the smaller woman down into her arms. "I imagine she was so turned on from kissing me that she needed to be with her lover."
Michiru giggled and leaned forward, kissing Haruka gently before snuggling into her arms. Serenity looked up from her data pad, smiling at her senshi before returning to her lessons. "What are you studying?" The Venusian leaned over her wife's arm, blue eyes trying to focus on the screen in front of her princess.
"I'm working on my languages, Minako. Right now, I'm on Venusian."
"I can help you with that." Serenity smiled gratefully, scooting across the floor to sit beside Minako's couch, the blonde senshi dislodging her lover as she stretched out. "Show me what you're having problems with."
"My pronunciation," Serenity admitted. "It's so different from Sol Standard and even Lunarian, and I'm told that the language doesn't work correctly if your inflection is just the littlest bit off."
"It doesn't," Minako admitted. "In order to convey your emotions accurately, the words have to flow like music. Here, read this sentence to me."
"Jaiuss'ita namurenu tes ish inahs."
Minako scrunched her nose, shaking her head at the princess. "What language did you learn last?"
"It shows." Rei pushed herself onto her arms, scoffing at her lover, but the blonde ignored the offended look in the Martian's eyes. "Your stops are too fast and you aren't holding your vowels." She took a breath and touched Serenity's screen, highlighting the phonetic translation. "Jahiuus'iehta nahmyurenhu te'es ish ienahss." Her words filled the room, offering the other princesses a taste of her contentment, and Serenity nodded, glancing down at the sentence once more.
Rei leaned over Minako's prone form, listening to Serenity carefully repeat the sentence, her innocent joy joining the words. She smiled as the Moon Princess began to read from her data pad, meaningless sentences about cats under tables or Venusian Lyre Beasts in trees, but her simple happiness filled the room, relaxing the senshi. Rei ran her fingers softly across Minako's back, the beginning of a gentle massage, and the Venusian smiled lovingly at her soul mate before returning to Serenity's lesson. Makoto, bored with the news outlets, lifted the book that Ami had abandoned, emerald eyes scanning letters she could never hope to read while her girlfriend giggled at her elbow. Ami slipped into Makoto's lap, reading her one of the least melancholy passages in a soft whisper, making sure not to interrupt Serenity's lesson.
Minako gasped as Rei deepened her massage, the gentle pressure relaxing her muscles and changing the undertone in her words. When she repeated the next sentence for Serenity, the aura of contentment had morphed into something stronger, the faintest undercurrent of desire coloring her tone. Haruka, concentrating on her wife's soft skin under her fingertips, barely noticed the change in Minako's words, but she felt warmth slowly fill her frame. Michiru glanced up, sensing the change in her wife's aura, tensing when she noticed the gold striations in those emerald depths. "Try practicing that rolling transition again, Serenity. Ghehaasrrii ieya'ie hainan'ha." Michiru's teal eyes darkened to sapphire immediately as Minako's words washed over her, and she promptly forgot the other women in the room. She leaned forward and kissed Haruka's chin, smiling as her lover's arms wrapped around her waist and pulled her closer.
Makoto leaned over Ami's shoulder, staring at the book in her girlfriend's lap, amazed at the complexity of the Ancient Lunarian script. She reached up and brushed Ami's dark blue hair away from her neck, eyes widening as desire filled her frame. She leaned down and kissed that exposed skin, her hands reaching for her lover's breasts. Ami squeaked in shock, glancing up over her shoulder to reprimand her Jovian, moaning as Makoto's lips found hers. Eyes closed, Ami closed her book and placed it safely to the side, twisting around in Makoto's arms and deepening the kiss.
"Oh, here, that's what I said to Rei the day we met. You have to be careful with the pronunciation if you want to be understood. Laorisa hainan'ha yo'usehnah." Minako's blue eyes darkened as she remembered how beautiful Rei had been that night and how desperately she had wanted the Martian. Rei stopped her massage, grabbing Minako's shoulder and flipping her onto her back. The Venusian's eyes widened as Rei leaned in for a kiss, not caring that Serenity was still obliviously reading the sentences from her data pad. "Rei, what are you doing?"
"Silly question," Rei replied, desire washing over Minako with her lover's words. The blonde's eyes widened in shock as she realized that her powers had affected her mate, and the darkness in Rei's amethyst eyes let her know that the Martian had no plans to stop what she was doing with her hands.
"Minako, what are you doing?" Serenity's question was more concerned than Minako's had been, the princess staring at Rei's wandering hands in something akin to shock.
"Being careless," the blonde hissed, slipping free of Rei's hold and pushing the Martian to the floor. Serenity watched, eyes wide, as Rei shook her head, breaking free of her mate's power, confusion in her eyes.
"Remember when I told you that I could project my emotions as Sailor Venus? Well, it seems that the combination of my language and my lineage has had some unexpected side effects." Minako waved one hand at Makoto and Ami locked in a frantic embrace, the Jovian's hands lost somewhere under her lover's shirt. On the other side of the room, Michiru had Haruka pinned to the couch, the blonde's jacket and shirt already on the floor while the Neptunian's fingers searched for a way to remove the cloth that bound and flattened her lover's breasts.
"Minako, you have to break them out of this."
The blonde nodded and closed her eyes, accessing her projection ability and focusing on that single instant of fear that had consumed her when Rei was almost eaten by the huge reptile on Metis. Makoto jerked away from Ami, eyes wide as she turned to Minako, fear giving way to confusion. Ami blushed as she realized what they had almost done in front of their friends, hiding her face in her lover's chest. Michiru pulled away from Haruka, slipping off the couch and turning to Minako, sapphire eyes narrowed in annoyance. The leader of the Inner Senshi shrank back from that gaze, an apology in her pale blue eyes.
"I didn't mean to."
Michiru sighed and shrugged, the motion completely unladylike but acceptable given the current situation and her own uncertainty. She glanced back at her lover, but Haruka's eyes were no longer focused on her. Those golden orbs had wandered away from the woman who was clearly no longer interested, instead focusing on the source of the power flowing through the room. The tall blonde rose from the couch, every motion calculated to attract, sensuality pulsing off of her in waves. She walked across the room, focused on Minako, ignoring the Martian and Lunarian standing beside her target.
"Minako, fear won't work on a Uranian," Rei murmured, trying to decide the best way to prevent Haruka from jumping her girlfriend. "It won't cool her lust."
"Then what can?!"
"I can," Michiru replied softly, stepping forward and placing herself between the two blondes, resting her hand on Haruka's chest. She sent the memory of their honeymoon night across their bond, smiling as the gold faded from Haruka's eyes and she stopped trying to push forward. "Are you okay?"
Haruka nodded, glancing over her wife's shoulder in confusion. The guilty look on Minako's face told the story, and the Uranian sighed as she ran her fingers through her short hair. "You really have to work on controlling that power."
"All of you need to practice your secondary abilities," Michiru pointed out, leading her wife back to their couch and helping her back into her shirt. "I won't say I've mastered my precognition, but after forcing that vision of destruction without my mirror, I am much closer than the rest of you. I was able to make my mirror show what I wanted to see, and not many Sailor Neptunes have had that kind of control."
"What do you suggest?"
Michiru turned to Minako first, waiting until Makoto and Ami claimed the third couch and everyone was comfortable before she began. "You, Minako, should try to speak only in Venusian for the next few days. Your power can project emotions, but it also has the ability to conceal them. Speak your native tongue and avoid letting us know your feelings. If you can't prevent everything from coming through, then use calm to mask anything else. Not only will that help Serenity with her lessons, but it will teach you to have self-control at all times, even when Rei is with you. In a true fight, fear and desperation must be pushed aside for the sake of the team."
Minako nodded, twining her fingers with her lover's. "You're right. As a leader I can't show any weakness." Her voice and the underlying emotions were calm and steady, the soft words gaining her a nod of approval from Michiru.
"Rei, you have to practice your sixth sense and your premonitions. Without knowing anything about a person, you must be able to determine if they are good or evil, and without the aid of your other senses you must be able to fight. I read about Martian fire-reading, and I am sure that you have stared into flames as a meditation practice before. Ami and I will help you with that while Haruka and Makoto will help you fight blind."
Rei nodded, a slow smile spreading across her face. "Being able to sense danger before it happens is one of Sailor Mars's strengths, but I never put much time into training my mind with so many weapons to learn."
"Makoto, your physical strength is your secondary ability, so Haruka and Rei will help you test your limits and increase them. Ami, you and I will work on your mind with some of those games you brought from Mercury while Haruka helps you with war strategies and simulations." She turned to her wife, head tilted to one side. "I don't know what to do with you, Ruka."
"I know what you should do with me," Haruka purred, grinning at the sharp glance Michiru sent her. The Neptunian continued as if her wife had not spoken.
"There's no one on this world fast enough to test your speed."
"You are. You were always able to keep up with me on Neptune."
"I'll always keep up with you," Michiru replied, "but I can't help you hone your skills."
Haruka shrugged and leaned back against the couch. "We should go to Oberon, then. The War Queens have to earn their rank through combat, so most of them would be good sparring partners for me, and some of them were champion sprinters in their youths. You guys could learn some things from them, too."
"That's true," Ami murmured, sapphire eyes unfocused as she considered everything she knew about Uranians. "In order to be named War Queen, a woman must have achieved a certain number of war and arts titles, and one of them must be Kazemaru. If there are any non-senshi who can truly help us improve our fighting skills, the War Queens and their children are certainly on the list."
"We'll go there after we get Michiru's Planet Crystal from Larissa."
"We aren't going to get yours first? I thought, since Uranus is closer . . ."
Haruka shook her head, thinking back to her conversation with Uranus. "If I am going to figure out how to break the seal on our planets, the answer will come to me on Uranus. We need to save it for last, when I am fully recovered from what happened this morning on Titan. I have to be able to fully connect with Nao's spirit or we'll just carry powerless crystals around with us until that darkness destroys everything."
Makoto nodded, accepting Haruka's answer and her reason. "I assume you still want to finish this quest before Michiru's birthday?"
"We must," the blonde replied. "Uranus told me where I had to be the night of Michiru's birthday. Something is going to happen that night, presumably the awakening of the crystals. Otherwise, I can't imagine why she would mention it."
"We can leave in two days, if you're feeling up to it."
"I must admit, I'm sad to see you go."
Haruka grinned, offering Meika a brief hug before backing away. The queen and her sons had gathered to see the group of senshi off, her husband standing in the shadows of the palace talking with Makoto. "It was nice, to have this break. I didn't expect to stay on Io for more than a day, but your hospitality and possibly the indestructible nature of your training grounds have made this week memorable."
Ken'nin stepped forward and crossed his arm over his chest before bowing; a warrior's salute. Haruka returned the gesture, glad to have found such friends among Makoto's family. "I'll miss you, Haruka. It's strange to say this, but I wanted you to stay until I was strong enough to beat you."
"Won't ever happen," Haruka replied haughtily, emerald eyes sparkling. "No man can ever defeat a Queen of Uranus." Ken'nin chuckled at her words.
"We'll see you on Triton for Michiru's crowning," Saiki promised, the prince wiping tears from his ice green eyes. "You'll put on a good show for us, won't you?"
"Of course. It'll be a party to remember."
Eiki took Michiru's hand and kissed it, the motion so gentle and the prince so sad that Haruka never felt threatened. "I hope you will play your violin for us some day," he whispered, smiling through his grief. "And I hope you know how lucky you are, Haruka, to have such a beautiful and talented wife."
"I do," the Uranian replied, pulling Michiru into her arms as Makoto gathered Ami and returned to her brothers. She looked up at her father, but Meisha had finally come to terms both with Haruka's identity and Makoto's choice in lovers. He had accepted the information about Meika and Amami's love life with equanimity, but it had taken him two days to decide that Ami was an acceptable partner for his only daughter. The petite Mercurian had been nervous, but the strength she gave Makoto was as clear as her love for the Jovian, so Meisha had eventually given them his blessing.
"Ready to go?" Minako and Rei returned to the group from the pile of baggage in the center of the courtyard, the Martian speaking for both of them. Serenity glanced up at Minako, a question in her eyes, but the tears on the Venusian's cheeks explained her silence. She was too sad about their departure to trust her voice or her power, so she stayed silent as each of the princes embraced her.
"Too bad a man can't be your soul mate, Minako," Saiki commented, wiping the tears from the blonde's cheeks. "You and I would have made quite the pair."
Rei offered Saiki a hug, smiling at the tears in his eyes. "Take care of yourself, Saiki."
"Take care of her," he replied, stepping back to offer Rei the same warrior's salute that Ken'nin and Haruka had shared.
"Always," the Martian replied, returning the salute before taking Minako in her arms once more. Minako buried her face in her lover's crimson hair, her entire body shaking as she silently sobbed. She was the oldest daughter of the Queen of Venus, having grown up surrounded by servants and tutors, but she had never had a friend. The princes were her first real friends, ones she had chosen herself, as precious to her as the women chosen by destiny to fight by her side.
"I didn't expect it to be this hard," Minako whispered, her sorrow leaking through their bond though she somehow managed to keep it out of her voice.
Serenity grabbed Rei's hand and pulled her toward the center of the courtyard, smiling gently as they joined the other four senshi. "It's time to go."
The six senshi transformed, joining hands in a circle around their princess and their pile of luggage as they summoned their powers. An instant later, they were gone.
"Are you sure it's a good idea not to tell your mother that we're here?"
"It's for the best," Michiru replied, staring into her mirror. "She keeps the keystone in here somewhere, and I know she won't miss it." She focused her power through her talisman, smiling as an image appeared in the reflective surface. She smiled and walked away from the group, heading deeper into the armory. Haruka watched her wife walk away, a half-smile on her face as she contemplated what she wanted to do to that lovely woman once night fell. Michiru glanced over her shoulder and winked, knowing what was going through the blonde's mind. She returned to her search, locating the keystone a few minutes later, returning to the group of senshi in triumph. "I suppose we're off to Larissa now."
Minako nodded and reached for Michiru's hand, completing their circle once more.
The group appeared on an empty blue sand beach, waves crashing against the shore while birds filled the air overhead. Michiru looked around and smiled, the serenity of the beach relaxing her. "Isn't it beautiful here?"
Haruka shrugged, gazing across the sea with indifferent blue-green eyes as she lifted her bag onto one shoulder and Michiru's onto the other. "If you like this sort of thing."
"I hope you do," Michiru replied sweetly, holding out her keystone; "because my planet crystal is somewhere in the middle of the Coral Sea."
Haruka blanched, eyes wide as she backed away from the water. Ami giggled at the expression on the sky senshi's face, hiding behind Makoto when Haruka turned to glare at her. "Michi, you know I don't like being out in the water."
"We'll be in a boat."
"That's not helpful."
"Don't worry, Ruka; I'll protect you from the big, evil ocean."
Haruka rolled her eyes, sighing as she followed the Neptunian along the beach, the rest of the women trailing behind with bags on their backs, heading for a low cliff overlooking the calm blue sea. They climbed a rough stone staircase to the top of the rise, the women gasping in awe as the small palace Michiru used as a retreat came into view. The tall building, composed of veined blue rock and huge stained-glass windows, perched on the edge of the cliff, a smaller building below it in the water. "Is this place yours?"
Michiru shook her head, leading the group through the main entrance of the palace, stopping just inside the entrance while the rest of the women filed past her. They piled their colorful bags haphazardly against the wall to be dealt with when the search itself was finished. "It is now, Minako, but I don't know who built it originally, only that it's very old. My mother used this place as a retreat when she was younger. I had that piano there brought in for Haruka to play, but everything else is the same."
"This is a beautiful palace," Ami whispered, turning around slowly. "No one lives here?"
"This moon is uninhabited," Michiru replied, leading the princesses to the two doors in the back of the room, opening the left one to reveal a winding staircase leading down to the building below the cliff. They entered the boat house and silently followed Michiru as she boarded the single yacht anchored there. As soon as everyone was loaded on board, Michiru showed Ami and Makoto how to release the ropes holding the boat and push off from the dock, guiding the ship out of the cave and into the open sea.
"I really don't like this."
Michiru glanced at her keystone, setting a course on the ship's computer before grabbing her wife's hand and pulling her up the stairs to the upper deck. She pushed Haruka to the front of the deck, waiting until the blonde gripped the railing before backing away. "Just close your eyes, Ruka, and relax."
Haruka sighed as she closed her eyes, fighting the roiling in her stomach as the yacht sliced through the gentle waves of the inlet, heading for some unknown location in the center of the Coral Sea. As the mild nausea faded, the tall senshi felt the wind rushing around her, tearing at her hair and cooling her skin. As a smile slowly spread across her face, she released her death grip on the railing and spread her arms out to the side, her element surrounding her. Haruka smiled as a pair of slender arms snaked around her waist, Michiru's cheek coming to rest on her shoulder blade.
"Yes," Haruka whispered, bringing her hands down and covering Michiru's. "I feel . . . out here where the wind meets the sea, I feel like there is no war coming, no danger, no cupids, and no need for these planet crystals. I think I understand why you like the sea so much, my siren."
Michiru smiled, pulling away from her wife and leaning over the railing to see if her keystone had started to react. Ami glanced up at her fellow water senshi, gesturing toward the console and the keystone hanging there. Michiru nodded and took Haruka's hand, leading the blonde back down to the lower deck and the other senshi. "Are we close, Ami?"
The petite woman nodded, pointing at the keystone hanging by the wheel. "The pulsing is erratic; we may be slightly off course."
Michiru nodded and took the wheel, one eye on her keystone and the other on the open water before her as she turned the ship slightly in the direction her stone indicated. Beside her, leaning over the railing and staring into the clear blue water, Rei glanced up at Haruka and grinned. "Still feeling a little seasick, Wind?"
Haruka glared at the redhead, hating when anyone even hinted that she had a weakness, but Minako's hand on her arm halted her response. "Rei's just teasing you because the sea doesn't agree with her, either." Her words were amused, but none of her emotions leaked into her tone.
Haruka smirked at Minako's words and the blush on Rei's cheeks, sighing as she joined the fire senshi at the railing. The blonde rested her arm on the Martian's shoulders, offering her silent support to the younger warrior. Rei glanced up and smiled, thanking Haruka as she struggled not to show how much the sea was bothering her.
"I believe we are here."
"There's nothing here." Rei waved her hand at the empty sea, pointing out the obvious lack of land before the boat.
Michiru nodded as she slipped her keystone around her neck, stopping the boat and leaning out over the bow. "There must be an underwater cave system here. The keystone is going crazy. Are you guys ready for some diving?"
Haruka and Rei blanched and looked away, Ami chuckling at their reaction. Serenity leaned over the railing, staring into the fathomless azure depths before pulling back. "It's very deep, Michiru. How are you going to find this cave?"
Michiru glanced at the cabin, doing some quick calculations before pulling her hair into a high ponytail. "We're going diving, I suppose. We certainly have breather masks for everyone and wetsuits. The only problem is the pressure, but I know we can use our senshi powers to keep from being crushed and to prevent decompression sickness when we find the cave. I'm sure that whatever cavern we find will have air if it holds my planet crystal, so we will be fine once we get there . . ."
"Michiru . . . I don't think I can go with you."
Serenity shrugged and glanced around the circle of senshi, blue eyes conflicted. "I don't have any senshi powers to protect me from the pressure of the water, and I can't help you once you find this cave system. I think it would be safer if I just take the boat back to your little palace and wait for you all to teleport back." Serenity smiled kindly at her senshi, somehow appearing much older than her fourteen years, placing a small hand on Michiru's cheek. "I saw that you have a communications uplink in your palace; I thought I could use the time to catch up with Endymion."
Michiru glanced up at Haruka, the other senshi echoing her action as they wondered if their blonde leader would let the princess return to the cliff on her own, if she would be willing to let Serenity out of her sight. Haruka turned to Minako, the leaders exchanging some silent communication before both of them nodded. Minako twisted her wrist in that odd motion she used to summon her chain, stepping forward with her glowing talisman and wrapping it around Serenity's waist. The chain's ends fused together to become a belt for the young princess, Minako nodding in satisfaction. "Wear this at all times. If anything happens to you, I'll know it immediately and we'll teleport back to you." The situation was too important for her to speak in Venusian, a language her princess only haltingly understood, and she needed to make sure that Serenity would be safe away from her senshi protectors.
"Do you think this is necessary?"
Minako reached up and placed a gentle hand on Serenity's cheek. "No precaution is unnecessary, my princess. You are the most precious thing in the world to us and we will make sure that you are protected at all times."
Serenity smiled and wiped a stray tear from her eye, amazed at the devotion these six women had toward her, even though they had only been acquainted for a few short weeks. "We'll always be together, won't we?"
"Of course we will," Haruka replied. "You can count on that."
Michiru led the senshi into the lower level of the yacht and found wetsuits for everyone, as well as flippers and breather masks that could extract oxygen from the water. As soon as everyone was suited up, she instructed Rei and Minako to pull their hair up and braid it so that it wouldn't get in their way or tangled in the coral when they dove. The emerged onto the deck to find Serenity familiarizing herself with the controls, Rei joining the young blonde for a moment as the other women slipped the breather masks over their faces and checked their seals. "Take care of yourself, Serenity."
"I should be the one saying that to you," the princess returned. "It's not like any of these crystals have been easy to get, or even always safe. Please, all of you return to me in one piece, especially you, Rei."
"Of course we'll all come back safely," the Martian replied confidently, leaning forward to kiss Serenity's forehead on her moon mark before slipping her breather mask over her face. She leaned over the railing of the ship and jumped into the water, the other five senshi behind her.
Minako swam in the front of the group, her entire body glowing with an orangey gold light as she illuminated the sea for her partners. Ami and Michiru followed her, the two water senshi completely at ease in their element and both of them much faster swimmers than their warrior lovers. Makoto, Rei, and Haruka followed as closely as they could, struggling to move through the water quickly and concentrating on using their power to keep the pressure of the water overhead from injuring or killing them. The sea was over five hundred feet deep in the center, and Haruka could believe that the cave they were looking for was in the very middle of the vast sea. She stared at the darkness beneath her and worried about the darkness above her, hoping that they hit the seafloor soon and found a cave with air.
It seemed that some god was listening to her prayers. The group finally reached the floor of the Coral Sea, Minako's light attracting hundreds of small fish that were used to complete darkness. Michiru looked at her keystone at the end of the chain as it floated in front of her face, the blue light strong and steady. She pointed forward and the group moved, staying as close as they could to Minako. The bright light illuminated a small cave entrance against a tall underwater cliff, and Michiru indicated that the group should move into the dark cavern.
They swam through a short channel and emerged into a huge cave with light beaming down on them from overhead. Minako pointed at the light and swam up, the other five women just behind her. The pressure against their shields was gone, indicating that there was only a few feet of water overhead, so none of them were surprised to emerge from the water into a huge, empty cave with light shining down on them from something overhead. Minako swam to the edge of the water and pulled herself onto a shale beach, waving her hand overhead in a silent question. Ami knew what her leader was asking for, so she pulled out her computer and ran a quick atmospheric scan on the air trapped in the underwater cave. Nodding in approval of her computer's results, Ami removed her breather mask and hooked it to the belt of her wetsuit, taking a deep breath of the oddly sweet air.
"How could there be breathable air in a cave underwater?" Haruka removed her mask, as well, but the blonde was clearly less happy about it.
"Most of the oxygen on this planet comes from algae and plankton," Ami replied, leaning down to scan the water. "This water is full of it because of the light overhead."
"What's causing the light?"
Michiru glanced at the ceiling, noting that the sources of the light seemed to be moving and that the spectrum was not consistent across the entire ceiling. "Illuma Beetles," she replied, turning her attention to the walls of the cave in search of an exit. "They use their bioluminescence to attract mates and prey, but it is odd to find a colony underwater. I imagine someone transplanted a pregnant queen here long ago to create light for the algae and in turn keep the air in this cave oxygenated."
"Then you think this is the cave where your crystal is hidden?"
"It has to be, Rei. Why else would the Illuma Beetles be here? They aren't even native to Larissa. Oh, there it is." She pointed at a hole in the cave wall partially hidden in shadows, taking off her flippers and leading the other senshi toward it. Thankfully, the shale was smooth and gentle on bare feet, so they made it across to the doorway without incident. They climbed a short flight of smooth stairs carved into the rock and emerged onto a shelf overlooking another cavern, one devoid of water but still filled with Illuma Beetles glowing from the ceiling.
"Wow," Minako breathed, blue eyes wide in amazement at the treasures spread beneath them. The cavern was filled with jewelry, precious metals, and gemstones from every planet in the system, the wealth below them a rival for even the Neptunian and Venusian Royal Treasuries. The slender blonde headed for the stairs leading to the lower level, stopped by Michiru's insistent hand on her arm.
"Venusian," she reminded the younger woman; "and do not touch anything in here. This is Poseidon's treasure; worse, it is also Amphitrite's. The queen of the seas would not take kindly to interlopers in her private vault."
"Is it safe to be here?"
Michiru turned to Rei and grinned, shaking her head. "For you, of course not. For me, it is a haven. Here is one of the seats of my god's power; if I wish to speak to him, I can call from here. If the Planet Crystal is anywhere, this treasury would be the place."
Haruka sighed and gestured for the other senshi to follow her wife into the lower level of the treasury proper. The aquanette summoned her mirror, whispering a command to it as she focused her power on her Planet Crystal. They passed towers of gold, waterfalls of silver, and mountains of raw gems before entering a second room. Smaller than the first cavern, the second cave had reflective walls, mirrors to illuminate the splendor of the cut gems covering most of the floor, the largest ones sitting on pillars to emphasize their beauty. Haruka pointed at a huge, palm-sized aquamarine, the facets forming waves that seemed to move in the mirrors behind it. "It seems that you come by your narcissism honestly, my love."
"Hush, you," Michiru murmured, the faintest blush staining her cheeks. "I'm not in the least bit narcissistic."
"Your talisman is a mirror," Rei replied flatly, admiring a heart-shaped ruby hanging against the wall as the group moved deeper into the cave.
"Yes, a mirror that should be showing me my planet crystal." Her annoyance leaked into her cultured voice as Michiru stopped in the center of the room, teal eyes narrowed in annoyance. "There must be a way to locate the crystal."
"Michiru, tell us about your previous incarnation."
Ami shrugged and waved her hand in a circle. "This treasury had to be a place that Yuuka loved, if she is anything like you. She probably came here to talk with Poseidon and Amphitrite, and she certainly was an artist like you. Perhaps if we can understand her, we can determine the method for locating your crystal."
Michiru found a section of reflective wall not covered in gems and leaned against it, staring into her mirror. "I suppose that could help. I imagine Haruka has told you about how my power works."
"She says you mirror your opponent," Rei replied, waving one hand in Minako's vague direction. "When you were fighting Minako, she explained that you can copy someone's emotions and desires as well as their moves."
"I can, but it's something more than that. Yuuka . . . she found another facet of the Sailor Neptune powers. Her story is quite amazing, actually. In her time, Neptunians were only really known for their pacifism, but not much else. Yuuka wanted more for us, for my world, so she left for a tour of the system when she was a princess. She went to Mercury to learn the mechanical processes of music, art, and dancing before spending months on Venus learning the arts themselves. She became best friends with Minami, who taught her how to paint and dance, and some her masterpieces still hang in our museums to this day. She went to Mars and introduced Minami to Reiko, and there she learned ancient fire dancing. She went to Jupiter and traveled with the tribes of Ganymede through the forests, seeing things she could never have experienced among the moons of Neptune."
"What did she learn from Nao?" Haruka's green eyes were even more intense in the strangely lit room, but something in her tone made Michiru pause.
"I don't know," Michiru whispered, twisting her mirror in her hand in contemplation. She furrowed her brow as she realized that she had no answer for her wife. "The records get a bit vague after Jupiter. We know that she went to Uranus but we don't know what she learned there."
"You know," Haruka replied, reaching out and touching her long fingers to the surface of the Deep Aqua Mirror. "You have the same power Rei has, though possibly a bit more unpredictable. You and I are soul mates, my heart, so whatever is hiding your stone must be related to what Yuuka learned from Nao."
Michiru nodded and closed her eyes, concentrating on her talisman and the warm golden pulsing of Haruka's soul next to hers. For just a moment, she felt something . . . a splash of water against her mind and then . . . she knew. Her eyes flew open, teal swirling among seas of sapphire, and Haruka smiled. "I saw it. Nao was a warrior of the highest caliber, but she was also master of musical instruments, and Yuuka was intrigued. She played the piano, the harp . . . she taught Yuuka how to play the violin."
"Your favorite instrument," Haruka pointed out. "You're a master at it."
Michiru nodded and pushed herself away from the wall, leading the group through the cave and into the next one. She smiled at the beautiful jeweled instruments filling the chamber, glancing at Makoto as the Jovian chuckled. "You didn't need to bother looking into your mirror at all, Michiru. If we had just kept moving, you could have guessed the unlocking mechanism. There's a violin, if that's your instrument of choice."
"It is," Michiru replied, holding one hand above the white-wood instrument decorated with tiny aquamarines; "but I can't just pick it up. This treasure is booby trapped in the worst way and the last thing we need right now is to be dead. I think . . . I think I can sing to the violin so that it will accept me." She closed her eyes and thought back to her childhood, to an ancient song that had been passed down through her family for dozens of generations. She took a breath and began to sing, her voice wavering for a moment in shock as Haruka's voice joined hers. She hadn't expected her wife to know an ancient Neptunian song.
"Is it the blowing lilac wind that beckons us?
Or is it the violin among the misty waters?
Dreams, in this troubled, frivolous world
Bloom with a single cut from a flower's sword"
The violin started to glow as Michiru looked up, tilting her head at Haruka curiously. "How do you know that song?"
Haruka shrugged at the light intensified. "I've always known it. When I was little, I remember a woman singing it to me. I think it was Hikari, but I've never asked."
"It's an old song passed down through my royal line. I don't know why our worlds would share a song as . . . haunting as The Last Betrayal."
The light from the violin faded as the traps around it disintegrated. Michiru smiled as she reached down to pick up the instrument and the bow lying nearby. Raising the violin to her chin, she lifted the bow and let it touch the silvery strings, her audience releasing a sigh of awe at the beautiful sound it produced. Her tune was short and significantly less mournful than The Last Betrayal, but it seemed to have the desired effect. The other instruments in the room began to resonate with the violin, copying and amplifying its song, until a new, sweeter sound joined in, Michiru pausing her bow mid-note. A pale blue spot of light appeared on the table where the violin had recently rested, darkening to aquamarine with blue and white striations, growing until the aqua colored Sea Melody Crystal solidified before her. Lowering the violin, Michiru reached for the crystal in triumph, smiling as she held it out for her companions to see.
The group of women jumped back in shock as a deep sapphire and teal light filled the room, fading to reveal a tall, slender woman with long, wavy hair the color of the sea and skin the color of pearls. Her sapphire eyes focused on Michiru instantly, the willowy woman stepping forward and placing a hand on the Neptunian's cheek. "Yuuka."
"Michiru," the smaller woman corrected, twirling her stone in her hand. "I was her. I was Yuuka in my last life."
The woman nodded and stepped back, casting her gaze across each of the senshi in turn. "I recognize all of you. I didn't think you would be reborn for centuries yet."
"Who are you?" Haruka's tone was light and inquisitive, but Michiru could hear the implicit threat hovering below the surface. The blonde's arm slipped around her waist and pulled her away from the strange woman, but the stranger only laughed.
"Still so possessive, Nao? Uranus tells me that you are called Haruka in this life." She turned to the violin and ran her fingers over the white wood, smiling as the instrument glowed at her touch. "I would think you would know who I am. This is Poseidon's world and his treasury; who else would know this place except the patron god of Neptune and his wife?"
"Of course. I heard you play; it was beautiful. When Yuuka used to play for me, it was nice, but she lacked true discipline. You've been playing your whole life; I can tell. I wanted to know why you were playing, though, which is what called me here. I also want to know how you broke the seal on this instrument, since Yuuka herself set it."
"I remembered," Michiru replied, leaning into Haruka's embrace. The Uranian was still tense, and she hoped that her touch could calm her wife. "She would sing to the violin so that it would recognize her."
"What did you sing?"
"An ancient Neptunian song called The Last Betrayal."
Amphitrite froze at the words, shaking her head imperceptibly as tears filled her eyes. "I can't believe that the song survived. There were only a handful of us there that day . . . I don't know which god would pass that down."
"A handful of you where? Haruka knows the song, too, but I do not, despite my studies in foreign cultures. Why is that song unique to Uranus and Neptune?" Ami, always the scholar, had already typed the song into her computer and received no results, so she was more determined than ever to learn the origin of the tune.
Amphitrite shook her head and turned away, her long hair obscuring her face. "Are you gathering your planet crystals?"
"Yes," Ami answered, clearly surprised by the question.
"How many do you have?"
"All of them except mine," Haruka answered, already understanding what the goddess was hinting at. "You're saying that the song has something to do with what happened on Uranus when Nao and Yuuka died?"
"They were hiding something, that last day. Uranus knew it, but she could never see into Nao's heart, and Yuuka wouldn't speak to Poseidon. On that last day, when they told the other senshi that death was the only option, they knew that it wasn't true."
"What are you talking about? We saw the visions from Mars and Jupiter, and Uranus told me that it had been Nao's decision for the senshi to die. We already know that it was a hard one to make, but that was the way it had to be."
"But that's not true," Amphitrite replied, glancing up through her curtain of hair. "My husband could feel the turmoil in Yuuka's soul, and she was always so collected, so perfectly calm in the face of the worst danger. Uranus said that, on that last day, Nao's soul was screaming, and she was always the bravest and strongest of the senshi. They knew something, they knew where the other path would lead, but they chose death. That song . . . why do you think they named it The Last Betrayal? Reiko, Minami, Chieko, and Mariya accepted their explanation without question, but Uranus demanded that Nao tell her the truth. She wouldn't, but she hinted that there had been two choices and that she hated them both."
"What are we going to find on Miranda?"
"Nothing you want to know, Haruka. Nothing that should ever be found. Please, don't go; don't look into that final darkness in Nao's soul."
"We have to. We need all of the Planet Crystals and only Nao knows how to activate them. I have to get that information."
Amphitrite turned around, wiping the tears from her eyes before reaching out and embracing Haruka, the act clearly surprising the blonde senshi. She turned to Michiru and embraced her, as well, kissing her husband's avatar on the cheek as a mother would her child. "You two will not be the same after you leave Miranda. You will know the ultimate betrayal that has plagued your souls between lives, but I hope that you are strong enough to survive. The gods do not agree that you need your planet crystals, and I don't think that Uranus's visions of the future are always correct, but you have the right to choose your own path. Poseidon will be sorry to have missed you, but the patron gods have gathered today to discuss some time knot thing that Hades's daughter saw. When you find the last crystal and are ready to activate them, remember that the gods are the ones who sealed their powers." She vanished in a shower of blue glitter, leaving the six senshi standing in an empty room, her words leaving them all feeling uneasy.
"What do you think she meant by that last bit?"
Minako glanced up at her soul mate's question. "If the gods locked the powers of our planets away, who but the gods could release it?"
"That's not it, at least not completely," Haruka replied, running her fingers through her hair. "The patron gods cannot directly affect anything in this realm, including our planet crystals. They were only involved because our past selves forced a situation, used their emotions against them. I think . . . what she said makes sense. Uranus said something similar, something that will lead me to the unlocking mechanism. I just need to see Nao's last memories."
"If what Amphitrite said is true, you won't like what you see on Miranda."
"I know, Makoto, but I have to go. I'm a warrior; I can't be scared off by a hauntingly sad song and tears from a god. We have to go there."
Minako nodded in agreement, freezing as her talisman pulsed in the back of her mind. The other senshi understood the fear in her pale blue eyes without the need for words, all of them transforming instantly and vanishing from the underwater cave.
They appeared beside their princess, Serenity staring at her computer screen in shock. A message with the flashing red border of urgency took up most of her screen, smaller messages scrolling across faster than the senshi could read them. Most of the smaller messages had yellow borders, but a few of them were also red. Something had happened, something important enough to be broadcast to every computer console in the Silver Millennium. Minako's talisman, having responded to Serenity's shock and fear, returned to its owner gratefully as Haruka leaned forward to read.
"No, it can't be."
"The Sixth War Queen of Uranus, Yasuda Mari, is dead," Serenity whispered. "In the hour between her death and this announcement, seven factions have formed among the remaining War Queens, Lesser War Queens, and Lower Chiefs, each of them blaming someone different for her death. The Uranian ships have begun firing on each other from their stations throughout the system, and unrest is tearing through the capital."
"Blaming? Who is there to blame? Haruka, how can your people have already started to fight when she's only died an hour ago?"
"Uranians are slow to anger, but we can hold onto our fury for years," Haruka replied, staring at the screen. She had known when she saw Mari at the council meeting that the old War Queen was very old and very ill, but clearly the rest of her people would not easily believe that a celebrated warrior could simply die of old age. "They are simply avenging old grudges and using Mari's death as an excuse. This kind of behavior is common when War Queens die, but usually the Queen and the Council can contain any violent outbursts. I have to return and calm my people, especially with all of my fleets and War Queens scattered throughout the system. Rei and Makoto, call your parents and request that they immediately dispatch all of their available warships to help calm the factions. You two will come with me to help subdue the captains and Lesser War Queens who are instigating the violence while Michiru, Minako, and Ami will take Princess Serenity and all of our luggage to Ono Hikari's palace. Her children will watch over you until I arrive on Oberon."
"Can't you just signal all of the ships and order them to stop fighting?"
Haruka snorted as the other senshi gathered their luggage in preparation for a teleport. "If only it were that simple, Serenity. Once we start fighting, only a stronger opponent can snap us out of our rage. We don't all have that convenient Lunarian oath and a princess to help us calm down. I'm not even the queen, yet, so I have to prove to these warriors that I am capable of leading them before they will obey a cease fire order. You will be safe with Hikari's children, Serenity, I promise. It should only take us a few hours to settle this unrest and return to Oberon."
"Ruka . . . according to these reports, every fleet is in an uproar. Do you have enough power to attempt that many teleports?"
The blonde turned to her wife, running her long fingers through Michiru's aqua hair in a comforting gesture. "Rei and Makoto will be there. Pyro and Thunder here always have energy to spare, so don't worry too much about us. Come on, we have to go. I have a civil war to prevent."
AN2: Also this chapter is super long (first one over 10k!), but I didn't want to stop before getting to Mari's death. Before you wonder, I did plan to have her die from the beginning, because I need to switch out the Sixth War Queen. The song, if you were wondering, is "Orleans no Sei Senshi ~ Uranus – Neptune no Uragiri" from the First Stage musical Eien Densetsu and it is the song Ura & Nep sing after they accept Galaxia's bracelets. There are probably a dozen different translations of the last two lines, and the one from musicalmoon is by far the worst. I used Cruel Angel's translation for the most part, but I changed the last line a bit because I think everyone is simply missing a word that changes the feel of the song. Here's the original song if anyone thinks they have a better translation (seriously, if you do PM me because I have been agonizing over this for three days):
咲きし 一振り 花の剣
I'm not including the furigana for any of the kanji because the song uses non-standard pronunciations, so it wouldn't help you. There's consistency in the translation of the first two lines, but the second two are all over the place.
Haruka Tenou: Sorry it was such a long wait for this chapter, but releases of new WoW expansions are incredibly distracting. Shitennou should be soon™
Hawkefan: Addiction is good =) Yeah, we all saw the Setsuna thing coming because we saw the interactions between her and her god family, but it is a huge revelation for the senshi and it was a big decision for me to have her tell. In the original fic, Setsuna never told anyone her ancestry.
Petiyaka: Yes, they are super senshi, which we all already know from the fact that they are going to eventually become immortal while all of their ancestors were mortal.
Poseidon's Wrath: It was one of my explaining chapters, though we won't have another of those for a while. Setsuna is telling them everything she thinks they need to know, but she was there the day they all died in their previous life, and whatever she was hiding then she is still hiding now. It's going to cause a conflict soon enough. And now you can see what Beryl's plan is and how she plans to kill off the senshi.
Undine: Thanks. It's good to see lurkers find something that gets them to review ^.^ My writing style has evolved over the years since I originally wrote this fic, and I'm glad that I can put so many scenes together without losing the integrity of the saga. A lot of people are saying that they have become fans of Rei/Mina, which is great because I learned to love them the same way: from reading a MichiRuka fic. They are a great couple to write. The powers of the languages was something I gleaned from a few other great fics I have read on this site (the idea for them but not the specifics), however I have found the power in the individual languages (Lunarian and Venusian in particular) to be quite useful in this story. As for sa'usikha, it most closely follows an Amazonian mindset since the women are the only ones with power and men are just for breeding, but I based the Uranian culture off Haruka herself and Michiru's line in the manga that she represented both man and woman.
Meneldur: Here's some Yuuka the Magnificent for you. I decided to have her character be the student to Nao, since in the musicals, Nao was Yuuka's sempai and taught her a lot about the musicals and the roles they played. I also thought it would be a fun change to have Nao be the one who knew the violin and other musical instruments and teach Yuuka that, giving a reason why music is so precious to both of them in this life and in their life on Earth. I do like pitting Haruka against Setsuna, since Haruka is technically her superior, and I wanted her to show that she has the other senshi on her side (Michiru threatening to look in her mirror) and basically demanding that Setsuna fall into line. She isn't fully there yet, part of the team and all, but you can see that this would be a big step toward her role as one of the Outer Senshi in the S and Stars seasons. I also built the scene to explain soul mates and to show a vulnerability in Setsuna that she herself had not seen or anticipated. Your soul must be screaming is foreshadowing for the end, since you all know that Queen Serenity is going to die. What is Setsuna going to do? Over the next few chapters she is going to realize that Serenity is her soul mate, a concept she thought could never apply to her, and that she is more human than god now. This was a pivotal moment for her, a moment when she can move from being the Lonely One to being just Sailor Pluto, one of the Outer Senshi. The vision of Kazeko was foreshadowing for the second half of the story, showing that she will eventually have her happy ending. The vision of Crystal Tokyo was mostly for Setsuna's benefit, since she will keep that memory in her mind while she guards the Time Gate after the fall of the Silver Millennium. And, as usual, such a serious scene gets humor in the form of Rei and Makoto complaining about their hair before the eerie parallel hope scenes.