CrystalMaker: First off, all rights and legal mumbo-jumbo of the characters of Sailor Moon belong to Naoko Takeuchi. She is a brilliantly creative woman and I can't take credit for her stuff (though God knows I wish I could).
Secondly, as per tradition: eternal love, bear hugs, and big smooches to all who have reviewed and given me nothing but encouragement. You're all wonderful, and I just wanted you to know that.
Then there is my special friend, Yami Hime Hikari, a great writer (check out her stuff, you won't regret it) and my Beta-reader. She is wise beyond her unknown years and is not afraid to berate me for my foolish mistakes, and to that I give her unconditional credit.
I'm done talking now, so feel free to continue on. Enjoy!
Day 3 Continued
Golden Gates of Elysian
When the tears built up in her eyes Makoto welcomed them, for they blurred her vision of the desolate grounds around her. Yet it did not make a difference whether she saw the damage of the area or not because, within her core, she could feel it. It was an excruciating throb that ached in the confines of her chest with every beat her heart took.
When Crystal Tokyo rose the Senshi came fully into their powers, just as their Queen did. Their complete development occurred swiftly and was of much surprise to all of them.
Venus became a modern-day Cupid, with the ability to change the perception that individuals had of each other by merely a wave of her hand. She'd been granted the power to change and alter the emotions of mortals and had put this gift to good use when Serenity strove to bring the entire planet together under her peaceful rule. With the Love Goddess behind her, any rebellion that threatened to rise was quickly put to rest.
Mars found that her psychic abilities extended to an incredible sixth sense, the likes that none of the others had ever seen. She'd been able to predict trouble rising at all points in the world because of it, and thus, the Senshi were never caught off guard by attacking factions. However, like Venus' powers, Mars' senses could only detect the actions of mortals, any questions regarding the supernatural and she was forced to consult her sacred flame. The fire she wielded also altered, and now burned at heats that could rival a supernova.
Mercury could conjure ice storms and blizzards on a dime and the small power that she had over water itself increased drastically. She found the water she brought forth was gifted with the soothing ability to heal even the most fatal of burns. Her natural wisdom became plainly seen in her eyes, and she was sought out as a consultant to the King and Queen in all their endeavours.
Uranus could hear the voices of the wind clearer than ever before, and the strength behind her attacks now caused monumental damage if she wasn't careful. She had also learned that, by great concentration, the wind under her power could lift her up. Uranus was granted the enviable ability to fly at devastating speeds.
Neptune could listen to the speech of the seas with ease, and the creatures that lived within the deep waters now answered her summons when she called. But it was not merely animals that the ocean beauty could ensnare; the majority of her powers now rested on her Siren-like abilities. She could entrance the minds of mortals, both male and female alike, by adding a curious lilt to her voice, and then they were hers to command.
Saturn's powers, immense in magnitude as they already were, changed little. Yet there were still a few new tricks she found herself capable of doing. Like crossing the barrier between life and death. Though she could not go very far, this ability allowed her to bring back the lives of any on the brink of death. If a mortal already crossed the barrier, it was far too late. The only exception to bringing back any life when they had already passed was if their souls were small, such as a baby's or an animal's. Her healing powers increased as well and the frail girl did not grow so weak when she used them as she once had.
None knew if Pluto gained an excess in her powers, and if she did, she neither mentioned it, nor showed it. Everyone thought it rude to ask, so no answer was ever given. The chances were, though, that she possessed special gifts as well, but was, perhaps, not allowed to use them.
As for Jupiter, the plant basis of some of her lesser-used attacks paved the way for her own unique planetary traits. Storms could be created or scattered by her mere thought alone and, most often, the weather responded when her emotions ran particularly strong.
Yet her true completion as a Senshi came with her natural affinity to plant life. The people of Crystal Tokyo knew her to be their resident Mother Nature, so to speak. She found she could sense the life force of the very planet and all its children, down to a singular blade of grass. She became an empathic psychic, able to sense the emotions of any living being, it made her increasingly sensitive and aware of her surroundings at all times.
And now, these powers came back to bite her in the butt. The golden city of Elysian was dead, and the sorrow that radiated from the area choked Makoto until she found herself gasping for air.
The emotions of the place were raw and many: anger, fright, despair, hatred, love, fury, and utter hopelessness. All this and more bombarded the Jovian's senses as the tears leaked from her emerald orbs. The deadened sight of the heart of Earth itself was macabre to her eyes.
No vibrant colours or lush floral scents. The gardens of Elysian were withered and brown, the plants dried up husks of their once former glory. The trees were no better. They stood against a bleak grey sky, barren of the leaves that forever crowned them in this magical place. What green there was left in this land was aged and yellowing, a sickly colour that told of a silent and suffering death.
Even the great lake of Elysian was still. Small waves lapped heavily against the shores and rocks but, only when the fiercest of winds blew, which was not often. Its crystal blue waters looked poisoned, the shade darkened to an unhealthy jade-indigo that screamed of bacterial infestation.
"What- What happened here?" she asked brokenly as she fell to her knees, her body quailing in despair. Never had Makoto felt such a painful emptiness within the hollow of her heart. It was unbearable.
Such death, she anguished. How could we not have known?
"The Lady Mercury's reaction was much the same when she saw this place." In her grief, the Warrior of Jupiter did not notice the figure that came to stand at her side. "You truly did not know what was happening to this star, did you?"
She shook her head in shame. "How did this happen? When did this happen?" she asked desperately.
"The decimation of this holy sanctuary can only come through the neglect of the people who rule it; when they ignore the needs of the planet that sustains them, its life force leaks away, slowly. That's what has happened to this Earth.
"As for when it began, I truly cannot say. The first time I became aware that something was wrong was not until the death of one of the King's rosebushes. No plant dies in the gardens of Elysian, not unless the King himself is ill, but when I approached him on the matter, he was perfectly fine. I could not sense a thing wrong with him. That was a thousand years ago, to this very day."
Makoto looked up to the Guardian of this dying land in disbelief, and gasped in horror. The young man that stood before her now was a pale and gaunt shadow of the handsome boy she spoke to not three hours earlier.
The proud figure that once was Helios was bent and broken. His skin was the only thing that covered his bones, and it had a yellow hue to it that turned Makoto's stomach. His blue-white hair hung lank and thin, in good need of a wash, and fell into glazed, red-rimmed eyes. He was the very personification of the diseased land around them.
He smirked at the revulsion in the Thunder Senshi's expression, an action that grotesquely twisted the features of his face.
"The magic that saturates the whole of the Crystal City, by the limitless power from the Silver Imperial Crystal, is the only thing that keeps our King alive now. Were he to venture from its prosperous walls, he would die. Not even his own Golden Crystal could save him, for its own power has abandoned him, just as he and his Queen have long since abandoned the rest of their kingdom.
"The Helios that you saw in the Palace and in the Royal Gardens was an illusion. When I enter Crystal Tokyo, its magic gives me back my health and appearance, but that is only so long as I stay there. What you see now is my true form, the one that returns when I leave the Capital behind. This is what I went to discuss with their Majesties today,"—he gestured out to Elysian, then to himself—"just as I do each year, when I see that things have not changed, but instead, grow even worse."
"Haven't you thought to just bring them here, so that they can see the damage for themselves?" Makoto found it very hard to wrap her mind around this travesty. She knew that Endymion and Serenity's role as rulers left much to be desired, but this? It just didn't seem possible.
The dying boy gave a small chuckle that shook his entire frame like a leaf on the wind. "Lady Mercury asked that very same question as well," he said. "And I tell you as I told her: yes, I have thought to bring them here. Hundreds of times I have tried to convince them to accompany me to Elysian, to see the damage their neglect has wrought, but I may as well talk to a wall, for all that they listen to me.
"They sit within the heart of their city, surrounded by millennia of collected magic. When the King reaches his senses into the Earth, this power, which is not his own, dilutes his abilities, and obscures the bond that he has with the planet. He truly believes that there is nothing wrong with this star because, if there was, he would undoubtedly feel its effects. I've explained to him why he cannot sense the illness within the Earth, but"—Helios gave a tired, sad sigh—"Their Majesties have become arrogant in their power, and ignorant to the plight the rest of the world suffers.
"They refuse my demands and have long stopped listening to my pleas. I have run out of hope." His dull amber eyes met her own. "This planet will truly die, Lady Jupiter, and not even the combined strength of its Rulers and the Senshi alike will be able save it now."
Having said all that he needed to say, the Guardian turned and began to walk away, leaving a speechless Makoto behind.
"Wait!" she called after him, "Tell me, when was it that you spoke to her?"
Helios paused in his steps but did not turn around. He knew whom it was that the brunette spoke of.
"Three days ago," he replied over his shoulder, "she came here with a man whose name I did not catch. But they did not stay long, as the Lady Mercury knew that, even now, my loyalties lay first and foremost with my King. They left through the Transporter before I had a chance to contact the Palace, and by no means am I able to figure out where it was they went. The Lady was thorough in covering her tracks on the device." The tragic looking boy glanced back at Makoto now, an unreadable expression on his face. "Perhaps you would have better luck with the accursed thing than I."
Then the Guardian turned a corner, lined with thick bushes barren of everything but nasty looking thorns; leaving as quietly as he had come.
The green-eyed warrior stared blankly after him, a sly smile slowly creeping up onto her face. The young man was slick, she'd give him that. In no way had he allowed himself to be held accountable for helping the runaway couple escape, because he hadn't! If they had somehow managed to make it through the Transporter before he could stop them, then there was little he could do.
Makoto got up, dusting the dirt and dead grass off her knees, and pushed the agony she felt on behalf of the land to the back of her mind. If her ancient memory served, then the Transporter that Helios spoke of would be back at the Golden Gates. She retraced her steps to Elysian's entrance, praying that in the thousands of years since she'd last used it, the construct had not been moved.
Back in the age of the Silver Millennium, travel between the Planetary Kingdoms was both time-consuming, and costly. Magic could only transport a person so far, usually less than a quarter of the distance between two of the closest existing planets. So space vessels had to be used, but they too, were slow and vulnerable to attack when traveling the lawless recesses of space.
It wasn't until the Mercurians invented the devices now known as Transporters that the Royals of the Planets were finally able to meet each other face to face, rather than speaking through video phones or by sending messengers and emissaries, many of which died before reaching their destinations. This was when the true Alliance of the Silver Millennium came to pass.
The bright people of Mercury constructed the apparatus by an intricate and delicate balance of both machinery and magic. Combined together, with the right specifications and brain-busting calculations that the Mercurians were all-too-famous for, it allowed instant teleportation of a living being to anywhere within the regulated coordinates of the solar system. Or more specifically, it could bring you from one Transporter, situated in capital cities spanning all the worlds of the galaxy, to another; and it did so safely.
Makoto could only assume that the other Transporters of Earth had long since been destroyed, so that its last one, hidden safely away in the haven of Elysian, was the only surviving construct of ancient knowledge left on the planet… and apparently it still worked!
The design of the device itself resembled a large gazebo of sorts, except that it wasn't made of beautifully carved wood, but of gleaming metal. The shape was octagonal, with the pointed roof supported by thick beams at each juncture. It had two means of exit, both facing opposite the other, with a couple of steps that lead into the Transporter itself. Where perhaps a bench would have stood, there was a large, wide panel that came up to mid-waist, its slanted surface covered entirely by buttons, levers, symbols and constantly flashing lights.
If the Jovian girl had not been schooled in using this apparatus long, long ago, she would've thought she was in over her head. As it was, though, the Transporter wasn't nearly so complicated to use as it looked.
All one had to do was press the symbol of the desired planet they wished to go to; then a small screen, built into the panel, brought up a list of all the major cities that housed a similar device, which you had to choose from.
When your choice was made and you pressed the large green button that indicated you were ready to leave, the screen commenced a ten-second countdown, giving you that time to situate yourself in the "gazebo's" raised center. A brief tingling sensation, a lurch on your stomach, and tiny pinpricks along your body was all it took before you arrived at your desired destination.
Makoto experienced this ride with an intense feeling of déjà vu, which left her slightly shaken. She brushed it off and stepped out of the Transporter, heading down a familiar hallway, following the bright signature of Ami, pictured as a misty blue light in her mind's eye.
Memories came flooding back to the Thunder Senshi as she traversed the frost-tinted halls of her best friend's beloved Marina Castle. It was in this very building that Makoto had first been introduced to the shy Heiress of Mercury. The girl's timid and quiet nature contrasted sharply to Jupiter's own wild and bold personality.
Back then, many of the things that the Heiress of Jupiter did or said mollified the poor Ice Princess, who had only ever followed decorum and rules. Makoto remembered many times standing up for her friend from nasty Court Nobles, constantly throwing their ugly verbal barbs at her because she made such an easy target. But even the Jovian's threats of severe physical harm didn't completely curb some of the more… persistent of Mercury's tormentors.
It wasn't until the blue-haired girl, having been cornered one fateful evening during an annual ball at the castle, with no tall brunette to protect her, finally decided that enough was enough. She brought out her brave nature, hidden deep inside her heart, and stood proud as she gave her long-time bullies, disguised as Nobles of her planet, the tongue-thrashing that they so richly deserved.
Whatever she said to them, within that darkened alcove that night, it had them quickly leaving the festivities, faces red in humiliation and eyes wide with shock. They never said a single unkind word about her again, and avoided her company whenever possible afterwards.
Jupiter had been there, had watched the whole thing from a distance, and still, all these many years later, the memory had her heart swelling with pride. Ami had come a long way since then. Committing an act of high treason against the Neo-Silver Millennium, escaping and running from the authorities, turning herself into a convict of the planet: it didn't get much gutsier than that! This had Makoto chuckling to herself; she had created a monster!
As amusing as these thoughts were for her, the brunette knew she had to substitute humour for concentration now, as the layout of the Palace of Mercury was as complex as the minds of the people who built it: unless you had directions or a map of sorts, then only an intimate familiarity of the vast Castle Marina could prevent you from becoming completely lost.
Thankfully for the Thunder Senshi, she was, even after all these thousands of years, still blessed with the knowledge she needed for the direction that she was headed. However, that's not saying that she didn't need to be careful: one wrong turn and she could be wandering the halls for hours before getting back on the right track; and Makoto had the strange feeling that she didn't have that much time to spare.
Long, winding hallways followed by many twists and turns found the brunette under a large and beautifully crafted archway. The Palace's corridors were adorned with many of the same snow-sculpted structures but this one in particular was special; unless she had counted wrong and this wasn't the 23rd arch.
"Only one way to find out," Makoto muttered to herself.
Feeling along the archway's cold surface her slender fingers traced over the artistic renderings that swirled across the entire construct. The design, made to resemble the flight of snow upon the wind, was simple and elegant, much like the rest of Castle Marina.
Finding a small niche along the right side of the arch, just behind a particularly large snowflake carved out of the wall, the Princess of Jupiter found the button she was looking for.
Pressing said button revealed a slight crack indented further down along the left wall, beyond the 23rd archway. Minimum force put upon the indent had it opening completely with nary a sound and gave way to a shadowed passage.
Light within the narrow corridor was dim, coming from clusters of tiny ice crystals that seemed to grow from the very ceiling itself. They cast a soft glow in tones of blue that did no more than allow a person to see their next step and little else.
Yet the Jovian walked on in confidence, despite the near darkness. She and Mercury had used this secret pathway, one of many in the Palace, an infinite amount of times in the Silver Millennium. Thus Makoto knew where it lead to, and as a result, came to the passage's end sooner than she thought she would.
She caught the brief sliver of light from a crack in yet another hidden doorway before said door slid open at her presence, then slid back to seamlessly form a wall again once she had passed through.
The calling of her name was expected and she turned to the source that voiced it.
There Ami sat, in her favourite chair by a roaring fire which was contained behind a thin sheet of ice. The book the girl had been reading lay forgotten in her lap as her wide cobalt eyes met the Jovian's green ones.
"Hey, Ames." The Soldier of the Storms gave a gentle smile that her blue-haired friend returned cautiously.
Makoto stood in the middle of the Ice Planet's most favoured treasure trove, Castle Marina's Royal Library. In the past, scholars and scientists from all over the galaxy traveled here, to partake of the vast quantities of information stored within this enormous room. Not even the great Royal Library on the Moon could compare with the seemingly infinite amount of knowledge one could glean from Marina's frosted shelves. It also happened to be the Heiress of Mercury's favourite sanctuary and hideout while growing up.
"It figures I'd find you in here," the tall woman said, grinning widely, "Some things never change, huh?"
Ami's smile grew a bit wider in response to that, but the wariness she still felt with her friend's appearance had yet to leave her eyes. Her whole body had gone tense, unconsciously anticipating the possibility of a fight or flight scenario.
Makoto saw all of this and lost her wry grin. The reasons for why she was here were suddenly recalled. "And some things change too much," she added sadly. Her long legs crossed the distance to the armchair that sat across from Ami's by the fire. The Thunder Senshi flung herself onto it dejectedly; landing sprawled with one leg draped over an armrest and her head resting on its partner. She fiddled with her hands, picking at her nails in a nervous habit that she had not entertained for many years.
Still her friend said nothing; she just continued to watch Makoto with her large, dark eyes. If there was ever a time when Makoto felt like she was being tested, this was it. Taking a deep breath, the Warrior of Jupiter did what she did best: she dove right in.
"I know where we went wrong," she began, "I thought about it, when I came to Elysian and when I saw—" she couldn't bring herself to say it; the lump that formed in her throat when she thought of those desolate grounds was hard to choke down, "—well, when I saw what… happened and I think I figured it out.
"We made the mistake of bringing up the past, of resurrecting a time and an era that should've stayed put. We were all so concerned about destiny, and about bringing peace to the earth that we lost sight of what was important; and so much more..." Makoto trailed off as she thought of Minako as Venus, a cold and ruthless commander; and of the animosity that had slowly grown between the blonde warrior and Mars, who no longer felt anything but anger and fury.
She snapped out of it and continued, "Our first and worst mistake was in creating Crystal Tokyo, which should've never have happened in the first place; I realize that now. Trying to recreate the Silver Millennium… The past belongs in the past, and we were fools to think that we could bring an age from five thousand years ago to the present, and make it fit.
"Serenity and Endymion aren't the only ones who are ignorant and arrogant; all of us, the Senshi, we were, too. We had no right to do what we did. And now the Earth itself is paying for our mistakes. It's going to die out… because of us. All because of us."
She couldn't hold it in any longer, the first tear that slipped from one emerald eye broke the dam and Makoto wept. Her shoulders shook and the tears fell down upon her cheeks and arms in a smaller, saltier version of the storms which she controlled so well.
The muffled sound of thunder could be heard from outside, pursued shortly thereafter by the pelting of raindrops which echoed off of the Palace roof; the heavens above wept fiercely with their child, sympathetic in her plight; and presenting her inner turmoil in the form of wild rain, raging lightning, and thrashing winds for all the world to see, feel, and hear.
Makoto cried for the Earth; she cried for its inhabitants, the countless billions who suffered on account of the Silver Millennium and the children who still remembered it, and who could not leave those memories well enough alone; but mostly, the Jovian cried for her friends, whom she no longer recognized, and doubted that she ever would.
CrystalMaker: sigh I knew that this chapter would be more of a challenge to write than the previous ones, just because of all the information and explanations that had to take place in it. And wouldn't you know it; I was right on the money!
It took me a while to finally get it all to a point where I was satisfied that just about all the bases I wanted to cover, got covered, and covered well too. My perfectionism is a bitch when it comes to this, but I'm pretty happy with it. What about you?
P.S. I apologize profusely for the long wait. I grovel for your forgiveness and can only hope that you think it was worth the time it took.
P.P.S. Don't forget to review!
Love ya, CM.