Disclaimer: I do not own Sailor Moon.

When the Masquerade is over
By Silver Sailor Ganymede

Music and laughter rang throughout the halls of the Moon Kingdom's grandest palace that night as nobles from throughout the Sol System gathered for the grand celebration of Queen Serenity's anniversary of her ascention to the kingdom's throne. It was, indeed, a joyus occasion: however there was one woman who did not seem to be sharing in that joy. Her name was Minako and she was the last remaining heir to the throne of the Venusi'ahn kingdom.

She brushed her golden hair away from her face and sat down on the edge of an ornate fountain, just staring into the water. Her reflection stared back at her, its eyes glinting in the moonlight as she sighed. Her eyes and her mouth were all she could see of her own face, covered as it was by an ornate golden mask. It would have looked strange to anyone there, had they seen her, for a young princess would never usually be out in the dark without an escort. Well, Minako thought, it wasn't as though she didn't have an escort with her: her was just rather… busy at the moment. Well, she wasn't surprised in the slightest; you would have had to be blind not to have seen the love between Kunzite – whom she was betrothed to – and Zoisite, who had been betrothed to Princess Ami of Mercury.

Minako personally had thought that arranging marriages between the four guardians of Princess Serenity (Princess Ami of Mercury, Princess Rei of Mars, Princess Makoto of Jupiter and herself, Princess Minako of Venus) and the four guardian generals of Prince Endymion of Earth (Zoisite, Jadeite, Nephrite and Kunzite), had been the stupidest thing Queen Serenity of the Moon Kingdom had ever done. Love could never be found in these marriages; especially not when many of those in question had already found love somewhere else. Kunzite and Zoisite were more deeply in love than any others she had ever seen, bar perhaps Serenity and Endymion. Princess Rei of Mars was in love with one of her father's servents, an Earthling named Yuuichiro. Nephrite had taken Serenity's lady in waiting, Naru, as his secret lover. Princess Makoto had taken one of her father's elite guards, Shinozaki, as a lover. Not least Minako herself had found a lover, a dark maiden by the name of Nepherina, though she only appeared in her dreams. Princess Ami and guardian Jadeite were the only two, in fact, who had no other lovers, and both were too preoccupied by their studies to be bothered by love at all. Sometimes Minako thought that Jadeite and Ami would make as perfect a couple as Serenity and Endymion if only they would get their heads out of books and look at life for one second.

Minako sighed, turned around and looked away from the fountain and up into the stars. The Earth was shining above her like a great green and blue marble: it looked so beautiful. The stars too sparkled in the distance: Minako could see her beloved home planet from there too.

"Minako?" a voice said, startling Minako. She turned around and saw Kunzite standing behind her.

"Hello, Kunzite," Minako replied, smiling slightly.

"Minako, I'm sorry I left you by yourself; I was…"

"You were busy, I know," Minako smiled. "Don't worry, I know all about the relationship between you and Zoisite: it doesn't bother me, you know that."

She smiled at the astonishment on Kunzite's face and laughed; "you know, Serenity seems to be amazingly ignorant when it comes to love itself, doesn't she."

For once the silver haired man was at a complete loss for words: how had she known? Why was she so calm, so amazingly accepting of the situation at hand? However, what confused him most was the look of sadness in the Venusi'ahn princess' eyes; it was not because she had lost his love, for she had never either had nor wanted it in the first place: no, it was something more than that.

"Minako, it's nearing midnight: the masquerade will be ending soon," Kunzite said. "I think it would be wise for us to enter the ballroom together so as not to rouse suspision."

"They can be as suspisious as they please," Minako replied. "And it doesn't matter that the masquerade will end soon. It would be better for you to go back to your lover; after all, life cannot be a masquerade like this ball has been. You have to remove the mask of illusions from your face and let them see what is real, whether they like it or not: and I must do the same. Now leave me, please."

With that he left and she turned back to the obsidian-like waters of the fountain. Her masked face stared back at her, cold and unmoving. Then slowly but surely the waters began to change. The face that stared back at her was not her own but the face of Nepherina, her lover.

Nepheina's golden eyes glinted as she began to speak, though her mouth did not move: it was only Minako who would hear the woman's words.

"Yes, the masquerade will soon be over; very soon. The curse was set in place long, long ago, and when the masquerade is over, so this kingdom too shall fall." With that she faded, leaving Minako completely alone, a girl with tears running down her face; tears that none would ever see because of the mask behind which she had to hide.