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Of Death and Laughter

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Barren.

As far as the eye could see, only empty, desolate land came to view.

Lonely.

Here the ruler of Saturn knelt, the fine gray dust whipping around her, her unfocused violet eyes unblinking. She was staring at a single star, so faint that the naked eye could barely sense it, and as she did her heart—long thought dead, burned to ashes and leaving her chest hollow—thumped. It wasn't unpleasant, but the feeling was strange.

Rising to her feet, Saturn primly brushed the dust from her shimmering gown, so purpled that it seemed black. Her hair, long now (the only thing about her that aged) so that it tumbled to the floor, a hint of violet at the temples, flicked gracefully behind her as she turned to walk to her lone palace.

Just as she was about to cross the threshold, her ears picked up an unfamiliar noise. Stopping, but not turning the entire way to face the intruder, expressionless eyes examined the pocket of space that began to distort and glow.

"A hologram?" Saturn wondered to herself, facing it fully and crossing her arms, waiting. She didn't have to wait terribly long before it exploded, a blindingly white energy lighting the area around it. She didn't flinch as the mild pain made itself known behind her eyes—an annoying migraine would come upon her soon enough—instead peering curiously into the light source, searching for any hint of its sender.

"Ahh, I feel sick…" A light, feminine voice groaned, and dry heaves could be heard.

"I'm sorry, your majesty. I should have warned you about the transportation as it gets quite tedious after the first couple of minutes."

"Ah, don't worry about it" the first female was saying just as the light dissipated.

In its wake two ladies stood, one clad in a pure white dress, the other in a uniform that invoked nostalgic memories. She narrowed her eyes, waiting for the pair to notice her. She had, after all, nothing but time. They did look vaguely familiar, though.

"Ahem."

The one in the uniform immediately pushed in front of the woman with the strange hairstyle, hands up defensively. Piercing blue eyes scanned her intensely, body tense and ready to defend if needed.

Saturn herself was nonchalant, relaxed against the cold stone pillar by the entrance of Titan Castle.

"Who are you?" Mercury demanded. Saturn raised an eyebrow. It seemed the scanner resting on the bridge of the Senshi of Water and Ice's nose blocked her energy signal—perhaps it only detected youma?

"I should ask the same of you, foreigners intruding on my planet," The ruler replied, her monotonous voice carrying easily across the empty space. "But it seems while I know who you are, Mercury, you do not remember my face."

"Saturn!" Neo-Queen Serenity rushed out from behind Mercury, blonde hair flying behind her. Ignoring Mercury's confused cries, she flew over and grasped at Saturn's cold hands with her warm ones, her smile creating a light of its own.

"My Queen." Saturn smiled faintly, but her eyes did not change its blank look. "You seem well."

"I've been wonderful! Oh, but the work I have to do is such a drag!" She complained. "Mercury! Come over here—it's Saturn!"

The bluenette walked over, removing the scanner from her eyes and nodding at her. "Hello, Saturn."

"It has been a while, Mercury." Saturn said. They shook hands for a bit longer, as their queen looked on.

Serenity watched them closely, hands on her hips, a stern yet inexcrutable expression set on her dainty features. They shook a bit longer, as if hoping to appease her.

Finally, fed up with their silent hand-shaking, she threw her hands up into the air, crying, "Enough! You two will hug and you will like it!" On the word 'like' she roughly pushed the two at each other, the two women barely avoiding a painful headbutt.

"Still the same, I see." Saturn smirked wryly, looking a bit amused. She bowed slightly. "Welcome to my planet, Queen. Mercury. I have a suspicion as to why you traveled this far to talk to me, but for now let us go inside and warm. Outsiders are unused to the cold, so you shall surely get a chill standing out here."

As if just realizing the temperature, Serenity jumped, wrapping her arms about herself. "Ack! It's freezing out here!"

Mercury grinned. "Yes, well, the Moon Kingdom does happen to be a bit closer to the sun."

"Let us go, then." Saturn ushered her guests inside, closing the door firmly behind them, cutting off the cutting winds. Showing them into a surprisingly luxurious dining hall, she motioned for them to warm themselves by the fire.

"Blankets are in the cupboard to your right. I shall bring the warm refreshments in just a moment." Then, in a whirl of purple, she was gone.

"Wow," Mercury said softly, sinking into a soft chair, "It's been so long since we've met, don't you think?"

Serenity's blue eyes were pained and reminiscent. "Too long."

"I am inclined to agree," Saturn spoke up, setting steaming mugs on the table, "if it not for the fact that my presence tends to bring about unwelcome events." She smiled dryly. "Cheers."

"You still startle me as always, Saturn." Serenity said, a hand pressed to her heart, smiling. "Especially when we first met."

"You were…what was it…only fifteen human years. Very young."

"Ah, yes," Serenity smiled fondly, eyes glazed over in reminiscence. "I remember."

"If I may inquire," Mercury broke in softly, cautiously, "what were the circumstances of your meeting?"

"I do not mind," Serenity exclaimed, but shot a worried glance at the dark ruler beside her. "That is, if you do not mind, Saturn."

Saturn lifted her teacup from the delicate saucer, the movements very precise and graceful—something that even after decades of experience and observation, Queen Serenity could not master to its fullest. Saturn's eyelashes fluttered slightly, and her ruby lips, so stark against her pale face, parted in a silent exhalation of satisfaction.

"I imagine it is not much different than yours, Mercury," Saturn shrugged casually, a nonchalant expression, as always, settled across her ethereal features. "But in any case, I have no qualms against it."

"Heavenly!" Serenity clapped her hands gleefully. The once-customary action caused the bluenette to muffle a snigger behind her closed fist, and Saturn bit back the urge to smirk. The queen ignored their reactions and continued on with shining eyes. Saturn sat back, staring at the blonde with a bemused look, the edges tinted with faint depression.

"Saturn?"

She glanced up, a sharp look at the ready on instinct. "Yes, my queen?"

"Oh, fiddle-faddle," Serenity snorted, waving a hand, "enough with the 'your highness' mush. I hear it quite enough from everyone back at the palace, thank you very much."

Mercury looked up at this, setting the cup carefully back on the saucer. "That comment reminds me very much of what your daughter mentioned to me earlier. Like mother like daughter, I suppose."

"Hmph. What is that supposed to mean, Mercury?" Serenity mock-glared at the woman, who smiled back at her good-naturedly.

"I mean no offense, Queen. Usagi merely forbade Jupiter and me from calling her 'Princess' in her presence." Mercury turned to the dark-haired lady. "Do you think she inherited this stubborn nature from someone, Saturn?"

Saturn propped up her fist on her fist, relaxing into a contemplative pose. Her face shifted into an utterly blank slate in an instant, almost naturally. "At the risk of being rude I must ask you to desist from calling our queen a stubborn pig, Mercury. It would deflate her ego, I'm afraid."

Serenity sat there, blinking, as Mercury burst into laughter and Saturn sat back, looking satisfied, a smear of smugness in her darkened eyes.

"You…" she said. "You just insulted me!" The queen shook her head, grinning wryly. "Yes, yes, very funny, the both of you. If you were not two of my closest comrades I would not have let you get away with that so easily."

"Ah, your majesty," Saturn said, face still expressionless, "it is unfortunate for you that we are two of your closest comrades. You have confided in us many times. Don't think I forgot—in my mind, centuries are nothing but fleeting moments."

"It is true," Serenity nodded, "I do trust both of you very much. I have requested your help many times, and I have helped you many times in turn. However, I am afraid that I have one last request of you, Saturn."

"I see." Though there was no change in expression, the temperature around the monarch of the isolated planet dropped dramatically. A faint outline of raw aura, a pounding black power, appeared, and the air thrummed with tension. "I was not informed that there was any unrest, Queen Serenity. What is it that troubles you?"

"Oh, please do not fret," Serenity smiled reassuringly. "It is nothing ominous of the sort at all. I would have sent Pluto with the utmost urgency if it was so—which I am certainly glad there is none. It is something very important to me, though."

"I shall help you in any way I am able to, your majesty," Saturn replied, "but my resources, unfortunately, are limited. Still, anything of mine is at your disposal."

"Thank you," the queen said with sincerity apparent in her shimmering blue eyes. "What you say means much to me." Saturn inclined her head, never breaking eye-contact. Her long, inky-black hair slid over her colorless skin.

"Perhaps you should inform Saturn of your request now, Queen Serenity," Mercury said quietly.

"Oh! Oh, yes, that is a very good idea." Serenity straightened, and the two monarchs' gazes clashed. "Saturn, I behest of you—"

Saturn leaned forward slightly.

"—if the Immortals are willing—which is you, by the way, and Pluto—"

Saturn nodded oh-so-slightly, more like a muscle spasm than anything. Her gaze was solemn.

"—then I would wish for you to join us in the marvelous celebration of Usagi's birthday!"

Saturn barely caught herself from falling flat on her face on the tile flooring. An eyebrow rose high on her forehead. "You wish me to what?"

"I wish for you to join us in the marvelous celebration of Usagi's birthday!" Serenity exclaimed, a bit impatiently, arms waving around.

Saturn inhaled slowly. Exhaling just as slowly, she said in a low tone, "Birthday?"

Serenity nodded eagerly, arms a blur as she reached out to clasp Saturn's cold hands with her own warm ones. "Please, Saturn. It would mean so much to Usagi—and me—if you could come. I haven't seen you in ages, nor has anyone else besides Mercury!"

"It seems you have forgotten that I am forbidden to leave my planet, Serenity, in cases other than severe emergencies—like the ultimate destruction of worlds." Her stare was a little on the admonishing side, and Serenity looked properly chastened.

"I'm sorry." She said.

Saturn sighed, rubbing her temples as she felt the headache coming on. "Anyways, you know I dislike crowded places, and face it—you love entertaining people. I would feel deathly uncomfortable at your palace."

"Oh, I…I see…" Serenity looked down. "I should have known. I'm sorry, Saturn. It's just that…Usagi was looking forward to meeting you, and I don't want to break my promise with her."

Saturn sighed harder, feeling the expected guilt creeping onto her like she shadows she blanketed herself in on a regular basis. "Stop that. Please."

"Stop what, Saturn?" Serenity was still sulking sadly, looking like a puppy that had been kicked and then splashed muddy water onto.

"Your depressed stare. It is not going to work with me—the last time I succumbed to it, you had me running around the universes like my head was cut off because a thief stole your engagement ring." Saturn glared.

Serenity's metaphorical doggy-ears drooped even further.

Mercury watched the exchange with a resigned expression and a huge sweatdrop. "Um…" The sweatdrop became even larger when she was ignored by both queens. Hanging her head, she idly wondered why Serenity acted like a child around the stoic Saturn. Perhaps it was the only time where she could get a dose of no-nonsense besides Mars?

"AHEM." Mercury coughed into her fist, nodding when they turned towards her. "Queen Serenity neglected to mention that it is indeed possible to attend the princess' coming-of-age ceremony. I, along with some other researchers, have recently made some ground-breaking discoveries that shall allow you to come with a relatively low strain."

"I see." Saturn said. She contemplated the new facts. "Okay, then. I shall attend."

Serenity looked back and forth between the two, disbelieving. "That's it? No tantrums? No stubborn disagreements? You're going to come because she asked you and not me?"

"That is more of your job, I think," Saturn smirked slightly. "Mercury approached me with a more logical explanation."

"Hmph." Serenity allowed herself one last pout before taking on a serious expression. "In any case, I am very happy you have decided to come. Mercury shall describe any complications that may occur in the duration of your stay."

"Go on."

Mercury nodded. "Alright. To my understanding, this shall require a lot of energy and much of your time might be taken up recharging, so to speak."

"What must I do to 'recharge'?" Saturn inquired, examining Mercury carefully.

"Sleeping is the main key to boost your energy, I've found."

"Are there any other ways?"

Mercury frowned, shrugging. "Not that I know of. We've recently come upon new information, but we're currently working on deciphering it. If there are any new discoveries while you're at the palace we shall, of course, inform you."

"Sleep, eh?" Saturn mused quietly. "I have not slept since my last rebirth. It shall be interesting, don't you think?"

Her murmured words echoed in the glaringly silent room.

"Whenever you are ready to leave," Serenity said finally, "is when we shall go."

Saturn rose to her feet, quickly gathering the teacups. "I am ready."

"You do not wish to take any belongings?" Mercury asked curiously.

"I have no need for material things. Anything that I might need I am sure I can find at the palace," Saturn said. She engulfed the china with a ball of energy and fazed them out of existence. "Now, let us go."

"Alright."

The palace shimmered for a moment before dissolving into nothingness. The harsh wind sent Mercury and the queen into shivers while Saturn stood there, arms crossed. Straightening, Mercury grasped their hands and closed her eyes in concentration.

Glittering dust rose around them, circling faster and faster, and the winds grew more violent.

And then they were gone.

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Well, there you have it—chapter three from Of Death and Laughter. I hope you liked it (and I apologize for the lack of action). If any of you, my lovely readers, have any brilliant ideas, feel free to tell me. I have posted this as soon as I've finished, so please excuse any mistakes. Thank you very much for reading.

--1010'jin

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When we truly realize that we are all alone is when we need others the most.

-Ronald Anthony

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