Title: First and Last.
Author: Girl Who Writes
Characters: Setsuna Meioh
Words: 2 766
Spoilers: Up to the S series.
Notes: This took forever to post – I originally had a totally different chapter posted, before realizing it was a train wreck of an idea. So, a major rewrite. In light of this, I'm searching for an SM beta-reader, a very patient person who can let me know when I go from 'interesting' to 'deluded'. Preferably someone who reads and/or writes themselves. And it will be Outers fic. I like them the best.
For anyone interested, the paper fortune-teller Setsuna plays with actually exists; I sat at my computer and made one involving planets, elements and zodiac signs. It will probably appear in future fics, simply because I got a paper cut making it, and that much effort deserves some serious use.
Finally, I'm interested in what scenario people are interested in seeing – obviously, there's an important Crystal Tokyo scene coming up, but if there's another time you think would be interesting/vital to the story, please let me know.
Summary: Her duty was the only thing that remained from the wreckage of the Moon Kingdom, and she would protect it with every breath in her body. A five part fic chronicling defining moments in Setsuna's life.
Disclaimer: Sailor Moon belongs to Naoko Takeuchi. I'm just a humble fan and make no profit from this fan based venture
We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future – George Bernard Shaw.
She went back to Pluto's Charon Castle several times over the next centuries. She walked through the old stone breezeways, the torn portraits. Saturn had destroyed everything that had once existed on her planet – only the hulk of the castle still existed, thousands of years on, the city having long crumbled to dust. The atmosphere was gone, nothing but dust and sand and rock left behind from the greatest kingdoms ever to come into existence.
Setsuna never felt more alone than when she walked the halls of her castle, remembering the ornate paintings and tapestries; looking out at the city that sat at the foot of the castle…
By the time those of Earth – ironically, the only planet to even vaguely recover from the horrors of Metallia and the Dark Kingdom – ventured forth to examine the Outer Solar System, there would be nothing left that could be identified as part of a civilization. That realization hung heavily in Setsuna's mind, both a relief and the worst possible betrayal – letting the glory and horror of the Silver Millennium fade into thinly woven myths.
But she knew that she was there only to guard Time and Space, not to rewrite history or to remind the people of Earth of times that were best left forgotten.
Even time she returned to the Gates, she would feel the same old, tired grief bubbling under the surface. It was fainter than it had once been, but still very much there – it was the thing that kept pushing her forward, that kept her expression blank when someone tried to cross through Time and had to face the consequences; that kept her eyes sharp when she examined the Time Stream, and that kept her from venturing within time, from masquerading as human and seeking out other people – friends, companions. Her duty was the only thing that remained from the wreckage of the Moon Kingdom, and she would protect it with every breath in her body.
He found her sitting by the Time Stream, her Staff lying beside her as she unraveled the different futures with practiced care. His lips twitched in an almost indeterminable smile; she still wore the long dresses favored by the courts of the Silver Millennium, despite his long lessons on how, within the Gates of Time and Space, she was a senshi, a sacred warrior, a guardian – not a princess, not a daughter, not a friend; that Time and Space must be treated with respect, Setsuna still preferred the full skirted gowns that covered her legs and shoes.
"You've returned." Her voice was low – and older – than it had been the last time the pair had exchanged words. He looked at her, at the concentration in her eyes as she contemplated each possible future, rearranging fate and choice as so many had done before her. She was not the child he had been presented with, to teach and train. She was no longer the young woman who didn't fully grasp the trappings of her duty.
"Even the wisest men need guidance." The monk hovered beside her, even more transparent than she remembered. "It was agreed that my return as your guide would benefit you, child."
"Agreed upon by whom?" Setsuna finally looked up at his face – unchanged, after a veritable eternity at the Gates. The monk stared down at her, with the same uninterested expression he had worn the day her father put her into his care; the same miniature hourglass hanging around his neck – the one who had taught her and left her alone, disappearing entirely after the fall of the Moon Kingdom.
"The past Guardians of the Gates," the monk said, staring down at the Stream. "It was realized that I am only as good as the person who succeeds me."
Setsuna followed his gaze, watching the strands of time twist themselves into new, more acceptable formations. "I have upheld my duty here, alone, for a long time. Why does this need to change?"
She rose from her place beside the Stream, the Time Staff in one hand, her gaze expressionless.
"You haven learnt many lessons not by my hand; lessons of a soldier that no one truly expected you to ever acquire," the monk said slowly.
A cloud passed over Setsuna's face briefly. "Yes."
"These lessons are not without their use. Everything happens for a reason, child – you are offered what strength you will need for future battles." The monk followed her back into the dark hallway, tiny candles hovering just above their heads, lighting their way. "However, some lessons on duty were unnecessarily harsh." His expression softened. "You are admired for your dedication, for your unfailing loyalties."
Her eye twitched, but Setsuna's expression did not flicker. "Is that a polite way to congratulate me on successfully cutting down everyone who comes here? Commending me on a job well done, minimal blood spilt?" Her voice was flat, laced with irony.
The monk shook his head. "Perhaps you could read it that way, child."
Setsuna released the Time Staff, which hung obligingly where she left it, in case she felt the need to smash things. "I want to know how the comment was intended, not the varying ways in which it could be taken," she snapped. "Because – once upon a time – I was under the belief that the duties of the Senshi were to avoid things like murder."
"It was intended as a compliment." The monk took a moment to examine the atrium. It had changed very little since the fall – heavy bookcases lined one wall, loaded with ancient texts and notations that had been deemed useful. An ancient lounge and chair were clustered around a sturdy-looking coffee table, which also happened to be covered in books. The other wall held a dozen clocks on long chains, almost like oversized pocket-watches, each measuring time in a different way.
Dozens of candles floated just above them, each flickering light and strange-shaped shadows across the atrium. Nothing had truly changed, the monk decided. She had kept everything in order.
"Very few of us have managed this duty with such constancy – doubt and ambition plagued us all."
Setsuna folded herself into the uncomfortable looking seat, black velvet folding around her limbs, protecting herself from the cold mist swirling at ankle-height. It wasn't so much the cold that bothered her – she'd long acclimated to that – it was simply a comforting gesture.
"I doubt that you would have had those problems if you were faced with no alternative," Setsuna said wryly. "You've returned here for a reason, though. And, before you say anything, I know it's not because you believe my training is incomplete – you would have been back decades ago, if that had been the case."
"You are very quick," the monk said slowly, his grey eyes looking into her red ones. "Your training was complete a long time ago, and I doubt I would serve as a successful companion."
Setsuna refrained from remarking on that comment.
"Selenity left you with the request that you guide the senshi, and keep them safe for the future. The time to honor the Queen's final request is almost upon you."
Setsuna blinked. "They'll be reborn soon?" Her voice was soft, her eyes guarded.
"Over the next few human years, all eight senshi will be reborn." It was possibly the clearest – and most obtuse - thing that the monk had ever said to her.
Two thoughts jostled for attention in her mind. "Eight?" Old hurts won out. "Saturn will be reborn?"
The monk shrugged, an entirely foreign action. "The time of their rebirth depended on many things; one of them being the original reason for the senshi – that there was a need for every single one of the powers. And that has always included Saturn. Despite what many before you have thought, Saturn's existence isn't a cosmic joke, but a necessity." For the first time since she had known him, Setsuna thought the monk looked … almost annoyed.
"We fear the unknown. And Saturn's powers could be considered the very ideal of the unknown," she replied. The thought of little Hotaru transforming into the bleak, calm distortion that was Sailor Saturn made her sad – would it be Hotaru that was reborn, with the Saturn power inside of her, or would it simply be Saturn, powers dormant, yet always waiting…
"Pluto's powers are also well within the boundaries of 'unknown', child," the monk retorted.
"Touché." Setsuna paused, mulling over her second thought. "You said eight would be reborn, yes?"
The monk nodded once, slowly.
"I assume I am the ninth – a senshi for each of the nine planets in this solar system."
"I see you have been expanding your mind in my absence," the monk remarked sarcastically, his expression a picture of boredom.
"There was never a senshi for Earth, Terra, whatever you want to call it." Setsuna stood, her gaze flicking over the titles of the bookcase. "In fact, the writings that declared the coming of the senshi made it very clear that there would never be a senshi for Earth. The reason were never fully translated."
"What does that suggest to you?" the monk asked as Setsuna pulled out a book that was almost crumbling.
"Maybe I was meant to re-enter time, meant to die and be reborn along with the others." She bit her lip.
The monk's gaze narrowed, and irritation spread across his worn features. "You have not examined the different paths of your future?"
"I felt that it would make me question my duty here, to examine 'what if' and 'could have been'," she returned flatly.
"Since I am here telling you of eight while you stand before me, outside of time and very much alive, we can deduce your death has little to do with the rebirth." He didn't look pleased, and moved back towards the shadows. "I will leave you now. I expect a logical reasoning for the eight when I return."
Setsuna waved him off, only half listening, completely focused on the book in her hands.
Time passed differently within the Gates. The candles burnt solidly, wax rolling down their sides, but never dripped, the candles always appearing half-use. The mist hovered just above ankle height, dust gathered from nowhere. The clocks ticked at seemingly random intervals, each on a different measurement scale, and Setsuna poured over her books, papers spread over as she retranslated the old prophecies that had predicted the birth of the senshi, any way to explain the possibility of a ninth. Several of the languages had been long dead before her birth, and the text was intentionally ambiguous, making it frustrating and – had Setsuna been attempting this task on Earth – time consuming.
Finally, the monk stepped out of the shadows, to find Setsuna lying on the stone floor of the atrium, mist almost covering her, as she snapped a paper fortune teller between her fingers.
"If you've gone mad, this could prove a problem," the monk said, hovering nearby.
"An imperfect art at best," Setsuna began, her eyes never straying from fortune teller, "but it is trying to tell me something."
"Your books couldn't offer you answers that folded paper can?" the monk asked slowly, as if to reinforce the ridiculousness of her argument.
"The results are always the same, no matter what planet," Setsuna sat up, holding out the fortune teller. "Judgment or Balance, leading to Cancer and Libra."
"This is a child's parlor trick, Pluto," the monk snapped. For a moment, they both paused, realizing he had never referred to her by her position before, and that he had never snapped at her. "Several millennia of knowledge and writings, and access to the Time Stream, and you chose to invest your time in the art of folded paper?"
"Cancer holds no meaning for me but Libra represents the scales, and could be considered as Judgment or Balance," Setsuna said flatly. Her eyes remained unreadable. "Which explains the rebirth of Saturn."
"Did you manage to solve the mystery of the eighth senshi?" the monk said. "Your fascination with Saturn is quite dull."
"Either Earth is claiming its power in the line up or…" Setsuna trailed off. "It sounds ridiculous, but Selenity has sent her daughter forward as a senshi. But Selenity would never consider Serenity fighting."
The monk allowed the corners of his lips to twitch up in his version of a smile. Setsuna stared at him from her seat on the floor.
"A Senshi of the Moon?" she murmured. "Serenity knows nothing about the senshi. She was never trained."
"Neither was Sailor Saturn, and yet she carried her responsibility admirably," the monk replied. "You would be more prepared if you studied the Time Stream more carefully."
"I foresaw nothing like this," Setsuna was still stunned. The Princess had been beautiful and compassionate, but very much a girl in a way that not even her Inner Court of Senshi were. The active Outer Senshi had been far more hardened, but the Inner Court could not be considered soft in any manner. Not like the Princess.
The idea of training the Moon Princess gave Setsuna a headache.
"Perhaps your future was tied too closely to the others – you would certainly overlook such a momentous thing if you were avoiding your own possibilities," the monk pointed out, almost smugly.
"They won't be the same, will they?" Setsuna pulled herself to her feet, avoiding looking at him..
"You know the answer to that question, child," the monk said indifferently. "No one remains perfectly unchanged, not even those who exist outside the Time Stream. I expect you will be examining the Stream now?" It wasn't a question. He faded back amongst the shadows, instinctively knowing this was something his pupil would need to do alone.
With the Time Staff in hand, Setsuna stepped into the hall, and through the doorway, kneeling before the Stream, which had an ethereal blue glow that reflected onto her fact, leaving her looking slightly sickly. She looked uneasily at the infinite possibilities in front of her before sighing and reaching for the strands.
The monk returned much later, to find her still sitting before the stream, staring off into space, the Time Staff across her lap. He said nothing, returning to the atrium to wait until she was ready to speak, to prepare for the second coming of the senshi and what that would mean for Earth, the Solar System, and the Time-Space continuum.
Setsuna stared stonily out to the nothingness that housed the Time Stream; so many possibilities had passed her by, and so many more were taking shape. It stung to know that, for the good of everything, she would have to forget what she had seen – the happiness, the realness of the futures she had seen for herself.
And she had seen the Court of the Moon in the future; so utterly different and heartbreakingly the same; only a flicker of images that showed the presence of her dearest friends, Michiru and Haruka, and the presence of the dormant Saturn power, hovering at the edges of possibility.
And at the end, the Silver Millennium recreated as Crystal Tokyo. It felt like a cruel joke and the greatest dream at the very same time. The chance to finally take up her mantle as Queen of Pluto, of watching the planets thrive once again.
She would have to make the decision, of course. Whether or not to let the senshi rise again, to win the war and let them lead the life they deserved. But taking that path hurt. So many people had been lost and forgotten… she was the last, and it stung, thinking of pressing forward to something better, forgetting those that had fallen, what had been lost.
Setsuna looked back down at the Stream, at the ever-shifting collage of the princesses, reborn, and knew that she would follow Selenity's wishes. She would let them have their glittering futures, guiding them and keeping them safe.
She never truly had to make a choice – the choices had been made a long time ago, and Setsuna was another puppet, casting off her memories and grief for someone else's second chance.
It didn't make her bitter – it made her sad, and lonely. Clutching the Staff in one hand, Setsuna stood, watching as possibilities swirled and disintegrated with the certainty of her decision, before returning to the atrium, to wait patiently until they needed her.
If, in this new world, these strangers needed her at all.