In all honesty, the Senshi are fully prepared to run into the first of hostile family members before anyone else is able to accost them with questions. It is in bemused shock that they watch Luna and Artemis casually cut off the two blond Kings that had been making a beeline towards them as soon as the Queen had dismissed them. Even more stunning is watching both Kings grimace and back off as Luna blatantly ignores them by focusing on the Senshi with an intensity that leaves no man or woman willing to interfere with her progress.
They are left speechless as Luna bows to them for the first time, showing a humbleness the Senshi did not think she was capable of. Artemis is beside her, bowing just as deeply with a single arm crossed over his chest.
"Senshi…" Murmurs Luna, as she rises slowly. "Fine evening to you, this fair night."
"Well met, Lady Luna," remarks Serenity, the only one who seems to have enough wits to respond. "Lord Artemis."
Luna gazes at them steadily for several tense moments, her dark eyes piercing as she assess them. It takes all of their willpower not to shift uncomfortably.
"You have grown," she says at last. Her eyes flick to Artemis. "Artemis has spoken frequently about your valor, but I am…hard to impress. Few know that the race known as Moon Cats are actually from the dark side of the Moon. We were tasked with protecting the unseen side of the Moon, where no man or woman traversed. It was our sworn duty to be the eyes and ears for the Queen after the first Planetary War disrupted the Moon's usual rotation, forcing the moon to turn at a speed that allowed half of the Moon to always be hidden in shadow and never again see the light of day. It is a harsh and desolate place, where life is daunting and frequently at risk of being extinguished. Despite this, the Moon Cat race once was large and flourished under these conditions. We were well respected and often sought for advice due to our extensive experience of battle." She smirks. "Despite how fragile and docile we seem."
Ventus cannot help her snort of bemusement, and Luna's eyes flick to her lit with her own acknowledgement and amusement.
"Yes, I know how...incapable we seem." She waves a hand at their petite figures. "Especially as we did not partake in any of the intense training that we were so happy to thrust upon you." She shakes her head with a faint smile. "However, despite our appearance, we were once quite capable warriors. And it is...refreshing to see the spirit of capable and honorable warriors as they flex their claws for the battles to come." She turns her head away, expression wistful. "It is for this reason, I must apologize." She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. "I seem to have painted the ghosts of the past over your own growing prowess."
Artemis places a hand on her shoulder. She glances at him with an appreciative smile before slightly shaking her head. He grimaces, but steps back to allow her to continue.
"You see, I was a proud warrior. I was quite revered by the clan for my talents on the field. My magic was potent, and my skill with weaponry was nearly a thing to be legendary. I was wise and mature for my age, and the clan was more than happy by my growth. I was tasked early to help teach the next generation of warriors, expected to turn them into warriors just as amazing as myself." She pauses to swallow thickly. "It went…very well for the first year. They were learning quickly, and I was proud of their accomplishments." Her body tenses as she closes her eyes again. "But, no one expected the rise of an unknown foe. It was only two years ago, that out of nowhere, creatures of shadow, creatures so foul that the very air became rank with their stench, appeared. They were quickly decimating our people, plowing through them with pure brute strength and numbers."
Artemis steps closer, hand gently taking hold of her elbow in comfort.
She smiles faintly, but doesn't open her eyes. "My young kittens were hardly ready for real battle. The small skirmishes I'd involved them in were nothing compared to the devastation that the enemy was raining down on our clan. But we had no choice. Our numbers were getting dangerously low, and we were running out of options. We had a messenger race to the Moon Kingdom, begging for aid. While we waited, we did everything we could to stave of the enemies advances." A single tear escapes her eye to trickle down her cheek heedlessly. "My kittens, so brave...so foolish. They insisted they were ready and charged right into battle. I...I had to watch as they were torn asunder before my very eyes. By the time we managed to regroup, there were hardly any survivors left, and none were my kittens."
Her voice dies out, her opposite hand blindly reach out to grasp onto Artemis' hand on her elbow.
"We were on the verge of being wiped out completely," continues Artemis. "There was obviously very little we could do, and our options were pretty much exhausted." His face is uncharacteristically grim. "There was only a single option left, one that...one that was just as devastating to our people as extermination."
The Senshi all exchange concerned and questioning looks. What could be as devastating as being wiped out?
Artemis sees the exchange and smirks. "Yes, I know how odd that sounds. But our sole purpose was the protection of the dark side of the Moon. This next move would leave us near defenseless, useless as warriors, and incapable of performing the one duty our entire race had taken on with pride and dedication. Without it, we had no purpose. It was...terrifying. But, we are a proud race, and would not shirk our duty to protect the Moon." He takes a long slow breath. "There is an ancient spell, created when we were given our sacred duty. It is a spell that only works when all of our species are of one thought and one heart, a last ditch desperate gamble to extinguish whatever threat we are facing that would push us to such a degree." He audibly gulps, body just barely trembling. "We...would freely relinquish all of our magical powers and physical prowess, reverting back to our diminutive form to that of a cat, to strike one last devastating blow and hopefully fell our enemy. It…was meant to be a permanent fate."
"What...allowed…" Aequus vaguely gestures at their currently human forms, uncomfortable to point out such a sore subject.
Another faint smile blossoms across both their faces.
"Her Majesty. She gifted us with just enough power to change forms so that we might keep what little dignity we had left." Luna shakes her head sadly. "The gamble did work, but our numbers were still drastically cut, as the magic was what kept many from succumbing to wounds that were mortal to magic-less beings. Our species is what one would call endangered, as barely more than a couple dozen of us managed to survive the debacle." She gives them a watery smile. "I am afraid I am still...very bitter over such losses. Seeing your enthusiasm and determination...was a painful reminder of the kittens I lost. I...have treated you unfairly for it." She steps towards Serenity, reaching out to grasp her hands and bow over them. "You more than the others, as I hated how you never acknowledged the sacrifice my people made to protect you and your kingdom."
Serenity trembles, blue eyes wide as she tries to keep from allowing her tears to fall. "I had no idea," she whispers, voice on the verge of cracking. "I never knew…"
Luna kisses her knuckles before stepping back to rejoin Artemis. "I realize that now. Her Majesty sat me down to explain that the Council was very firm in keeping the tragedy secret, as they did not want mass hysteria that the Moon Kingdom was so close to being obliterated." She sighs. "I am...not pleased that our sacrifice is so erased from history, but...I cannot be sad that we achieved what we did. Hopefully, with time, we can regain our numbers. Maybe, if we are blessed, there may be hope that we can recover our magic and physical prowess as well."
"If we can help in any way…" Begins Amora, blue eyes earnest. The other Senshi nod behind her.
Luna smiles widely now, shaking her head. "Alas, I will not ask such a burden of you. You soon shall have your own concerns to worry about. With an entire Solar System to protect, I very much doubt there will be time to delve into old legends and mysticism to help a few stray cats." She winks playfully.
Rei feels a burst of affection and sorrow swell in her chest, a part of her greatly regretting that she had not gotten to know Luna and Artemis of her time. Clearly, they all had complicated pasts, and she is slightly comforted in knowing that she may have a chance to change some of the tragedy for the better.
Artemis clears his throat. "As much as I'm enjoying the discomfited looks we're receiving for our hoarding of your time, I think it best we allow the rest of the guests their chance to...converse." The last word is said teasingly, and he shares a final commiserating smirk before bowing with Luna and leading her away into the crowd.
Rei watches until they disappear, missing a woman in a very elaborate but slimming purple gown gracefully slinks in front of the Senshi before the two Kings can.
"Peaceful tidings," she greets, her figure poised as if on edge for battle.
"Mother…" Hotaru's voice is breathy with surprise, and Rei turns her head just enough to see the younger woman's wide eyed gaze locked on the newcomer.
The woman's smile is tight, but there is a warm tenderness in her eyes. "Silentia...I am pleased you are well. I have heard wonderful things about your current state of affairs."
Rei is bemused to see a faint flush rise to Hotaru's cheeks.
"I have been very dutiful in my training." She bows slightly, clearly flustered.
The woman's smile spreads a little further. "Come, love, that is merely an aspect of your life." Her sharp stormy blue eyes flick over the other Senshi. "You have amassed quite the interesting group of comrades." Her smile falters a little realizing that Hotaru is looking panicked and uneasy. "My dear, do I unsettle you so? You look peckish."
Hotaru's blush darkens as she dips her head to stare at her fidgeting hands. "N-no mother, I mean…" Hotaru winces. "Yes, they are good...comrades."
Her mother blinks slowly, a small frown puckering her violet painted lips. She tilts her head every so slightly, as if mentally reworking her image of her daughter. "Love...I did not mean to imply that they are just comrades. They are quite clearly very dear to you, and I cannot imagine having better comrades at your side than friends whom would fight harder and fiercer than any common soldier would." She blinks again, shifting her weight languidly as if resisting reaching out to her daughter.
Hotaru peeks up at her, clearly not certain what to make of her mother. Rei wonders how much time they've actually spent around each other, to speak like such strangers.
"They are...beyond compare," Hotaru says at last, clearly hesitant on how her mother will react.
Her mother exhales sharply, momentarily looking frustrated before regrouping. "Love, I do know how to speak of things beyond that of battle. I know that I have thrust a great deal of my responsibilities off and you, and that many of our conversations have been about grooming you to take over as my heir. But, surely you realize I am still your mother and that I wish to know about other aspects of your life, yes?"
Hotaru is the one to blink slowly this time, her head rising to cock to the side and regard her mother in a very similar fashion as her mother had just done. "I have found...a new home," she says cautiously. "Things are…very different now. I feel like I've found a second family, and that the bond between us is ever growing stronger."
Her mother's smile is less forced and shows more of the tenderness that is hidden in her eyes. "I am very pleased. I know it has been very hard for you in the palace. It is a very…quiet place. With all the duties I've requested of you, I knew you had very little time to spend making acquaintances, let alone friends. It worried me, but you were always so…poised, you hardly seemed fazed. When your sister was born, I saw for the first time what the isolation was doing to you. Though I once again forced more duties upon you as her caregiver, it was the one time I've seen you truly smile." She smiles ruefully. "It was unfair of me. But I was happy that, in having a sister, you had a respite from the quiet around you. You did not keep her at arm's length as you kept everyone else, and I was greatly relieved to see you spending more time with her than you had been on your duties. You were more willing to delegate your authority, and I was less worried when I had to leave on extended trips along the borders."
"Mother…" Hotaru's arms twitch.
Her mother sees the tiny motion and swiftly raises her own arms in open invitation.
Hotaru falls into her embrace, clinging to her while desperately trying to withhold her tears.
"Ah, my little firefly...you've grown so much… I am very proud of you. Our doors are always open when you have the time to visit. I expect to be around more frequently, as your sister is still much too young to mess with the running of a Planet." She kisses the top of Hotaru's head. "You were too young as well, but my pride in your maturity and wise decisions blinded me to it. It is too late to say so, but do not grow up too quickly. Life can be a very dark thing, and I would not wish you to taste its bitterness for many years to come if I could help it." Her smile is bittersweet. "You know I had to take over very young as well, as your grand'mere was taken from me when I was on the cusp of womanhood. I understand well what it is you had to deal with, and I apologize for not realizing it sooner."
Hotaru shakes her head, pulling away to look up at her mother with watery eyes. "I have no complaints, mother. Just that… I wish I could have spent more time with you."
Her mother gently brushes some hair from her face. "Yes...well I see it becoming even more of a challenge now." She frowns slightly. "I will bring your sister to visit in the near future. She does not understand why you are not home any longer. It pains me to explain that your duties have created a new home for you." She smiles faintly. "I hope that seeing you here, with them, will show her what I mean."
Hotaru smiles, stepping back so she can look over her fellow Senshi with a warm smile. "I could not have asked for better." She locks gazes with Rei. "They complete me."
Rei smiles back, tears gathering in her own eyes. Serenity gently squeeze her arm in comfort.
The Queen of Saturn glances over her shoulder and rolls her eyes. "I am very unimpressed with their childish behavior to glare so uncouthly at us, but I suppose I have taken up a great deal of your time." She looks over the rest of the Senshi. "Next we meet, I expect we shall get to know each other better. Until then, please watch over my daughter. She has a tender heart but a strong spirit." She dips her head and departs as swiftly as she arrived.
Just as the blond Kings step forward, a shrill cry fills the air as a small blur races over from the side and tackles Elysia with a peel of laughter.
Elysia startles as she automatically opens her arms to catch the little human missile. She peers down to find her youngest brother grinning up at her widely. "Ah! Little Tam-tam! What are you doing here?"
"Mama and Papa let me come cause I begged and begged! I wanted to see Elsy!" He squeals happily as Elysia casually swings him up into the air before settling him on her hip.
"Are the others here?" She asks.
"As many as would be wise," remarks a dry voice. The Queen of Jupiter sidles up as her husband glances at the other two Kings with a raised eyebrow. "I highly doubt Her Majesty would approve of the entire horde being in attendance."
Rei has to cough to hide snicker, mentally imagining Selenity gleefully allowing such a commotion if it meant riling up certain people and keeping them distracted for a while.
The Juptian Queen glances at her, clearly aware of her train of thought. "I will not lie, Martian, you have proven your case." Her eyes rove over the Senshi. "And I am impressed."
The King chuckles. "Elysia, must you treat him so? Do you realize how much he pesters everyone to carry him like that now that you are not present to do so?"
Elysia smiles sheepishly but does not put her brother down. "I miss him."
The Queen scoffs while the King guffaws.
Elysia steps forward, intending to properly introduce them all, when Serenity and Aetas both gasp loudly. Every turns to find Aetas pressing her fingers to her forehead while Serenity leans further into Rei for support.
"What's wrong?" Amora says sharply, stepping forward. Her eyes dart around the room looking for visible threats.
"A warning," grits Aetas, voice clearly pained.
Serenity nods shakily. "At the Outer border."
"What?" Queries the Juptian King, looking concerned.
"We're being attacked," responds Aetas, lowering her hand and turning to others.
Serenity takes a fortifying breath before straightening. "We're needed."
Rei feels panic swell in her gut. Her eyes dart between Aetas and Serenity in disbelief as the others begin to hash out details.
"We'll have to teleport," begins Amora.
Pru grumbles. "I suppose that makes sense, seeing as our fastest ships would take weeks to get there." She was clearly recalling the trip to Neptune.
"We should inform Her Majesty," remarks Endymion, already craning his neck to find her in the crowd.
Rei's throat tightens, her breath wheezing slightly as she attempts to keep her calm.
"Do you know where we need to be?" Asks Hotaru, moving to gently take the young boy from Elysia and carefully pass him to the Juptian King. "Would the tele-pad be the best bet, or should we try to target the specific location that is being attacked?"
Aetas sighs. "We are too far to narrow it down that well. We will have to use the tele-pad."
Ventus grunts. "That is the best decision anyway. We shouldn't leap without knowing where it is we're jumping and what kind of mess we'll be landing in."
Rei feels a scream building in her gut, making her insides burn as she struggles to contain it.
"Do you know if the locals have been made aware of the current threat?" Aequus asks, flexing and stretching her hands in preparation for the coming fight. "Has the alarm been sound so that word spreads and the Outer Ring is preparing for further assaults?"
Aetas grimaces. "I do not know. I have no way of actually communicating with them at this moment. We will have to ask when we arrive."
Hotaru glances at her, clearly wondering why she hasn't said anything. Her eyes widen upon seeing her expression. "What's wrong?"
"It's…too soon," she grinds out, body wound so tight she's visibly shaking.
Hotaru winces and bites her lip. "... But it's happening anyway."
Rei jerks her head to the side, closing her eyes and attempting to slow her racing heart. "There was no warning…" She bites out, hands clenching and unclenching.
The others finally notice something is wrong and turn to face the two of them.
"What's the matter?" Amora frowns when she sees how distraught the Earth Priestess is.
"It's-too-soon," she says tightly. "This… It's all too soon!" Her head jerks around and she locks eyes with the blond.
Amora slowly shakes her head. "Maybe, but does it change anything? Can you really expect us not to respond?"
Rei huffs, whipping her head to the side in dismissal. "Of course not!" She audibly grits her teeth. "But the timeline…" Her voice is earnest, painfully so. She's thrusting her powers internally, hoping for a fresh Vision… But only blackness greets her. "Something's wrong!"
Aequus is the one to sigh and step forward in comfort. "That won't get you anywhere. The Voices have been silent since the pivotal point of Change. Their cries grew quiet when we all first landed on the Moon. We are on uncharted waters."
Rei lets out a gurgled protest, physically straining to articulate her wash of absolute panic.
"You know we have no choice," murmurs Hotaru. "Timeline or no, this exactly what we were meant to do." She shrugs. "Maybe by doing what we have, we have created an opening to finally receive this warning instead of being oblivious to it as we were before."
Rei grimaces at the sound logic, struggling to slow her irregular breathing and calm her racing heart. It helps when Serenity steps forward and rubs soothing circles across her back.
"Exura…" Murmurs the Moon child, gently cupping her face in her hand. "You have brought us together for this very reason. Have faith."
Rei lets out a choked laugh. "I am so very afraid of losing you… That history… History will repeat itself."
Pru snorts loudly. "That's exactly why you called us early, spitfire. Suck it up. We have a job to do."
Rei tightly closes her eyes, but nods. She swallows painfully before exhaling sharply. "Right…"
"Senshi!" Amora says crisply. "Transform!"
A wash of magic blasts through the room, making several exclamations of surprise fill the air.
Standing tall and proud, the Senshi are poised in their battle attire, an aura of power radiating off them in waves.
The Jupitian Royals are nearly gaping, a dash of pride filling their eyes as Elysia carries the mantle of warrior with conviction. She blushes under their gaze, but nods quickly before turning back to Amora.
The Moon Queen is beside them instantly, eyes focused intently on Venus. "What has happened?"
"There's an attack on the Outer border. We need to respond immediately." The blond keeps her answers quick and to the point. She's already shuffling the Senshi into the proper circle, budging Endymion in before he can slip away. She gives his brow a meaningful look, the mark glowing starkly on his pale skin. She smiles faintly when he dips his head in acknowledgment and takes his place between Pluto and Neptune.
"How many? Do you need reinforcements?" Pushes the Queen, her eyes flicking to her daughter for a long pause.
Venus shakes her head, sending blond tresses dancing. "Unknown. We will call upon the Outer defenses if things are dire. If you would, Majesty, please send out a warning to the other Planets so that they are on high alert." She pauses, glancing over her soldiers once more. "It has begun."
Before anyone can protest or demand more answers, Venus grabs the hands of Serenity and Jupiter, allowing her powers to flux with the entire group.
"Senshi-Teleport!" They all chorus as one.
A flash of blinding light… And the Senshi are gone.
A/N: Alright, so end of Book 1: Moment in Time. I hope you are pleased and excited that the true adventure now begins and that our Senshi are finally being tested!
Thank you for bearing with me during this journey! I hadn't even realized how large this project had grown until someone pointed it out in a review, lol. Now I'm a little baffled that I've written an entire novel's worth of fanfic and am now advancing into the second.
Even better, I've already got the first two chapters! Yay! Excitement, cheering, happy dancing! I am sorry for the long wait, but I literally just rewrote this chapter, as the other previous one (that I had finished a couple months ago) just didn't strike me as complete or full enough. I had finished the two new chapters for Book 2 before finally deciding I had to re-write this chapter for a smoother transition, and hence wrote this after those two, haha.
I hope you enjoy the continued story, it will be titled MIT-2: The Rage of War.
Thank you for your dedicated reading!