"Maybe but I can't just watch this. You should run. I don't want to risk losing you."
"And I don't want to risk losing you!"
"Nephrite, I love you."
The elation that Nephrite should have been feeling at these words was lost as his teleport took him back to Ueno Park. He could not think of it right now. The moment had been lost to them, swallowed whole by the new enemy.
As he reappeared under the shade of the trees, Nephrite saw with horror that two more humans had succumbed to the Youma. Most others had fled but there were a couple of teenagers filming the entire thing on their communication devices.
"Idiots," Nephrite shouted as the Youma turned to them. "Run!"
With this command he hurled a bolt of red energy at the Youma, striking the being directly in the chest. Recalling what happened to Jadeite, and Kunzite's warnings, Nephrite had not held back and was dismayed that his attack barely caused it to flinch. It hadn't even bothered to deflect it. It snarled as it began to approach, its confident gait indicating that it knew his concern. Cursing, Nephrite did not waste any magic on further attacks and instead drew his sword.
He was not the accomplished swordsman that Kunzite was, but he could hold his own and easily met the downward swipe of the Youma's scythe. The blade was made of ice but was far stronger; forged by magics. Parrying the attack he managed to counter it and force the Youma back slightly to even the ground between them. Calling forth his powers once more, he aimed a second attack as he moved it back. This time the being did move to counter it and by doing so left itself exposed for a strike. Seeing his chance, Nephrite moved forward but he had underestimated the Youma's strength. His own magics were caught in its clawed hand, trapping them in a glowing ball of dark energy before hurling them back at their master.
He was completely caught off guard and had no time to block it. Nephrite winced as he was thrown back several feet. The breath was knocked from his body as he landed hard on the ground and he was barely able to raise his sword to deflect the next attack. He sent it wild and it smashed into a nearby tree, destroying it in a burst of flames. Leaping to his feet he ignored the taste of blood in his mouth as the Youma came at him again.
Their blades clashed and Nephrite now remained focused on the weapons rather than on using any kind of magical attack. He could hold the Youma off but had little opportunity for a killing blow, and in the short moments where one was presented, he was unable to properly take it.
This Youma is different. It is a child of Metallia, born when the Earth began
In truth Nephrite had still not quite believed Kunzite's explanation for the Youma's strength and he'd merely wanted to find it and make it pay for attacking Jadeite. Now, however, he did believe it. This Youma could potentially kill them all.
Gritting his teeth he arched his sword upwards in an attempt to breakaway and get some ground between them. The Youma, sensing his plan, attacked again, intent on stopping him from doing so. Kunzite hadn't mentioned they were trained to fight like soldiers, Nephrite thought to himself as again he was forced to meet the onslaught.
They had moved away from the open spaces of the park and where well into the tree line. Nephrite was aware that he was being driven back but had little opportunity to do anything about this. Cursing in exasperation he again tried a magical attack. The Youma deflected this once more and, catching him off guard, surged forwards. Nephrite managed to get out from its path and he winced as the scythe made contact with a tree trunk. The Youma tore it free and hurled its own energy attack. Nephrite was forced to block it but the power behind it was such that he lost his footing. He landed on his back, his sword lost to him. The Youma smirked realising that there was nothing he could do to defend against the arch of its blade once it came down. It raised the scythe high but Nephrite's attention was no longer on the Youma but the light of the teleport behind it.
Kunzite did not hesitate. He drew his blade as his hand closed around the Youma's shoulder forcing it round to face him. He plunged the sword into the Youma's chest up to the hilt. The beast uttered a cry but did not fall as both Tennou expected. A clawed hand dug painfully into Kunzite's shoulder, cutting through his uniform easily and to the flesh beneath. The older guardian winced in pain and released his hold on his weapon. The Youma released him but a blow across the face sent him to the ground. With ease it pulled the blade from its body and tossed it to one side before turning to Nephrite once more.
What the hell? That should have killed it… it was a killing blow!
Nephrite conjured yet another energy attack as it drew near, preparing to defend himself when a new voice sounded out.
Instantly the Youma lowered its weapon and swift teleport saw it return to its Master's side. Both Tennou got to their feet as the new arrival stepped forward although Nephrite did allow his attack to disperse harmlessly into the air.
The man who stepped forward appeared to be the same age as Endymion but it was there that the similarities ended. He was bedecked in a uniform of a similar design to the Shitennou's own, although the main difference was that it was plain black and had none of the coloured lining or gemstones embroidered onto it. A sword was sheathed at his side. His hair was almost as black as his uniform and fell free to shoulder length. A longer fringe almost brushed dark, soulless eyes that were narrowed hatefully as he stared at them. His cape was black and fastened at both shoulders with silver crescent moon clasps.
The Moon Kingdom emblem…
The aura around him was similar to that of Serenity's also. His entire being seemed to be glowing in an ethereal light but, unlike the Princess, there was darkness within it also telling of Metallia's taint upon the soul.
"It's been a long-time, Kunzite, Nephrite," he spoke with authority and no fear as he continued his approach pausing only to retrieve their fallen swords. With a smirk of confidence, he offered both men their blades. Nephrite half expected Kunzite to attack him once the blade was within his grasp and so was shocked when the older man merely gripped it at his side.
"You don't remember me," he continued when met with their silence. "I suppose that was to be expected really. I wasn't really a person to be recalled back in the old life, however, I had hoped."
"Who are you?" Nephrite demanded angrily.
"I am Emathion - the true heir to both the Earth and Moon. My birth should have heralded the unification of both Kingdoms but instead I was cast out, forgotten and left to die. History forced me to the side and allowed that fool Endymion to play God with the fate of the planet. His meddling ultimately ended with its destruction."
Kunzite bristled at the insult to the Master but, as always, he remained focused on the situation. "If you were the true heir then we would have known of your existence. You have been brainwashed by Metallia and her lies."
Emathion laughed scornfully at these words. "I am Metallia. All that remains of the great ruler is within me and with her power I will take back what should have been mine. This planet will be swallowed into the beautiful darkness and the survivors will forge a new Kingdom with their rightful sovereign."
"The time for Kingdoms has past," Kunzite answered coldly. "And should it return it is Prince Endymion who will take the throne."
"Endymion is weak. It was his weakness that destroyed the planet and cost the Shitennou their souls. Surely you haven't forgotten that? I have not. Yield to me, the true King and the one whom the Shitennou should have served, and your lives will be spared."
"Our lives are of little consequence. We were reborn for one purpose; to stop you."
Emathion smirked callously at these words. "That is unfortunate for there is nothing you can do to stop me. My power far surpasses your own. I was merely offering you a kindness and for you to live out your lives in peace yet you regard me with the contempt that you did in our past lives. Consider this the last favour I will do you."
Nephrite fully expected an attack but the man merely returned to the Youma's side. "I have achieved my goal here and I shall withdraw this time so that you may live to pass on my warning to the other guardians and to Endymion. Do not stand in my way. The next time I meet opposition from any of you I will be forced to destroy you."
As he finished speaking his warning, Emathion's aura became brighter than before, glowing fleetingly and momentarily blinding the two Tennou. When Nephrite could see again, both the dark prince and the Youma were gone.
"You've never heard that name before, Master?" Kunzite repeated, barely flinching as Ami attempted to stitch up the wound in his shoulder. Thankfully it hadn't been that deep but it had meant that Kunzite wanted to dismiss it completely and focus on the identity of the new enemy. It had only been at Mamoru's insistence that he allowed Ami to do so.
"No," the younger man shook his head. He seemed just as mystified as the rest of them.
Nephrite had never heard that name before either, and nor had Zoisite or Jadeite. The younger of the Tennou was standing in the furthest corner of the room, keeping his gaze downcast. He'd said very little so far other than to express his concern at what had happened. The Master needed to speak to Jadeite, Nephrite thought to himself. The blonde still felt guilty for what happened during the last awakening. Nephrite was certain that Mamoru did not blame Jadeite at all, but until he actually said this then Jadeite would continue to punish himself.
The red haired Tennou shifted his gaze back to Kunzite. The encounter had shaken them both up much more than they were letting on. Even Kunzite had been practically powerless against the Youma and Nephrite suspected they would have been equally so against Emathion. His confidence and arrogance in their presence had indicated this.
I am Metallia. All that remains of the great ruler is within me and with her power I will take back what should have been mine
Nephrite did feel as though the man had been speaking the truth. The aura was the same as that of the dark queen's and only Metallia's powers could have given him the strength to command those Youma. This left him with a feeling of dread; that the battle was lost before it had even begun.
"Do you think he was lying?" Zoisite questioned, breaking his silence.
"No," Nephrite shook his head. "It should be impossible that he was telling the truth but it didn't feel like a lie."
"He may believe it," Jadeite said quietly. "It doesn't necessarily mean it is the truth but if his belief in it is strong enough…"
"Metallia could have corrupted his mind," Kunzite agreed as Ami finished seeing to his wound. "We need to find out for certain what we are up against."
"After going up against what we did today you're going to risk using Soul Flight?" Nephrite demanded incredulously. Now that they knew just how strong Emathion was he appreciated just how lucky Sailor Mars had been. The man certainly had enough power to have killed her had he of wished too. She had been a warning and Nephrite recalled their own with a chill.
Do not stand in my way. The next time I meet opposition from any of you I will be forced to destroy you
"It is our only option," Zoisite answered, the tone of his voice indicating that he'd given this some thought since their return.
"And what if he does to you what he did to Sailor Mars? We can't risk something happening to any of us."
"It will be perfectly safe," Kunzite assured. "I'll be accompanying Zoisite also. Nothing will go wrong"
"You're insane. Kunzite, you've witnessed first hand what this man is capable of. The risk is too great."
"We can't sit around here waiting for his Youma to attack again. We need to find out if there is any truth to his words and the source of his powers. We need this information to defeat him."
"There has to be another way," Nephrite snapped as he turned to Mamoru, "Master, you're not going to let them risk this?"
Mamoru's expression was pained but, like Nephrite deep down; he knew that they had very few options. "None of our memories are complete enough to recall him. We need answers, Nephrite."
"How dangerous is Soul Flight?" Ami spoke up, a little timidly considering the heated discussion.
"It depends if we are noticed," Zoisite answered her. "I doubt he will be expecting it so the risks are minimal."
"Perhaps I could accompany you?" Ami, much to the shock of everyone in the room, suggested. "Then if… if something were to go wrong…" she left the sentence incomplete but they all knew what she was saying. It was better, in war, to lose a solider than a commander.
"No," Nephrite snapped immediately even as Zoisite replied.
"Thank you, Mercury, but should something go wrong it would be better that it happen to someone who has the means to defend themselves."
"And we really gave Emathion a beating last time," Nephrite murmured sarcastically under his breath. Kunzite glared sharply at him but held his tongue.
"We should do this now," Zoisite suggested, he too ignoring Nephrite's comment. "Before the enemy anticipates our move."
Their leader nodded but did not follow Zoisite's lead to the door. "Nephrite, I need to speak with you in private."
The red haired king scowled somewhat at this request but did not deny it. Ami glanced back at him once before leaving with Mamoru, Jadeite and Zoisite.
"You have feelings for her," he stated coldly as soon as the others were out of earshot. "Need I remind you of how devastating the consequences of such feelings can be?"
"The past is no longer repeating," Nephrite snapped irately to this outdated comment.
"I was not referring to the past," their leader answered as they locked gazes. "Emotions impair your judgement, Nephrite. They also prevent you from doing what is necessary. The Shitennou's destiny has always been to protect the Master and the planet. That is why we were reborn."
"I told you I don't believe that."
"Then you'd better start. I need you all completely focused on the mission. Any distractions could cost us this war."
As much as it galled Nephrite, he let Kunzite say his piece. The man had always been unreasonable when it came to matters of the heart. He would never approve of Nephrite and Ami's relationship. In the past all he and Zoisite had cared about was their mission. It saddened Nephrite slightly that they thought there was nothing else.
He gave it a few minutes after Kunzite left before joining them all in Zoisite's room. The white haired Tennou was already seated at his piano. Ami hung back by the door with Jadeite, the look on her face clearly one of being torn between leaving or staying. Nephrite understood her indecision, especially given Kunzite's hostility towards her.
He remained by the door also and ignored Jadeite's questioning glance when he took her hand. Ami smiled at him before they focused their attention back on the other Tennou and Mamoru.
"And what if he does to you what he did to Sailor Mars? We can't risk something happening to any of us."
"It will be perfectly safe," Kunzite assured. "I'll be accompanying Zoisite also. Nothing will go wrong"
Nephrite wished he could believe this.
Zoisite took a few moments to compose his thoughts before beginning to play. Like Nephrite, he did have some reservations about using Soul Flight considering the power of this new enemy but they had to find out exactly what they were up against and this was the best way to do that. He was not certain if he believed Emathion's words. None of the Shitennou knew him or had known of any claim to the throne aside from Endymion's. Yet he had worn the Moon Kindgom's emblem and Nephrite had described his aura of being similar to Serenity's. Perhaps they should have taken the time to speak with the Princess and her Senshi? However, thoughts of them inevitably led to Sailor Venus and feelings that he was uncomfortable facing.
"Zoisite," Kunzite finally prompted him, the oldest of them becoming impatient. The white haired man nodded and began to play the piece he knew so well. He'd had second thoughts about allowing Kunzite to accompany him. Soul Flight could be dangerous in itself and he recalled what happened to Jadeite all too clearly. There had also been some merit in Nephrite's concerns. If something happened to both of them then the war would be lost. However, Kunzite had been insistent, through, Zoisite thought, some guilt that he was requesting this to begin with. As unfeeling as he might appear at times, Kunzite did not want to risk any of them. Especially after what had happened to Jadeite.
As he allowed the melody to align with his thoughts of the new enemy and focus upon him, Zoisite slowly opened his eyes. His room in Kunzite's home was gone and he was surprised at the scene that had replaced it.
He hadn't known what to expect. A place similar to the Dark Kingdom or even perhaps the Silver Millennium. Not this reality he faced at all.
"What is this?" Kunzite spoke, making Zoisite aware of his presence. The older Tennou had already drawn his sword as he scanned the dimly lit room.
There were no doors or windows, or lanterns, so it should have been impossible that it was light enough to see through the gloom. The floor was made of polished granite stone as were the walls surrounding them. Hung upon these walls were mirrors, each one floor to ceiling in height and framed in black crystal. Zoisite frowned as he looked into the nearest one and saw the destruction of the Earth and Moon silently replaying itself over and over. He looked away as Endymion was slain and back in time to see the Princess's sorrow laying both worlds to ruin. Then the scene would ripple and melt away before restarting from the beginning once more.
"Zoisite?" Kunzite questioned, his boots making the only sound in the room as he joined the younger guardian. "What is this place?"
"I don't know," Zoisite shook his head feeling more and more uncomfortable as each second past. He did not like it. There was something terribly wrong.
"Look at this," Kunzite indicated the mirror next to the one that Zoisite had been looking into. It was showing Queen Serenity's coronation. The young Queen was smiling happily and waving to her loyal subjects who had come out to share in this special occasion. There was another woman at her side. She was dressed in a simple saffron robe, her pure white hair fluttering freely round a delicate face. Eyes shone as brightly as sapphires as she turned to embrace the newly crowned Queen. Before she turned, Zoisite made out one word on her lips: sister.
The scene unsettled him and Zoisite turned away, the mirror on the opposite wall now catching his attention.
The blonde Senshi was attending a ball with her fellow guardians and the Princess. The hall that it was held in was clearly within the Earth Kingdom's palace. Zoisite frowned as he struggled to recall such an occasion. When the memory was finally brought to the forefront of his mind he remembered that he'd declined Endymion's request for his presence. It had been the only time he'd gone against his Master's wishes. Zoisite had not agreed with the union of the Prince and Princess and would not support an event that welcomed Serenity into the palace. Kunzite had likewise refused and so only Jadeite and Nephrite had been present.
As Zoisite watched a young man, clearly of the royal guard, approached Venus. They exchanged a few words before he led her to the dance floor. The white haired Tennou was stunned at the jealousy the scene invoked as the man wrapped his arms around her waist as he led the dance. When it came to an end he kissed her on the cheek and bowed. As he stepped away the scene begun again.
"That man she's dancing with," Kunzite stated as he follow Zoisite's gaze, "That's Emathion."
"So you're finally starting to understand," a voice rang out coldly. Zoisite whirled around, trying to pinpoint the location of the man but the voice seemed to be coming from all around them. The air had turned colder and as the atmosphere changed he realised that his connection with his music was weakening.
"Show yourself," Kunzite demanded. Despite the odds being against them in this place he was unafraid.
The man in question laughed scornfully. "You fool. Did you think I wouldn't anticipate this? I am the true heir and know everything about the guardians that should have been mine."
This place… it had been designed specifically to draw them in. The mirrors had captivated them and drawn their attention away from reality.
"Kunzite!" Zoisite grabbed his leader's arm and pulled him back. "This place is not real. We need to leave. Now."
The older Tennou did not disagree with his words. The mirror themselves were the traps, Zoisite realised. The one featuring Venus had been close to pulling him in. One was reality and the rest were lies. Scanning the room he focused his attention on the three to his right. The centre and one to the left displayed almost identical scenes. It was his room at Kunzite's home. The Master, Nephrite, Jadeite and Mercury were there, waiting for their return.
Kunzite approached the centre mirror without hesitation and only Zoisite's sharp warning caused him to halt. "It's this one," he gestured to the left mirror.
"How do you know?"
"Look at Mercury," Zoisite pointed out the henshin bracelet on her right wrist. "It is a false projection. If you follow that you'll lose yourself."
Kunzite nodded, his expression turning thoughtful as he glanced back at the mirror on the right. It was depicting various scenes from the Moon Kingdom's history. They were, however, mainly featuring the unnamed woman with white hair.
"Kunzite!" Zoisite snapped in fear as he realised just what his comrade was intending to do. "Don't be foolish. You could end up trapped forever in a memory."
"We came here to find out the truth and I intend to get it. You will be in charge until I return."
"We're seeing this because he wants us to! He wants us to trap ourselves. We have to go before it's too late!"
"Then go. If we leave here without this knowledge then the war is already lost."
Zoisite hesitated. He understood the reason in what Kunzite was saying and that they did need to know exactly who Emathion was in order to understand his power and defeat him. But they also needed all the Tennou. They were stronger together; Kunzite knew this as well as any of them.
The older man smiled faintly, easily guessing Zoisite's indecision. "That's an order, Zoisite," he said finally, making the choice for him.
Reluctantly the white haired man released his hold on Kunzite's wrist. "Be careful," he requested softly as their leader took a step towards the mirror.
"Of course," there was a sliver of fear in those dark eyes but more so there was determination to succeed. A gloved hand reached out a touched the glass surface. At this contact it rippled and melted away, allowing him to take a step forward and into the scene.
Zoisite stared at the empty space beside him for a few minutes; the idea of going after him was briefly entertained in his mind. Yet this was only momentary. As second in command he had to return to the others. They needed him and Kunzite would not thank him for going against his orders.
Glancing once more around the room, Zoisite could not help but marvel and fear the power behind such a creation. The enemy, whether he was a child of the Moon or not, had incredible power and had known exactly how to manipulate it for their arrival. Yet another thought nagged at the back of the white haired king's mind. If he was so powerful then why had he let them go?