Egad what took me so long? I know, I'm a terrible person D:
BUT on the plus side (or is this a negative?) final chapter :) If there ever is a sequel I'll give you three guesses what it'll be about, lol.
Thanks to those who reviewed the last chapter -
Minako slept late the following morning. Exhaustion, both mental and physical, had fully claimed her and she did not wake until gone midday. She crawled out of bed and headed for the bath in the next room, shedding the blue dress she still wore as the hot water pounded into the marble tub. She could tell it was too hot as soon as her toe dipped the surface, but it didn't really matter and, although not particularly comfortable, the bath did serve to wake her up. By the time she emerged from her rooms she was freshly dressed, her damp hair scraped back and out of the way.
She made it to the dining hall without meeting anyone but as she entered the room people turned to look at her – it appeared to be dinner time. Minako bit her lip as she headed to an empty chair by Makoto, for she had not eaten with the assembled royalty since their arrival. Now that she was suspended from Senshi duties she would be excepted to be the Princess of Venus once more, although how that would work now that Indira was gone... Minako swallowed and tried to think of something else.
"How did they react?" she asked Makoto as she cast about the table for something fattening.
"I haven't told anyone yet." Makoto was biting her lip, "Well, other than Queen Serenity but I think she already knew somehow."
"She's probably been talking with Pluto. Or Saturn I suppose, she seems to know what's going on."
"And she's talking to no one but Queen Serenity," Makoto scowled, "You'd think she'd talk to the Senshi at the very least."
"I get the impression that she doesn't expect to be here very long. Or for any of us to be here very long for that matter."
"Well we won't be if she's forced to use her powers."
Minako nodded, taking a bite of the cake she had decided would count as her dinner for the day. "Legends say she's got almost as much power as the silver crystal itself, but with far less control once unleashed."
"It's not something I'd want to see for certain," Makoto began. She was about to continue, but two sets of footsteps drew her attention. Standing in the doorway, looking around coolly as though they had never left, were Nephrite and Jadeite.
"Be careful," Minako murmured, laying a hand upon Makoto's arm to stop her rising to her feet. "Think about Kunzite." Saying the name brought a painful lump to her throat.
There was a loud whooshing sound and orange light filled the room at the same time as a crackling heat that instantly evaporated all the water in the glasses along the table. A giant flaming bird swooped over head, signalling the arrival of Sailor Mars. The bird cawed loudly, ashes falling to the floor as it circled the Shitennou, both of whom watched it dispassionately. Mars walked past the place where Minako and Makoto were sitting, stopping about ten feet away from Nephrite, the nearer of the two. Endymion, who had risen from his seat by Sere, moved to stand next to her. "What purpose do you have upon the moon?" Mars asked, her voice steady.
Nephrite looked away from the phoenix up above, his blank eyes boring into Rei. Starlight flooded the chamber and, as Nephrite took a step forward, began to pool together, running across the white floor towards his feet and creeping up his body to form a solid gold aura. Endymion growled and drew his sword as Rei raised an arm ready to fight. "Mars flame-" she began to shout, but stopped early, holding the fiery arrow at the ready, her fingers stretched taut, pointing straight at Nephrite's head. "Give me one reason," she hissed.
He did not reply and his eyes wandered away from Rei as though he gave not a care in the world that an almost certainly deadly attack was aimed at his head. They found Makoto and his lips curled ever so slightly. Minako's eyes darted to his hand as his fingers curled into a fist and then turned to Queen Serenity who shook her head. Minako barely resisted slamming her fist upon the table. People were in danger and Queen Serenity would not let her fight! She would have transformed anyway, consequences be damned, had it not been for Makoto. As Nephrite raised his hand she broke free of Minako's grip upon her arm. Her shout was lost as she vaulted the table, but the flash of green light left all present with little doubt as to what she had done. Sailor Jupiter strode forward to join Mars, her fists crackling with electricity as she surveyed the Shitennou.
"Nice of you to join us," Rei smirked before turning her attention back to Nephrite, "But wrong move from you there I'm afraid. Flame Sniper!" she shouted, finishing the attack she had started and completing the image of the rune in the air. The arrow shot at where Nephrite's head had been just moments before, but suddenly he had moved and was standing three feet to the other side of Jadeite who raised a hand and caught the arrow, pinching it in the centre and reducing it to nothing more than ashes.
"Some people just ask for it," Makoto said through gritted teeth, her eyes narrowing. A small golden lightening rod sprouted from the centre of her jewelled tiara, bringing down crackling power from who knew where. It crackled down her body as she moved her arms, shouting as she did so. "Supreme Thunder!" the power ripped through the air towards Jadeite so fast that Minako thought for a moment that it had been a direct hit. When the smoke cleared and he stood unharmed, however, her temper got the better of her.
"Venus power, make up!" Still neither of the Shitennou said a word, their eyes fixed unblinkingly upon the four fighters. An unnatural silence had gripped the hall and the only thing Minako could hear was the sound of her own blood rushing past her ears. When Jadeite moved, merely shifting a little upon his feet she launched into action.
"Venus love me chain!" she shouted, leaping high into the air as the golden hearts snaked around her target, pinning his arms to his side.
"Sparkling wide pressure!" Makoto shouted, throwing something small and silvery at Jadeite. Minako was impressed – either she had trained a hell of a lot since the previous night or she was a damn good soldier. She would have placed her bet on the latter of the two options, judging by the fierce look in her eyes.
"You don't attack me, Makoto?" Nephrite said gently, his eyes glittering with what could have been teasing humour. Makoto froze, her eyes burning, unable to turn towards him. "Perhaps you honestly thought I loved you. I'm sorry to have led you on so, but you were such an easy target." Makoto's breathing was coming faster, her eyes burning ever darker as he spoke. "Abandoned by your father, abandoned by your mother... you were so desperate for someone to hold that you actually believed I could love you." He laughed, a sound far crueller than Makoto had ever heard from him before.
"Shut up," she growled. "Right now."
"Why? Are you going to glare at me a little more?"
"No. I'll make you shut up."
Makoto snapped. Her eyes shone bright silver for a moment and she raised her hands into the air. "Jupiter Oak Evolution!" she shouted. Bright green lights seemed to fill the room and Makoto span in ever faster circles and then flew outwards from where she stood. Minako braced herself only to find that they passed straight through, leaving her unharmed. The same could not be said for Jadeite and Nephrite, the latter of whom in particular was now looking much the worse for wear, his uniform shredded, his face and arms criss-crossed by small red lines.
"Just shut up!" She shouted. "Shut up and leave. You and Metallia."
"Why, highness," Nephrite laughed, before gasping a little in pain. "I'd almost think you didn't enjoy my company.
"You head what she said," Sere piped up, moving forward. The others, who had backed to the edge of the room, muttered words of caution but no one other than her mother dared move to try and bring her back.
"Sere, stay out of this," Serenity beseeched her. "Let the Senshi deal with them."
"Why Princess," Jadeite bowed low. "What an honour it is. I did think..." They never quite heard what Jadeite thought, for when he straightened up from his bow it was to find himself stood at the wrong end of the silence glaive – if the glaive could be said to have a right side at any rate.
"Leave and I shall let you live," Saturn said calmly. Jadeite glanced sideways at Nephrite and something almost imperceptible passed between them. In the mere blink of an eye they had vanished.
"I am sorry it took me so long to arrive," Saturn said, moving back and raising the glaive. The handle cleared her head by at least a foot and a half, the gleaming silver blade shining wickedly in the light from the windows. "I was talking with Pluto." A rush of murmuring swept the edge of the hall, but Queen Serenity quelled it with a single look. "The time is coming. Earth has now completely fallen. They are coming."
"You shouldn't be here," Sere whispered, her arms wrapped tightly about his chest. "You should go, help them fight."
"I belong exactly where I am right now," Endymion replied calmly, "Between you and anything that might cause you harm." He looked down at her, trying to reassure her without words.
"If anyone finds out..."
"Then they find out." He shrugged and attempted to smile.
"But they said..."
"They said a lot of things. Just because they blamed me does not make Metallia's rise my fault." He knelt down before her, his hand clasping hers. "They needed a villain they could be seen to punish, someone they could cast down and ridicule."
"But it didn't have to be you," Sere sobbed.
"It did. The Shitennou were my personal guard, and I am the only King Earth has left. Those are my people, rushing to destroy your kingdom."
"How did this even happen?"
"I don't know," Endymion's voice cracked and he looked over the edge of the balcony at the blue and green planet shining in the sky. "I wish I did. I wish I'd been there to see it, I wish I'd been there to stop it."
"But then they'd only have gotten you too," Saraswati said firmly, moving forward from where she had stood in the shadows. "It was better that you were here. We do not believe Beryl has the golden crystal – perhaps, in years to come, we can use its power to drive her back."
"We have the silver crystal," Sere said confidently. "That'll defeat Metallia."
"Perhaps, but I don't think it will on it's own."
"The Senshi are fighting."
"No, Princess. The Senshi are doing their duty, fulfilling the ultimate calling."
"What do you mean?"
Saraswati hesitated and then said, "The Senshi are dying."
"Love and Beauty Shock!" Minako shouted, darting out from behind a tree and hurling the golden heart at the oncoming army. It ploughed through a line of the strange, shambling youma that made up the army, but all that happened was more moved forward to fill the gap. She could hear the shouting of her fellows to either side, but they were making just as little progress as she was. The palace guards were long since dead, leaving only four defenders, the final line between the army and the entirety of the silver millennium's royalty.
"Shabon spray!" Minako cursed as the fog rolled over the field and fumbled until she wore her goggles. The youma had paused, unable to see their foes, but with their goggles the Senshi now had an advantage.
"Mercury Aqua Rhapsody!"
"Supreme Thunder Dragon!"
Crescent Beam Shower!" The attacks thundered into the crowd, felling youma after youma but it was never enough. A trickle of sweat ran into Minako's eye and she blinked, her vision fuzzed over for a split-second. In that moment, the army seemed to move away, melting out of sight into the fog, something which should have been impossible by all logic.
Four shadows moved forward as the Shitennou took to the field.
"Venus Love a-"
"No." Kunzite raised a hand and the rune Minako was drawing fizzled away, the power of her attack instantly dying. The lack of attacks from the other Senshi told her that something similar must be happening to them. She stood her ground, watching as the Shitennou moved closer. The others moved in towards her, closer to the enemy. They fell into rank, Venus and Mars in front with Mercury and Jupiter behind and spread out a little.
"Wait until the last moment," Minako murmured. "Short attacks only, don't give them a chance to stop us." The others nodded to show they'd understood and Minako smiled grimly at them.
"To the next life," Rei whispered.
"To the next life," the others echoed.
"Crescent Beam!" Minako shouted, aiming her attack straight at Kunzite only for him to brush it aside as though it were nothing more than a fly.
"Burning Mandela!" Nephrite formed a shield against the flames, but Rei kept them coming, sending them in a concentrated burst that blasted through and slammed into Zoisite, who screamed, his hair on fire.
"Jupiter Oak Evolution!" Makoto shouted, taking advantage of the distraction to launch a more powerful attack that lanced through the remains of the shield with ease, forcing Nephrite to fall back and leave the other three unprotected. This proved to be too much for Zoisite who screamed as Makoto concentrated the flying leaves about him, spinning in ever faster circles as they sliced at his face, arms and torso. He collapsed, chest heaving, badly burnt and bloodied.
Kunzite roared, his rage clear, and leapt straight at Makoto who didn't have time to defend herself coming out of the attack. He barrelled into her and they fell back into one of the ornate stone pillars of the palace, bringing it crashing down.
"Venus love me chain!" Minako screamed, trying to pull Kunzite away from Makoto but she had her arms about his waist and wasn't letting go.
"Supreme thunder!" she shouted and a bolt of lightning shot down from the sky. She screamed as it hit both Kunzite and herself and mere moments later she was left unmoving in a pile of rubble, her eyes staring unseeing at the stars above. Kunzite, however, picked himself up and brushed a hand across his uniform, removing all signs of damage. His hair was slightly burnt at the ends, but apart from that were was not even the slightest sign of any damage.
Ami and Rei were standing back to back not far away, Nephrite and Jadeite circling around them. Icy fog surrounded the four of them, biting at the Shitennou and yet leaving the two Senshi untouched. Jadeite's movements were slow, his muscles stiff from the cold and Rei saw him falter.
"Akuryo Taisan!" She shouted, throwing the flame at Jadiete. It struck him in the face and spread down his body at unprecedented speed. His scream was terrible and even Kunzite was distracted for a second, watching as Jadeite fell to the ground, nothing but a burnt shell.
Nephrite had been less affected by the cold, however, and took advantage of Rei and Ami's distraction. He raised his hands high and shouted to the stars, calling the light down from the sky into his hands, and launched it at the two Senshi. For a moment they were lit as if from within by golden light, their skin shining so bright that Minako was forced to look away or else be blinded. When she looked back they had gone, leaving no sign that they had even been there in the first place.
Minako blinked back tears of rage, her eyes stinging from both the salt water and the dust in the air. She screamed, forgetting all about her attacks, her powers, anything, and launched herself at Nephrite, kicking and screaming, biting and scratching. He fought hard, but greif and anger leant Minako strength she had never known before and Nephrite fell back, hitting his head on the marble paving with a sickening crack. She stood, wiping blood from her cheek, and turned to face Kunzite who drew his sword.
"I've been practising," she said, her voice rough. A golden sword shimmered into existence in her right hand. "Just like you said. Always practise, and never let anyone know what's coming." She leapt at him, sword held high, only for him to parry, knocking her back with ease. She spat blood and turned back to face him.
"No," He said again, raising a hand and pushing her back. She tripped over Makoto's unmoving form, knocking her head against a chunk of rubble, but she forced herself back to her feet. One of her eyes was red with blood and both brimmed with tears that still threatened to spill over.
"Venus wink chain sword!" she shouted, launching the attack at Kunzite who caught it with his own weapon and cast it to the side with ease. "Crescent Beam Shower!" His blade absorbed the energy, shining gold for a moment, and he began to move forwards.
Minako could feel panic welling up inside her chest, could feel the fear she had tried to keep at bay clawing at her insides, desperate to consume her, but she wouldn't let it. She had one more chance.
The sword vanished and she raised a hand, golden energy gathering at the very tip of her finger. A single tear found it's way out of her eye and trickled down her cheek. "Venus Megaton Shower!" she shouted. The energy spiralled up into the sky and exploded, sending golden rain down upon the field. Everywhere it touched Minako felt blinding pain, but she did not scream, did not even close her eyes.
She watched as the energy hit Kunzite and as he fell. When he lay still, she lowered her hand and walked shakily over to his body before falling to her knees. When Metallia found her body, Venus was laid across the Shitennou's chest, tears still glistening in her eyes.
"They're all dead," Cerridwen choked, crawling through the rubble to Queen Serenity. "Everyone... the Senshi, the prince... the princess."
"I know," Serenity moved her head to look at the last Senshi. "For now." She coughed, a deep rattle that seemed to shake her entire body.
"What do you mean?" Cerridwen asked. "What are you doing?"
"Sending them on." Serenity pushed herself into a sitting position and held her hand open before her. The silver crystal shimmered into existence before them.
"You'll die!" Cerridwen cried, horrified. "With you we at least have a chance to rebuild..."
"The Silver Millenium has ended, Cerridwen, as we knew it had to. One thousand years to the day since the creation of the crystal by Selene... that day has come. Now it's time to prepare."
"Prepare?" Cerridwen was crying, "Prepare for what?"
"The Crystal Kingdom to come." Serenity coughed again. "Cerridwen, listen to me. You must go with them. You must find them and tell them the true extent of their powers, you must tell Serenity..." The Queen hesitated as though what she had to say was causing her great pain. "You must tell Serenity that she was not truly my child. You must tell them of their birth at the Galaxy Cauldron. Serenity can use this crystal and survive, Cerridwen. She was built for it."
"No..." Cerridwen shook her head in horror, "She is your daughter, the line of Selene."
"She is more than that. Serenity is Selene, reborn. Find her, in the next life, and tell her... tell her I'm sorry." Two shapes moved in the distance – a black and white cat picking their way through the rubble. "Now go. I must speak with Luna and Artemis. They cannot know. The Princess cannot know until she is ready, promise me you'll find her... find Sailor Moon."
"I promise," Cerridwen nodded, turned and ran.
"Highness," Luna panted, reaching the Queen at last. "The Princess..."
"I know. Find them, Luna, in the next life. Train them to be ready."
"I will," Luna nodded firmly.
"Take this," Serenity dropped the broach. "For Sailor Moon."
"Serenity's greatest defendant," the Queen said before pushing herself to her feet and allowing the light of the silver crystal to envelop her.
"It has been set in motion," Pluto said. "It is time."
"Very well." Saturn moved towards the door, sparing only one look back. "Until the next life, Setsuna."
"Until the next life," Pluto responded, unmoving as ever. Only when the door had closed did she turn to where Saturn had vanished, and smile.
P.s. Saraswati's fate is deliberately vague xD If I write a sequel, wait and see...