Author's Note: It seems to me that the chapters for this story always come in pairs. XD
I think this story has pretty solidly placed itself in the manga universe at this point, though I may still use some things from the anime. And well, I'm changing some things anyway.
"They've been getting stronger," Jupiter said. "That last one –"
"We know!" Mars snapped, rubbing her temples. "How could we miss it? The thing nearly chopped our heads off!"
"Mars!" Venus yelled in reproach.
The fire senshi refused to meet their leader's eyes, instead looking off to the distance.
They sat in a strained silence, interrupted only by the clicking of Mercury's computer keys.
"What are you working on?" Venus asked after a moment.
Mercury closed her computer with a gentle click. "I'm entering the data on that last youma. Jupiter is right, they are definitely getting stronger. They are already too strong for the normal Moon Guardians."
Venus closed her eyes. That meant that only they could fight these monsters.
And they were still getting stronger. How long before even we can't stand up to them?
She opened her eyes and took a deep breath. "We need to speak to Queen Serenity."
"We need," Mars began bitterly, "to speak to the princess!"
"Mars," Venus groaned. "We've had this conversation. The Queen –"
"Is wrong!" Mars replied hotly. "If something happens to one of us, how do you think Serenity will take it?"
Venus sighed, frustrated. It wasn't that she didn't agree, it was just...
"It won't happen," Jupiter said confidently. "We're the Sailor Senshi! If the enemy is getting stronger than we'll just have to get stronger too."
That declaration was met with silence. If only it were that simple, Venus thought longingly.
"We still need –" she started.
"Quiet!" Jupiter barked.
The sound of familiar footsteps reached their ears.
Smiles broke out on all four faces. They'd know those footsteps anywhere.
Venus laughed and braced herself as Princess Serenity tackled her.
"Did you get your homework done?" Mercury asked, a fond twinkle in her eyes.
Serenity stuck out her tongue at Mercury as she detached from Venus. "For your information I did! None of you were around. There was nothing else to do!" She complained.
"Maybe we should disappear more often," Mars teased.
"Mars!" Serenity objected.
The four of them shared a laugh at Serenity's expense as the princess pouted at them.
"Well, we're here now," Jupiter said, stretching as she spoke. "What do you want to do?"
Serenity's brow scrunched up in thought. "Oh!" she said cheerfully. "It's market day in the city! We should go take a look."
"Sure," Jupiter replied.
"After I've checked your work," Mercury said.
Groans came from all sides.
"Give the poor girl a break," Jupiter said.
"Yeah," Mars said in an unexpected defence. "After all, she's already stretched her brain as far as it's going today."
"You are so mean!" Serenity huffed.
Mars just grinned unrepentantly.
Mercury laughed at the expression on Serenity's face. "Oh alright, I suppose it can't hurt."
"Coming, Venus?" Jupiter asked, looking at their leader.
"I'll catch up later," Venus demurred. "I need to find Artemis to talk about training today."
"You better catch up!" Serenity demanded. "Don't spend all afternoon with Artemis!"
"I promise," Venus replied
Serenity glared at her for a moment to make her point before spinning around and latching onto Mercury's arm. "Let's go! Let's go!"
Venus watched the other four leave before starting her search.
Though it wasn't Artemis she was actually looking for.
As it happened though he and Luna were both talking with the person she was looking for.
"Queen Serenity," she said, dropping to one knee.
"Sailor Venus," the queen acknowledged. "What brings you here?"
"The latest youma encounter," Venus replied. "The girls believe the creatures are getting more powerful."
Queen Serenity nodded. "And you?"
"Agree with them."
"Are the others alright?" Artemis asked.
"They're fine," Venus said. "But... it was close today."
"Where is the princess?" Luna asked.
"Out to the market with the girls," Venus replied. "She's been lonely."
Luna sighed. "I haven't spent much time with her lately."
"Neither have we," Venus said in response.
Queen Serenity shook her head. "There is little to be done about that."
Venus hesitated a moment, recalling Mars' earlier anger and her own frustration. "My Queen, shouldn't we tell Princess Serenity? Can we really keep this from her?"
For a moment the Queen looked distant. "No," she said at last. "Serenity is too..."
"Stubborn," Luna supplied. "She'll want to help, and there is so little she can do. She'll end up doing something dangerous."
Queen Serenity smiled fondly. "I would have said impulsive, but you are right."
"Yet she is the Princess. The heir to the Silver Millennium," Venus persisted.
"Soon I will have to tell her," the Queen acknowledged. "Just not... not quite yet."
And suddenly Venus understood. The Queen was no different than the rest of them. She wanted protect Serenity. From the very universe if necessary.
She's going to be angry when she realizes that we've been keeping things from her. She might even already realize. Even Endymion...
"Was there something else?" Queen Serenity inquired.
Venus paused. There was something, but...
"There are... rumours," she said slowly. "That the youma are coming from Earth. Have been sent by the people of Earth."
Luna snorted. "Coming from Earth maybe. But sent by them? Never."
The queen sighed deeply. "And the people of Earth believe that the youma there have been sent by us." She waved off Venus' instinctive protest. "Not the crown prince, nor his guardians, certainly. But many, many others."
"The only thing we've sent is troops to help!" Artemis muttered angrily.
"Troops who must hide their origins from the very people they protect," Serenity pointed out. "Things are worse on Earth than they are here. The youma, yes, but also the unrest of the people. The King is ill and the Prince is young and untried. The growing darkness feeds their fears. And ever have the people of Earth mistrusted those of the Moon."
Queen Serenity stood abruptly, walking towards a large arch through which the blue marble that was Earth could be seen.
"Is there nothing we can do?" Venus asked. "Surely..." she hesitated, "surely the Silver Crystal..?"
There was a long stretching silence in which Venus was sure her question had gone unheard.
"Venus, do you know what the Silver Crystal is?" Queen Serenity asked softly.
What it is? "It is the most powerful object in the galaxy," Venus replied. "Powerful enough to blow away a star."
"Correct," Serenity murmured with a smile, "and also, quite entirely wrong."
"My Queen?" Venus asked.
Serenity held up the moon wand, the Silver Crystal glowing gently. "The Silver Crystal is a Star Seed."
"What?" Luna gasped. "It can't be."
"A Star Seed!" Artemis exclaimed, something almost reverent in his voice.
Venus looked at her adviser. "I don't... what's a star seed?"
Artemis met her gaze. "It is a container for life. For the light and power of a living being. Every living thing in the universe has one."
"It is one of the most holy objects in existence," Luna murmured.
The soft smile on Queen Serenity's face didn't even flicker. "And amongst the Star Seeds there are none more powerful than those held by the Sailor Senshi, the Sailor Crystal."
"So I have one? A Sailor Crystal?"
Artemis was nodding. "Yes, you, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter. All Senshi have a Sailor Crystal. It is what makes you a Senshi."
"The Sailor Crystal," Luna said, "grow with their planet and are born in the form of a Sailor Senshi. A Senshi and their Planet are linked. Their Crystals are one and the same."
"And the Silver Crystal," Queen Serenity said, "is, in fact, a Sailor Crystal. The most powerful Sailor Crystal in the cosmos."
Venus' mind reeled. "Why are you telling me this?"
"Because you want to know why I do not use the Silver Crystal to simply fix everything."
Venus opened her mouth to deny this, but it was true. She did want to know why Queen Serenity hadn't used the Crystal.
"Then why?" she asked instead.
"For the one to whom the Silver Crystal belongs using it is as simple as loving. For that person, and for that person only, it is limitless in its power. For anyone else..." Queen Serenity trailed off, a distant look in her eyes. "For anyone else it demands a sacrifice. We of the royal line of the moon give up the ability to become Sailor Senshi in order to wield this crystal. And still... still its every use drains me of my energy. To use it in the manner which you would wish, to not only seal away the enemy but to root it and all its minions out from this solar system, would require more energy than I have. It would kill me. And even then the seal would not be complete."
Venus stared in shock. Such a thing... and one day, Princess Serenity will have to command that power.
"Do you understand now?" Queen Serenity asked.
"Yes," Venus murmured. "Yes, I do."
"I'm glad," Serenity said.
"But," Luna said, "if that is the case, then is there nothing we can do?"
The Queen looked thoughtful. "Well, there may be something. Though... I will have to think on it. It would not be a small step to bring them here."
"Them?" Venus asked.
But Queen Serenity simply smiled.