Wind danced across the street acting as the master of its cherry-blossom marionettes, which swirled and flowed elegantly from the tree to the verdant green grass below, skittering across the paved sidewalks and taking flight yet again, pressed upward at the side of the other building.
Someone behind her cleared their throat.
The wind was almost like a teacher, then – it knew what it wanted the blossoms to do, and it directed them towards that end. All they needed to do was go with its flow and they would be successful; but where was their spirit? Were they content to mindlessly obey?
Maybe she was looking too far into it; they weren't exactly sentient. …but they were a really great simile – metaphor? Yeah, metaphor – for her current situation. Hers and her guardians', anyway. If she behaved the way her teachers and tutors and trainers wanted her to, she, too, could be successful, but wouldn't that just make her a cookie-cutter person? Smiling when it was expected, saying what they needed–
"Princess," her instructor's feminine voice growled and Bunny jumped at the nearness of the sound.
Quickly, the young girl with silver hair turned, but the length of her pigtails and the quickness of the turn knocked the paper and pencils off the desk of the person behind her. "Sorry!" she exclaimed, whipping back around and attempting to reach over the desk bar to grab the abused articles. Unable to get anywhere near, she hopped up to kneel on the seat to get a better angle. Stretching as much as she could only made it so the very tip of her middle finger glanced the nearest pencil.
"Princess!" the instructor gasped, mortified, and Bunny winced, remembering only now that she was wearing her summer skirt today. Gritting her teeth she prepared to continue as if she still hadn't realized, but a friendly squeeze of her outstretched hand opened her eyes to see a familiar face wink up at her from a crouched position on the window-side of her seat. Carestia, smiling brightly, gathered the spilled materials and nodded her head towards the teacher, an indication that she had the mess and that Bunny should get back to dealing with the teacher.
Setting her mouth into a forced smile, Bunny turned back around in her seat and looked up at the stern woman, "Yes?"
"It's alright, Bunny!" Carestia said in soothing tones, placing a hand comfortingly on her shoulder.
"Yeah, it wasn't that bad," Biera snorted, turning her purple-haired head away to laugh into Tunis. The two snickered and Bunny pouted.
The road back to the Crystal Palace was alive with the smells of late spring, small shops opening with goods from Earth and from the life-bearing planets of allied systems, their populace meshing almost indiscriminately with the humans they visited, but for small features – cat ears, antlers, and wolf-tails, for example. The street was set up for the Solstice festival, and already street performers were practicing their arts: from fire juggling, street magic and acrobatics to shape-shifting, feats of strength and mermaid-dances in large tanks, her populace was enjoying themselves already. This cheered Bunny up marginally, until she saw two cheeky boys from her class in amongst the crowd, standing facing her with idiotic expressions, acting like they were pulling up their imaginary skirts. She blushed beet-red.
"Jerks!" Zita screamed and dashed into the crowd after them, her long black hair disappearing quickly in the throng of astonished onlookers.
"Zita," Carestia sighed, her fingers at her temples, "Biera, go bring her back; the Queen wouldn't be happy if another complaint was raised against her."
"Sure thing, [i]boss[/i]," Biera quipped and dashed off, to the delight and further confusion of the crowd; it wasn't every day (well, maybe not for this particular group, Bunny mentally amended) that two senshi broke off of the Princess's detail to chase middle-school boys. For her it [i]was[/i] nearly every day. The other kids in her class just didn't like her that much – she didn't pay as much attention to lessons and they thought it was because she had a defined future career and so didn't need to worry, like she was above them all, while really the teacher was just super boring and she was in various lessons practically all hours of the day and had other things on her mind.
Like her legacy. What would be her mark on the Solar System and the Crystal Millennium?
As they approached the crystalline castle, doors appeared to admit them, sensing the Silver Millennium blood in her veins and the sailor crystals in Carestia and Tunis's hearts. The long hallway appeared before them, flanked on all sides with hued marble statues of the senshi who had lived their lives for the protection of peace on Earth. First and foremost, in this important entrance hall, were the original eight guardians: Sailors Venus, Mercury, Mars and Jupiter on the left, Sailors Neptune, Uranus, Pluto and Saturn on the right, Pluto's likeness engraved here even though she lived on at the Gates of Time. Beyond them were the Sailor Quartet, Ceres and Juno on the left, Vesta and Pallas on the right; this covered nearly the first 2000 years of the Crystal Millennium, but the quartet-style of protection continued on after that. Every Queen awakened four senshi from the Asteroid Belt to serve as her daughter's protectors; it had to be that way, for once a Senshi died and her crystal returned to the Galaxy Cauldron, it took thousands of years for the crystal to regrow and return to its planet, where it would then rest for nearly a millennia as it retuned itself to its guardian star before selecting a shell – a fetus – to serve as the future Sailor Senshi of the planet.
As of yet, the Sailor Quartet's seeds had not returned to their asteroids, so it took more than 2000 years for the regrowth stage in the Cauldron. Their crystals would be the first to return, as the planetary Sailor Crystals would never be reborn again.
At the far end of the hall stood her ancestors, the first family of the Crystal Millennium: Neo-Queen Serenity the first, King Endymion, and Princess Usagi Small Lady Serenity. She smiled faintly as they turned left towards the elevator that would take them to her quarters; everyone said she bore remarkable resemblance to Neo-Queen Serenity, and she enjoyed the comparison. Neo-Queen Serenity was beautiful, strong, and resilient, and had always been her role-model. She had saved the world multiple times, and had even saved the entire Galaxy once, and it was her crystal that created this Kingdom and brought peace to Earth, unifying the planet. Her crystal allowed her direct female descendants to control it, for better or worse, and on the summer solstice of the Princess's fourteenth year, it was used to awaken the inner appearance of the Princess and declare them as next Queen.
She wasn't too nervous about tomorrow's ceremony itself; the 'awakening' part would encase her in light and reveal her ruling regalia – the dress that she would wear as Princess in official ceremonies from that point forward and as Queen when she took the throne, along with her unique crown. From the solstice on she would be able to transform into her Princess regalia whenever she wished; and in that form she could actually control the crystal to grant miracles. Her mother, Queen Serenity the Fifth, told her that it didn't hurt at all – the crystal's energy felt more like a warm embrace than anything. No, she wasn't nervous about tomorrow's ceremony – she was nervous about her acceptance in the court afterwards. Would her mother's advisors accept her, clumsy and stray-minded as she was?
They reached her chambers and she only had a few minutes to change from her school uniform to an appropriate dress for further etiquette lessons. As she stood tall for Carestia to lace up the back of her gown, all she could think about was how handy that transformation thing was going to be.
It was time. After a day of festivities, performances and shows, it was finally time to be recognized by the Legendary Silver Crystal as its next bearer. She knelt on the second star of the dais, her four guardians kneeling on either side of her, down another stair. Her mother's guardians stood watch over the gathered crowd for any sign of discontent, and her mother, the beautiful ruby-haired Queen Serenity the Fifth, stood at the top of the dais, her arms outstretched, palms up, with the Silver Crystal floating and shining inches off of her skin. In her melodious voice she told the story of the Ginzuishou, starting in the Silver Millennium, its use to send the heartbreak of the past into the future for a second chance, its awakening within a young, fourteen year old girl, Usagi, who was Princess Serenity in new form. She told of its use in the many defeats of evil, controlled by Sailor Moon and her pure heart to vanquish the Negaverse, the Black Moon Clan, Pharaoh 90, the Dead Moon Circus, and finally Galaxia. She told of how it was used to bring peace to Earth, and how it created the fair Crystal Tokyo through the love and hope of Usagi, Sailor Moon, Princess Serenity, and how she took the mantle of Neo-Queen Serenity to bring the peaceful era of the Silver Millennium into her time.
She told of the peaceful reign of the Queen, the birth of her daughter, the accomplishments made during her lifetime. She then told of the crystal's strengthening: when it was time for them to pass on to the Galaxy Cauldron, the planetary senshi of the Solar system and King Endymion pledged their Crystals to further the peace and tranquility of the era and to reinforce the goodness inherent in the Silver Crystal. Their own sailor crystals, the star seeds of the eight planets and the primary dwarf planet, rose from their bodies and, in a rainbow of colors, fused into the Silver Crystal, creating the Rainbow Silver Crystal of today. Then, as one, the heroes of Earth passed on: Neo-Queen Serenity, King Endymion, Sailor Venus, Sailor Mercury, Sailor Mars, Sailor Jupiter, Sailor Saturn, Sailor Uranus, Sailor Neptune, and Sailor Pluto; leaving the planet in the capable hands of Queen Lady Serenity, who, at her death, did the same.
She finished with the triumphs of each of her remaining ancestors, the furthered communication and alliances made by Queen Lady Serenity, the technological leaps and culture sharing by Queen Serenity the Third, the many accomplishments of Queen Serenity the Fourth; she stopped there, not mentioning her own vast achievements. Instead, "Today, I, Queen Serenity the Fifth, present to the Legendary Silver Crystal my daughter, Princess Bunny Serenity, that it might recognize her as the Future Queen of Earth."
This was her cue. She stood and held out her hands and the crystal floated to just above her grasp. Its light intensified, flowing over her in a wave of reassuring warmth. She felt feelings she herself had yet to experience – intense love, deep longing, hurt, pain, reassurance, the strength of deathless friendship, joy, and, finally, an abiding hope that seemed to overcome her. Tears rolled down her cheeks; each feeling was accompanied by memories, reminiscences that were not hers, and yet were so familiar that they had to be.
Love – she remembered his face, his deep blue eyes and dark black hair, his smile that brought butterflies to her stomach, his touch that reassured her, calmed her, and gave her strength, his kiss that made the world fall away; he had many appearances, one as a Prince, one as a tuxedoed hero, one as tall man in familiar lavender attire, and one as a normal citizen, yet the love towards him never varied.
Deep longing – she remembered missing him, needing him, she was on the Moon, she knew, looking at a screen with his face; then on Earth, crying into a pillow in her bedroom; in the timestream, staring off at the dark beyond, and finally, staring at an empty mailbox.
Hurt – his death, her suicide; his being captured, her feeling like her soul had been ripped from her; she remembered many people, senshi that Bunny recognized from statues in the hall, being stolen from her, watching them die before her own eyes and being unable to do anything; then having to fight them to save the universe;
Pain – torture, lighting, bleeding, tearing. Her whole body bruised and battered.
Reassurance – a friendly hand on her shoulder, hugs from those familiar strangers, support from that man, a black cat, everyone telling her that they believed in her, that they lived for her, she was their hope.
Deathless friendship – Long golden hair, blue eyes, forever smiling even through tears: Minako. Short blonde hair, hard blue eyes that softened at seeing her, a smile that sung of lessened loneliness: Haruka; holding her hand, medium-length aquamarine hair, steady green eyes and a delicate smile: Michiru. Short blue hair, smiling and reaching out for her, blue eyes shining with unshed tears: Ami. Short pin-straight black hair and strong, yet timid silver-purple eyes: Hotaru. Long brown hair, tied up in a ponytail, green eyes and a true smile: Makoto. Long purple-black hair with matching eyes, a smile struggling through a cascade of tears: Rei. Finally, shorter than the rest and yet just as tall, a girl with pale skin, soft pink hair and bright red eyes: Chibi-Usa.
Joy – Reuniting with the prince, reuniting with four of her friends after a terrible battle, saving a young girl from her death; Awakening in a light and shining place after a terrible burden was lifted from her shoulders as her friends surrounded her.
Abiding Hope – Knowing that universe would be safe so long as there were senshi to protect it.
When the light faded, Bunny opened her eyes and stared up at her mother, wondering why she had lied. This transformation wasn't painless! She knew those faces; they belonged to the planetary senshi, to her fore-father, King Endymion! How could she have said that this was painless, when she saw their lives, felt their love, only to know now that they were dead? What cruel game was this? Did the Rainbow Silver Crystal carry within it the soul of Neo-Queen Serenity that it might share her life, her love and burdens, with all of her descendants that they might remember for the rest of their lives where they came from?
But the look on her mother's face was not one of shared pain – the regal woman looked confused and awe-struck, taking steps backward. Had something gone wrong? Why was her mother backing away? She turned to Carestia, only to find her kneeling towards her, her hand crossing her heart. Tunis was the same way; she turned around to face the crowd only to find a sea of bowed heads. She was confused – they don't need to bow or kneel to her! She reached out as if to stop them, only to have a long staff appear in her outstretched hand; it was taller than she, made seemingly out of glass. At the top was a pink-tinted orb, lined with pearls at the bottom that sprouted wings, crowned with another orb that encased a silver six-pointed star. What was this? Her hands – both of them – wore pearl rings on every finger.
She looked down at herself and saw the fuku of a senshi, like none she had seen before. Glass high heels with more pearls and feathers; a short white dress, rather than a leotard and skirt like her guardian senshi wore, and where her guardian's fuku's skirt came in at a 'v', her fuku was knighted with a circle surrounding a golden six-pointed star, trailing two long white ribbons, pearled and winged and identical to the brooch in the center of her chest. Her collar was white with three golden stripes, her shoulder guards were golden with more pearls and feathers; she felt a choker, a beaded tiara, clips in her hair, but what made her pause was the decoration on her skirt.
Under the winged and circled golden star was the front fold of her skirt, decorated with the colors of a rainbow, each color representative of one original senshi. Clockwise, there was the icy blue of Mercury, the royal blue of Uranus, the teal of Neptune, green of Jupiter, yellow of Venus, red of Mars, pink of Earth, purple of Saturn, and garnet of Pluto. This transformation – the Rainbow Silver Crystal? She looked around hurriedly, but the crystal had disappeared within her, like it had within Usagi… within herself, in another life.
Arms embraced her from behind, folding the long cape of her fuku into her body as familiar hands held her. "It's alright, Bunny," her mother said, then stepped around to stand before her. In her mother's eyes she saw herself – the white collar with golden star, the tiara with a golden star, the pearls and feathers in her silver hair, the pearl decoration surrounded by gold that fronted her playful heart-shaped buns… and her silver eyes, streaming with tears. Her mother's hands cupped her face as she leaned in to kiss her cheek, "You're alright."