The ground shuddered below her feet, knocking one of her partners to the ground violently. She braced herself, digging her stiletto heels into the dirt path and flinging her hands out to counterbalance the sudden turbulence. Cherry blossoms flew fiercely through the air on the back of a strong burst of wind; it was as though Kinmoku itself were shuddering. As soon as the ground quieted she stooped to give her hand to her prone companion and helped her to her feet, her answering expression grateful but unsure, as if frightened.
"What's going on?" their third demanded, looking around apprehensively.
Screams tore through the air and the three of them rushed off without hesitation, darting through trees and over decorative streams before bursting out onto the street. With three good hops they were airborne, running atop the low-lying roofs in perfect formation towards the cacophony of sound. Jumping from roof to roof, they finally located the source of the havoc: in the center of town, screaming and laughing, were two foreign senshi. She had never seen them before, nor had she heard of senshi with such different fuku designs working as a team. One had streaming blue hair and powder-blue one-piece outfit overcome with ribbons; the other had gigantic butterfly wings. They threw attacks left and right, each preceded by the words "Galactica!"
"Come out, come out, wherever you are!" the blue-senshi cried, shooting attacks at random citizens. Without needing to discuss tactics, the more aggressive of their trio jumped in its path, deflecting it from the helpless. She landed some feet away, and the final of their trio stood guard over the escape root for the citizens of the capital. She took a fighting pose, readying a defense. "Ah, there you are, senshi!" the attacker hissed, throwing another attack their way.
"Who are you?" her dark-haired friend demanded, "What are you doing? We are senshi!"
Her statement was a defense, a demand for a ceasefire; they were on the same team! Why were they doing this? But rather than stand down, the pair of foreigners readied other attacks. "Precisely!" the purple one cried, throwing an attack at her. She sprung out of the way just in time, the attacks searing the building behind her. What was going on? Senshi attacking senshi – this had never happened before! Kinmoku was not involved with inter-system disputes! They were in a time of peace! She set her mouth in a hard scowl, catching a glimpse of more destruction behind the attacking pair. This was not the role of a senshi; this was not how a senshi's powers were to be utilized!
The fight was brutal; just when they thought they were on the upside, the pair received reinforcements: two other sailor-fukued 'heroines', with no two outfits alike. "She's nearly there," she heard a small, mousy one whisper to the tall blue fighter, and her blood ran cold as the possible meaning seeped through her.
"Kakyuu," she breathed, whipping around to view the palace in the distance. Eerily, a burst of golden yellow light shone up on the exterior walls, and her insides exploded in panic. She caught the green eyes of one partner, desperately trying to convey her message without being overt about the discovery. Their princess was in danger. This was only a decoy!
An energy attack laced with water flew towards her and she barely dodged, but managed to maneuver herself towards the palace. With a glance she spied another explosion, and she could take it no longer, "THE PRINCESS!" she cried to alert their third. Her heart constricting with pain and worry, she turned and started to run, going as fast as her long legs could move. The adrenaline carried her faster and faster, her partners somewhere behind her, along with the team of renegade senshi, but so long as one of them were there, just one… their prince and princess might stand a chance!
A powerful blow knocked her to the ground, "Where do you think you're going, ponytail?" an attacker jeered sinisterly, but she had no time for this!
She turned over onto her back, still searing with pain, and directed an attack, "Gentle Uterus!" Despite the name, her attack was in no way 'gentle', and sent her attacker flying. She pushed herself to her feet and ran on, ignoring the burn, or, rather, taking energy from it. In seconds her allies were beside her, the three of them converging on the gates.
"Serious Laser!" her dear friend turned on her toes and threw the attack behind them to knock the remaining attackers away. They were so close now! They broke through the courtyard and her heart broke at the sight of the palace doors blown open, the guards lying in pieces in the koi ponds and the low-lying trees. "Princess!" the lamenting cry tore from her raven-haired companion's throat, the sound a verbalization of what they all felt.
A heart-wrenching scream, the voice and pitch unbearably familiar, tore their world to pieces and they launched themselves to the second story using all of their strength… only to see a hallway with a solitary prone figure. She threw herself forward, sliding on her knees over to the body, but it wasn't whom she expected. She turned the body over, only to have the remains of the Prince turn to dust in her arms. Her breath caught in her throat for his loss, but she had little time to mourn.
"There!" her platinum blonde friend cried, her voice breaking as she pointed straight upward. She looked up to see a rough-hewn hole in the ceiling that extended through the roof, and, far above them, she spied a cloud trail that pushed its way through the thick, rolling clouds that were surrounding them overhead. Their princess had survived, and had escaped. She felt at once glad and guilty, for not having been there to help fight whatever fiend had caused this.
She stood and summoned her wings – they all did, preparing to follow their princess wherever she led them, but before taking off her eyes caught on a small object just beside the prince's remains: a card. She ducked to take it, hoping it would be a clue, and launched herself skyward after her sisters. A feathery hurricane of wind shot up beside her, nearly knocking her off course, and she glared downward to see the renegade senshi had arrived in the palace.
"Go ahead!" the black-clad woman cried with a malicious smile, "You can run, you can hide, but Galaxia will always find you!"
She had no time to waste with such fools! She spurred her wings faster, harder, the three of them breaking through the thickening clouds, the thick atmosphere, and finally escaping the gravitational hold of Kinmoku, shooting in a straight line hopefully in the direction their Princess had travelled.
But before they had gotten far, their blonde froze and clutched her chest. They doubled back, "What's wrong?" her blue-eyed companion asked hurriedly, "We cannot wait! We have to find h—" but then she, too, doubled over in pain, her gloved hands holding onto the winged star at her chest. That both of them were harmed – she turned back to Kinmoku and her fears were realized.
Farther away from them, in points of space where their two planets should have been, was now a field of debris. In panicked fear her eyes shot to her planet only to see it explode violently, shattering like a fragile glass bulb into the darkness of space. As it blew apart, so, too, did her heart. She screamed and clutched at her chest, her star seed crying out in pain and loneliness as its companion was torn away. It felt like the pain would never end, like she would die right there, a failure in every sense of a senshi could fail. They had failed to protect their Princess, failed to follow their Princess wherever she may lead, and failed to protect their power planets, and, squinting through the pain back at their homeworld of Kinmoku, they had failed to protect their home. Just like that, Kinmoku, too, was gone. Utterly destroyed. And somewhere, out there, their Princess was suffering through this immense pain all alone.
Tears streamed down her face and she hugged herself tight, trying to lessen the pain in her soul, her eyes closed against the weight of their failure, the loss of everything they held dear. Fiercely a hand pulled her close and she came back to herself in an instant. They hadn't lost everything. Not yet. Not so long as they had each other. Her eyes open, she hugged her two allies tightly, forming a ring of mutual loss and strength. Through the space between their heads, one light, one dark, she saw streaks of light that would indicate the departure of those betrayers, those followers of Galaxia.
"We have to find her first," she breathed with determination. Green eyes and blue opened to stare back at her with shared resolve.
"We will find her, and we will keep her safe. We will not fail again!" Her black-haired sister declared heatedly.
They broke apart, and she took in the changes to their uniforms. The colors had faded from all but the belts across their waists, the chokers at their necks, and the bands on their arms; everything else had faded to black. "A sign of our failure as senshi," the blonde, her lips trembling, attempted a smile, "Black; the color we deserve. The color of mourning." Her soft green eyes threatened tears, but both she and their partner each took one of her hands.
"We will use it to our advantage to find our Princess," she vowed, squeezing her friend's hand, "The black will hide us from our enemies as we search for her; we will blend into the background of space, as invisible as the wind."
"Like shooting stars," the other said with strength, "We three will be shooting stars, travelling like comets from system to system, just Three Lights, Three StarLights, and we will find her and protect her from this evil that plagues the cosmos! I will forever Fight for her!" She let go of our hands and struck a pose, the pose she took when she finished transforming, "From now on, without a planet to pull power from, I take a new name! I am SAILOR STAR FIGHTER!"
The blonde sniffed once, dropped her hand, and her face hardened. "I will spend my life working to Heal the pain and the wrongs we have caused. I will be SAILOR STAR HEALER!"
They were so strong, so dependable. At that moment, she believed with all her heart that they would find the Princess that they loved so dearly, and they would keep her safe. What would her name be? Her rebirth was in her hands, they took what was given and were making a new life for themselves… "And I will forge the path that we follow," she vowed, pulling out the last card their princess had left for them, the only clue they had to her whereabouts. "I am SAILOR STAR MAKER."
Yelling out her name seemed to release some of the pent up feelings of despair and defeat, and so she yelled it again, "SAILOR STAR FIGHTER!"
"SAILOR STAR FIGHTER!"
"SAILOR STAR HEALER!"
"SAILOR STAR LIGHTS!" she cried, and cried again, and again, until all three of them were yelling in defiance of the fate they had been dealt, defiance of the odds stacked against them, and, perhaps most of all, defiance of the woman who had taken their lives away from them. When finally they were drained of as much of the heavy burden as she believed they could be, they stopped and caught their breath, looking upon each other proudly. "WE WILL FIND OUR PRINCESS!" she cried, "WE WILL TRIUMPH OVER YOU! And this," she paused, holding out the card for her sisters to see, "Will be our guiding light!"
The card she held before her, like the cards they could create, was no ordinary playing card, but a card of destiny. Blazoned upon its surface was a senshi outlined in silver light, shining with some inner strength and power that filled her with a sense of tranquility. Her eyes were closed in peace, her lips tugged into a quiet smile, and her long blonde hair, pulled up into pigtail buns, swam about her elegantly. In the middle of her forehead shone a golden upward-facing crescent. Below, etched in the elegant script of their beloved princess, were the words 'Legendary Senshi of Light; Hope of the Cosmos'
"Who is that?" Sailor Star Healer asked.
"I don't know," I replied, "but, whoever she is, our Princess believes that she is our only hope. If we find this girl, we might find our princess."
"We will find our princess," Sailor Star Fighter amended, snapping her fingers, "I know it. We will search every planet from here to the end of space itself until we find her! The more information we can pick up about these senshi betrayers, the better. And once we find this girl, we will find our Princess, and once we find our Princess, we can find somewhere safe for her, somewhere where no harm will come to her ever again!"
They all agreed. Sailor Star Healer took a breath and summoned a destiny card. The rectangle faded into existence, and on its face was a constellation of stars. They found them, and set off, flying so fast that their passing appeared as nothing more than the path of shooting stars.