The forest around me is beautiful. I run my hand through the grass and feel the moisture on the edge of each blade; the remnants of rain.
I've felt death come to take me on several occasions. Never once did I complain about leaving the world of the living behind. I guess what frustrates me is that I'm not dead. Death would give me a reason I couldn't go back. It would be what makes me helpless. Mortality…
Why do I keep doing this too myself? Why can't I be a little selfish? Why is it always her that I seem to follow? Why is the answer to these questions so simple? It's because I can't, but why can't I? Why…
I don't know how long I've been sitting here. Time is irrelevant in a place like this. I let out a sigh and gaze at the illusion. Beneath it all, the darkness must rest unchanged. I forced her away; Serenity. Perhaps I don't hate her as much as I thought I did.
With her gone, this place has nothing to latch onto, but me. I don't harbour the hatred or regret that once lingered here. I'm just sad. There's no other way to say it. I want to remember my family and make new memories with them, but I can't. Not even Jove can reach me in a place like this. I still pray to him every now and then. I haven't given up on the one entity that always watched over me. He's watching over Jupiter. I know it.
I've come to realize that I always thought we were fighting chaos, but that's not true. On its own, chaos is harmless. It takes the form of what we desire the most. Metalia wished for tools of vengeance. I wish only to end this nightmare.
"Mako, please. Just talk to me. Don't push me away."
I know who's standing behind me. It's the same shadowed form that has been approaching me since she left. "Sapphire."
He kneels down beside me. "Let me help you."
I refuse to talk anymore, but the shadow persists. After several moments I stand and start walking aimlessly in the direction I think I should go.
"You're killing me with every step you take."
I pause. "Is this what chaos thinks I want?"
Because it isn't. What I want is far too complicated for the situation I'm in now. I'm not dead, but I wish I was. No, that's not true. If I was dead then I would have no chance of seeing them again. At least being alive means I could.
"We all have a destiny don't we, Setsuna?" I think of Pluto and wonder what it was that she was thinking when her end came.
"Yes we do."
I know the new form chaos has taken. She's probably standing just as I imagine her to be. I don't look her way and she doesn't persist.
"Why do you conceal the gateway to death's embrace? You destroyed two already, why keep the third on your person?"
I smile. "If you were Setsuna then you would know the answer to that question."
For just a moment I contemplate something that I have never thought about before now. Could chaos exist without someone to feed off of?
"Would you really do that to yourself, Makoto?" Naru.
I turn and see the one person who's fate during the Silver Millennium is still something I don't know. For the longest time I just look at her. She's wearing her formal gown. It's hardly the attire for the forest, but it's the last thing I remember seeing her in.
She smiles. "I don't think you would. It's not in your nature to give up like that."
I step towards her. "Isn't it? How do you know?"
"Because your mind says so."
I look at my hands and close my eyes. "My mind has said a lot of things. That doesn't mean I listened. If you represent chaos then you should know this. If this nightmare; if everything that threatened the galaxy could be stopped here then I wouldn't hesitate to take my own life. I have the means with me."
"We believe you." That voice.
I freeze. "Mina."
The forest disappears and I am standing in the middle of a battlefield I know all too well. It's Earth, just outside the crystal palace. When I turn I expect to see Venus on the ground looking up at Jadeite with an arrow in her back and her chain several feet to her left, but that's not what's in front of me. Instead, she sits in her chair with the biggest smile on her face.
"Lita." She says my name slowly. "There's good in this place. Can't you see it?"
I force myself to look away. "It would be easier if I didn't."
But when have I ever done things the easy way? I find myself laughing for no apparent reason. If anyone had ever said that my future would have lead me here I would have called them a liar. Jove, I need your strength more now than before.
I hear the crunch of someone walking behind me. The steps are slow at first, but their pace increases in a matter of seconds. "Hey!"
I don't recognize the voice and it doesn't bother me in the least. I take a deep breath and start walking. The scene shifts just as I knew it would.
I'm twenty-one, tired and walking with a closed umbrella in my hand. It's raining and I don't care whether or not anyone sees me. The cold is bearable and the storm that's coming feels like the remedy my body has been waiting for. It's all soothing to me.
My phone vibrates but I don't answer it; I don't want to. No one else understands what I'm feeling right now. That's all right. It would be awkward if they did.
I turn the corner and head towards a large metal gate. There are statues of angels and stone shrines lining the entrance. I take a deep breath, twirl the unused umbrella and listen as the thunder cracks above my head. It's so beautiful. I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who thinks this.
"My life is going to change soon." My voice trembles as I look to the large headstone standing with a looming shadow over names I know all too well.
Lightning flashes twice.
I close my eyes and feel the rain caress my cheeks. "Mom… Dad…I miss you. I don't know what to do. I'm sorry. I should be… smarter or something."
A heavy breeze rushes by.
I find myself on my knees staring ahead. "I just thought I'd come by and tell you that I'm still alive."
My hands start to shake.
"Crystal Tokyo is coming. I'm not sure I want it to. Everything's going to change. This will probably be the last time I see you long while." I push a strand of hair from my face. "I don't think my friends understand my hesitation. As much as I love them I don't know if I want them to get any closer."
A moment passes. I just stay where I am and listen to the rumble of my element. My phone vibrates again. I ignore it. A few seconds later I sense something; a faint presence.
"Trista?" I turn and see the senshi of time standing with a large umbrella over her head and rare look of sadness in her eyes.
"The Princess is worried about you."
I smile. "And she sent you didn't she?"
She lets out a gentle sigh. "No, that was Amara."
"I'm fine. I just… needed to see them."
She bows her head. "I know."
I push off the ground and stand, soaked, as I look up at the sky. "Is this my future, Trista? It feels like I've never really had a say."
"Our destinies were forged from the foundations of peace. None of us have really had a say."
I nod. "Can you tell me about her?"
"To whom are you referring?"
"The Princess of Jupiter."
She doesn't move for the longest time. Her eyes look as if they're searching through memories. Thunder rolls twice. A slight smile appears. Anyone that wasn't really looking would have missed it.
"She was more than a Princess." She then starts walking until she stands beside me and looks down at my parents' grave. "And I see so much of her life in yours."
"Then we really are the same person."
Pluto steps in front me with great speed. Her eyes stare directly into mine as she speaks. "That is in no way a bad thing. She was strong and stood up for her principles. She had courage and did things I didn't think anyone could. Jove chose the perfect soldier."
I break eye contact. "A soldier. Is it wrong for fighting to seem so natural?"
She puts a hand on my shoulder. "It's in your blood, Lita. I wouldn't worry about your future. You were always one who was meant to survive. This planet weeps for you because you have its respect."
"But do I deserve it?"
Pluto moves her umbrella over my head. "More than you know."
I can see the stars now. They shimmer and shine with a beauty that could only be seen from Io. The castle that stands behind me isn't real, but it feels so close to it. This was the sanctuary I would turn to when I needed the peace.
The first person I ever brought here was Shino. We were barely ten and looking for a place to explore away from a parent's eye. I loved it then and I love it now. Sapphire loved Io as well. He said he had never seen a more beautiful place. I knew he was telling the truth.
I climb the stone steps with my hands at my side. It's important I remember that this place isn't the real thing. I don't want to get lost in a memory.
The torches flicker as I continue forward past the portrait that hangs to the left of my throne. I pause and open the balcony doors. From here you can see Uranus and Neptune hovering with such vigor and strength. Both planets demand attention in the sky and I never minded giving it to them. Saturn was always partially hidden by the castle wall and Pluto… even from here you can barely see it. This image has been etched into my memory since I was little.
I take a deep breath before stepping up onto the balcony ledge. I must have jumped from it thousands of times. There was just something about falling that I loved. I pause and ready myself for the leap.
"Hey!" Frantic steps rush behind me. I turn in time to see a teenage girl panting with her hands curled into fists.
There's a strange aura about her. It's very different compared to the other forms chaos has taken. She stands in Jovian armor that looks almost identical to what I wore during the Silver Millennium. Am I staring at my younger self?
I turn away. "Just when I thought I would get some peace in this place."
"Wait." She steps forward. "You… you're the Jovian Senshi aren't you?"
I nod. "That was a long time ago."
Then she whispers one word. "Mother…"
I'm frozen in place. Sparks start dancing around my body in uncontrollable bursts. "What did you say?"
"Mother, it's me. It's Anastasia."
I shake my head. "No… that's not… no."
She takes another step forward. "We found you. By Jove, father never stopped trying. We have been-"
"Don't move." Clouds start to form over our heads. "You're not my daughter."
She raises her hands in defense. "Mother-"
"Stop calling me that! You're too old to be Anna."
Several seconds pass before she tries inching closer. "You've been in here for a really long time. Please, let me show you."
She closes her eyes and summons electricity to her fingertips. My heart is pounding faster than it has in a while. It's like I'm getting ready for a battle. I watch as the sparks dance and twirl at her command. Despite this, I don't feel any of Jove's power. But then again I haven't been able to feel Jove at all. Before I know it there are tears forming in my eyes. Her lightning is black.
I step down. "How old are you?"
She smiles. "Dad says I'm about sixteen in ancent Earth years."
I don't move for the longest time. As she comes closer I see the unmistakable hilts of the Blades of Jove strapped to her back. She takes my hand then pulls me into a hug. Her hold is tight and I don't know if I should be returning the embrace.
"I'm going to take you home, ok?"
I don't say anything. It seems too good to be true. My gut is telling me to step away. When she finally let's me go I see the hope in her eyes. Maybe, just this once, my instincts are wrong.