They met with South, North, and Helios and paused, waiting in the shadow of a building, a shadow cast by the immense glow emanating from the top of Tokyo Tower. They were caught up in moments; Venus was indeed there, but other than creating a spectacular light show with or without the city's electricity, she was idle. "She's waiting for you," Beryl affirmed, hovering beside East King, returning from surveillance. She looked at Mamoru, "You don't have to go! She's ready and she's confident – I don't think fighting her at this time is the right move; we should wait for her to be a little less prepared!"
"And do what in the meantime?" Mamoru asked skeptically, "Hope she doesn't try draining everyone's energy and feeding it to their Queen?" he looked around at the rest of them and continued, though in their expressions he could clearly see they were with him. "When have we ever caught a senshi off guard? They are the attackers, we are the defenders, and like it or not we're fighting on her terms no matter when we face her." He glanced around the building and glanced up at the bright yellow glow emanating from the tower; he couldn't look at it straight on – it was too bright – but he could take a guess at how high it was. Part of him wondered if she were actually on the tower or was somehow floating above it; the possibility that she could fly had discouraged him, but looking up now he was fairly certain that she was on the structure. They just needed to find a way to climb up there without her knowing.
He ducked back behind the building before she could spot him and waited for his eyes to adjust again; Beryl's eyes adjusted automatically and he wished their masks did the same to filter out the excess light Venus emitted. For a moment he eyed Helios and paused, wondering if the Pegasus could fly with one of them on his back… they could fight Venus or distract her using Helios's three dimensional movement… but it would be putting Helios in undue danger. They didn't know what Venus's attacks were like, and if they were ranged they might be creating more of a sitting duck situation than a distraction. Maybe surrounding her would work better; if they could come from all four sides of the tower… jump as one, weapons drawn and ready… could they surprise her?
"Listen," he started, calling their attention, "I think surprising her is our only chance. Helios, you stay here with Midori; if anything happens, get him out of here." Helios nodded, his red eyes turning to Midori and East. Midori didn't look like he quite enjoyed this plan, but he would just have to deal with that; he had put himself in enough danger that night by running around alone with the decoy Prince. "Everyone else, let's take a side of the tower and jump as one – she wouldn't expect an attack from all sides at once, and if our weapons are drawn and attacks ready, we might be able to get her off her guard long enough to… well, to take care of her." He was still uncomfortable with what they were actually doing; he didn't like to admit aloud that they were killing these girls. Enemies or not, death was not something he enjoyed having on his conscience.
"Great plan and all," Midori commented, "But I think I should go with you." He put up a hand before Mamoru or anyone else could object. "Listen, she knows there are five of us, and as you so eloquently pointed out earlier, she thinks East is the Prince. Now don't you think she'd find it suspicious if only four of us went into battle, and one of those four was the Prince you've been sworn to protect? I think she'd connect the dots and make him for a decoy, then quit the scene and come right after us. If, however, I went with you, she'd still think West was the Prince and was just a stubborn ass about being protected."
"Like you are so intent on being?" Moegi stated.
Midori shrugged, "Yeah."
North sighed, looking generally unhappy as he sided with Midori, "I hate to say it, but that's the best option we've got."
Mamoru folded, knowing that if Hanada backed it, it really was their best option. "Fine. Stay with West –" he directed, but was interrupted by Kobai.
"I think he should stay with you, instead." West offered. "As you were so keen on pointing out earlier, if I'm the false Prince, the real Prince shouldn't be anywhere near me. With your sword you'd be best able to keep a good defense on him. Besides," he added, "you are his primary protector."
"Okay, okay," Mamoru granted, turning to Midori, "Stay close. If things get dicey fall back, got it?"
Midori smiled, "Sure."
His cockiness would get them all killed. They decided to take the side associated with their title; representing the West, Mamoru and Midori stayed where they were as the other slunk away, Moegi to the right, Kobai and Hanada to the left. They waited for the signal, Mamoru running over any possible situation he could think of and whispering to Midori what he needed to do if any one of the imagined scenarios took place, from which way he should dodge to how he would drop and fall. For once Midori seemed to be paying attention; but it could partly be due to Helios's presence near them. Beryl had returned to aerial surveillance, the only good thing he could think of when from out of the corner of his eye he saw Jewel Tiara rushing towards them. He tried to signal her away, tried to motion her to stay back and out of sight, but she shook her head and joined them, the gems in her belt glowing brightly in the shadow in their building.
"You shouldn't be here!" Mamoru declared, taking her arms gently to keep her in place, trying to convey the seriousness of this situation to her. His hands thrilled at the touch of her skin, but the fear he felt for her completely overpowered any joy he might have felt with such a touch before. This enemy was unusual; the others were different – Mars and Mercury had been running energy stealing operations when they fought them. Jupiter had fought them out of revenge for Mars, or so they believed, but Venus? Venus sought them out. Venus was prepared for them, so prepared that she was casually waiting for them to arrive to fight her. Mercury had almost killed Hanada; Venus… Venus was their leader, stronger than the others; she might succeed. This could be their last battle together, and he didn't was Usagi to risk her life in this!
"I told you before!" Usagi declared, her veil twitching over her mouth as her voice matched his for urgency and righteousness. Her eyebrows unknitted themselves, her expression softening as she continued, "I want to help you."
"You're Jewel Tiara," Midori stated.
She stood back and nodded to him, pulling out of Mamoru's grasp. "Listen," Mamoru tried again, pulling at her attention and reaching for her. She evaded his grasp but looked at him guardedly. "Listen, I'll get the gem for you. I'll keep it safe and give it to you when the battle is over, just, please, stay back."
"I'm in place," West said, his voice coming in over the communicator watches.
"Ready," South and North said together.
"What's going on?" Jewel Tiara asked, her eyes leaving him to find Midori.
"We're surrounding her; we're going to catch her off guard—" Midori stupidly answered.
"We've got her – go home, it's too dangerous!" Mamoru pleaded, hearing the weakness in his voice and not caring. He couldn't risk her.
"You'll need a distraction." The words were out of her mouth and before his mind could wrap around what she had said, she stepped forward, ripping the veil from her face, and kissed him. The kiss was brief and hurried, but the feeling of her lips on his was warm and soft and sweet, eliciting a feeling that was both wonderful and frightening to him; frightening only because it felt like a goodbye. He couldn't react fast enough; just as he realized what she was about to do she was gone, running out into the bright glow and pulling off her tiara, aiming for the bright light at the top of the tower.
"WAIT! USAKO!" Mamoru cried after her, dashing out from behind the building to follow.
"NOW! GO NOW!" he heard Midori yelling from behind him, and while he knew he should tell them to stop, that there was a new plan, that going now would be ineffective, all he could concentrate on was the retreating figure ahead of him, her black boots striking the pavement in time with the pounding of his heart. As the spinning golden circlet left her hand and flew upwards, he leaped toward her, feeling the cape form at his shoulders to propel him forward. He collided with her just in time, throwing them both forward as a laser of yellow light streaked through the air and burned a hole in the rooftop behind them. Cradling her as they fell, he managed to put his shoulder down first to break her fall, then rolled over to deposit her on the ground and jump back to his feet, summoning his Rose Sword just as the beautiful warrior Venus descended upon them.
He braced himself as she met his sword with a golden chain pulled tight between her gloved fists, her gaze murderous and her mouth in a tight frown as she bore down upon him, blonde hair cascading over her shoulder as the force of her blow made his feet slide backwards. He was terrified; as tight as they were, he knew she was just toying with him. If she wanted, another of her laser attacks could kill him easily, and then Usagi would be alone.
"Usagi-chan!" Midori's voice called, "Over here, stay behind me! He can't attack if you're there!"
Stupid-ass Midori! Mamoru cursed, hearing Jewel Tiara pick herself up off the ground and hesitate a moment before running to Midori's side. Now the two people he needed and wanted to protect were in one convenient location – his Prince and his dumpling head, standing together like ducks at a shooting range. Midori's stone knuckles would do nothing against Venus's –
Venus suddenly threw more force into her chain, breaking their stalemate. His sword fell to one side, his left hand keeping hold of it and his right going up in a defensive gesture, summoning another rose, but Venus's advance stopped there. She stood before him, her gaze turned on the two important people, one hand firmly on her hip, the other held the chain of golden hearts in a fist. "Is your love so fickle, Prince?" she asked, her voice a dangerous threat just above a whisper. Mamoru prepared to stop her advance on Midori, but then her icy blue eyes slid over to stare squarely at him.
He met her gaze with confusion – with all the safeguards they had in place with West King, and with the real Prince in front of her, she had somehow gotten the notion that he was the Prince. At first he decided to take the assumption and run with it, to protect Midori with the ruse until the others could join and make it a fair fight, but then her empty hand raised, a single finger pointing towards Usagi. "I should kill you," Venus declared, her eyes bearing into his. "For what you have done, you do not deserve a second life," her voice caught in the sentence, choking as if with emotion before she carried on with a stronger voice, "but we need the Golden Crystal and only you know where it is. So here is the deal, Prince: the crystal for her life."
His sword fell an inch, his entire body weakening as his heart slowed to a crawl, falling to the pit of his stomach as his body chilled over with fear. What should he do…? She couldn't have the Golden Crystal – it would spell doom for the world… and he didn't have it, anyway. But he couldn't say that he didn't have it, or else she would know he wasn't the real Prince and she could turn on Midori. Maybe he could stall her? "It's not here," he said, but had to repeat, his voice dry and cracking. He wet his lips and cleared his throat before trying again, "It's not here. I don't keep it with me. If you give me time I can go get it and return."
She smirked, "You fool no one, Prince Endymion." A light burned at the end of her finger, the threat obvious, "This is your last chance. The Golden Crystal for her life." She waited for him, but he had run out of ideas. He glanced over to them, to Midori and Usagi, and could barely breathe. He didn't know what to do. "Don't make me kill her," Venus prompted, the glow at her fingertips intensifying.
Suddenly she phased away as a flaming knife shot through the air where she had been. Moegi. Relief went through him like a shockwave; he dropped his sword as he fell to his knees, his mind reeling from the close escape. It was completely dark then, the electricity still off and the glow of Sailor Venus disappeared, but as the moonlight gave him sight, he yelled a warning, "USAKO!" for in the moonlight he saw her, floating ethereally with one finger extended, pointing at Jewel Tiara. As his yell echoed across the rooftop she let loose a beam of light that tore through the sky towards the slight figure in the little white dress…
But instead hit a King.
Midori moved quickly, stepping in front of the laser to block Usagi from the blow. It tore through him and knocked him back; he fell on Usagi and hit the ground hard, the movement of his body telling Mamoru that he was already unconscious. Mamoru launched forward, throwing himself towards his downed friend, already calling his healing powers and praying that they would be of some use. Usagi was holding him as best she could, tears streaming down her face, her gloved hands both holding him and attempting to apply pressure to the one-inch-diameter hole in Midori's chest. "You idiot!" Mamoru yelled, putting his hands beneath Usagi's, "You stupid moron!" he yelled again, "Wake up!" He threw his power at into the wound, yelling at his downed friend so he wouldn't so acutely feel the terrifyingly weak heartbeat beneath his palms. "Wake up, idiot! You can't die!"
Usagi was crying harder now, "Please, don't die," she whispered, "Please, Midori-kun!"
The idiot! He knew he was important – he knew that he couldn't die! But he did it anyway, just to save someone – why was he like that?! Why did he have to be like that?! "You idiot," he repeated. Power surged from him, pouring into Midori, but already he knew he didn't have enough to save him. He needed more power – he had to have more power! He gave all he could, forcing the healing energy in, making it knit the wound close, to mend arteries and veins, regrow muscle and bone. He was growing lightheaded, feeling the pulsing of his heart in his skull and the rushing of blood of his ears, but he needed more! He couldn't let this happen!
The burning sensation started in his chest as a comfortable warmth that spread through his torso and down his arms to this hands, giving him the much-desired power he needed. More power, and more, flooding through him, radiating outward. In his sight his hands glowed brightly, shining golden, a warmer hue than the yellow Venus had expelled, a glow that comforted him and made him feel invincible. Suddenly healing Midori wasn't impossible, suddenly it seemed within his grasp. With this power under his guidance, he could do it. Gentler now, the energy flowed through him steadily, and soon Midori was breathing strongly, his skin healed beneath Mamoru's fingers. His eyes flew open, blinking rapidly as they spun around, looking at everything around him.
"I'm alive?" Midori asked with disbelief, coughing.
Usagi laughed, her laughter nervous and filled with relief.
"Yeah, no thanks to…" Mamoru trailed off, his attention transferring quickly from the recovered Midori to his own still-glowing hands, "you." The glow wasn't fading; if anything it was intensifying, spreading up his hands and arms, changing the color of his jacket as it moved, pulling power from him rather than supplying him with energy. ''Not again'? What had he meant with that thought?' His body filled with pins and needles and his heart started to burn uncomfortably; 'That extra burst of power…' he wondered, gritting his teeth as the fiery sensation grew to encompass nearly all of him, 'was it an exchange? My life for his?' His head was so hot; pressure building unbearably in his mind. He put his hands to the side of his head, pressing it together, trying to keep a hold on himself. He took deep breaths, trying to take in cool air and expel some of the heat. Figures moved ahead of him, but it took a lot of concentration to make them out, even knowing that they should be Midori and Usagi; Midori's image kept fading in and out, yet stayed generally the same; it was disorienting, confusing – first he was there in his King uniform, grey-blue and lined in orange, and then he wore something similar, familiar yet entirely different, the blue-grey jacket now a white coat decorated with golden thread. In either vision, Midori was clearly upset, yelling something and reaching towards him. Despite the pain and the overwhelming feeling of pressure that bore down on him, Mamoru still knew that if that were the case, if he had sacrificed himself to save Nephrite, he didn't regret it.
The pain intensified, something Mamoru didn't think was possible until it happened. 'Nephrite?' He doubled over, his elbows touching his bent knees, 'Where did that name come from?!' Looking up he saw him again and the name stayed – Midori? The word was quickly losing its meaning. The person in front of him was Nephrite, King of the West*, one of his guardians. And he… he was…
Endymion. Prince of Earth.
The pressure and heat burst forth from him, expanding until it felt as though his chest were being torn open. Floating before him, shining with the light of the sun, was the Golden Crystal. As he watched it slowly spin pieces suddenly fell into place, memories returning hazily: a white castle crested in gold, gardens filled with roses, a country, green and overflowing with life, passing him by as he rode over hills and through cities bustling with people, flanked on either side by his Heavenly Kings. Zoisite of the North, Jadeite from the South, Kunzite from the West and Nephrite from the East, friends and guardians who had been with him since childhood, prominent figures in his life, men he trusted for their thoughts as much as with his life. … and his secrets. Rushing back with the bright days came the soft nights, with moonlight on petals and bouncing off of soft silver curls… his heart constricted to a single point as one word came to mind, one desperate word: Serenity.
His eyes shot open and the golden glow faded completely as his hands shot out to the concrete on either side of him, pressing palms to the surface and sending out an echo of power. His energy shot through the steel of the building, bouncing through to the ground and beyond, traveling along and through the surface looking for the familiar feel of her soul. Already, recognized pinpricks of power were located, all within his immediate area: the light green glow of Nephrite, darker green of Jadeite, deep blue of Zoisite, soft pink of Kunzite, the yellow shine of her guardian, Sailor Venus, and the muted glows of Mercury, Jupiter and Mars… but there was nothing else. He shot out another pulse, and another, feeling, looking for the moonlit silver shine of her, but there was nothing. His fingers curled into his fist, skin tearing and healing as his head fell, eyes staring blankly at his black pants and the deadened crystal resting in his lap. Nothing. His vision blurred as tears fell, reality setting in.
He had failed.
Serenity had not been saved.
There was a flash of light before him as Venus renewed her attack and Kunzite slid in to meet her, his voice carrying commands to the other Kings as he kept her at bay. Endymion was hauled to his feet, the crystal thrust into his hands as they pulled him towards the edge of the building, Zoisite speaking quickly to the other two as they went. They reached the darkened area and Helios met them in his full form, charging forward and pausing long enough for Endymion to mount. There was a huge commotion, voices shouting and Helios taking off in a flurry of feathers and wings as energy attacks shot through the air. Endymion turned, knowing something was wrong, and a split-second before he and Helios vanished, transporting away to safety, a scream of pain and defiance ripped from his chest.
Sailor Venus had Usagi.