A/N: Hoping to shock you with this one! Enjoy.
Rubeus just kept looking at me for a moment as the word echoed through the room, and I could almost see the second when it dawned on him that I wasn't the one who had spoken. He pulled back slightly and looked over at Chibi-Chibi, though he didn't let go of me. I'd pushed her away when Rubeus got close enough to grab me, and I'd been hoping that she would run and find some place to hide amongst the debris that now littered the room. I should have known better than that. She was standing about two feet away from us, her little hands clenched into fists, and staring straight at him.
"Are you speaking to me?" Rubeus said finally, and he looked so amused that I really wished I could kick him.
"You will not destroy the Earth," Chibi-Chibi said. Her voice may have sounded young, but there was such a ring of authority in it that it sent shivers down my spine. I had only ever heard her sound like that once before, and that was right after Chaos tried to steal my starseed and Chibi-Chibi had appeared to me to ask that I take her sword and kill him.
"And you think you're going to stop me?" He tilted his head up with a smirk, and then he made a mistake. I didn't know he was going to do it, but as soon as he did I knew that was what Chibi-Chibi had been waiting and hoping for. He let go of my chin and pushed away from me, putting just enough distance between us so that I could move. Chibi-Chibi glanced at me out of the corner of her eye, just quick, and I nodded.
I hadn't yet had the opportunity to use the staff that Helios, Fighter, Maker, and Healer had helped me to create. It was always there, a low hum in the back of my mind for whenever I might need it, but the moment had never been right. Now it was. I threw my hand out to the side as I staggered to my feet, summoning it in a flash of white light. Rubeus started to spin back around to face me, but he was too late. "Silver Moon Crystal Power Kiss!" I yelled, throwing everything that I could come up with into the attack.
Rubeus wasn't expecting it and I hit him dead on. I felt a surge of vicious pleasure as he was blasted off of his feet and into the wall on the far side of the room, and I kept it up until his body flickered and then vanished.
Only then did I allow myself to stop the flow of magic. Without it, I realized that I didn't have the strength to stay standing. I slumped slowly to my knees, breathing heavily, and put my staff down because it weighed too much for me to keep holding it right then. My arm had been numb from where I'd hit the wall, but a couple of times enough pain got through that I knew I'd probably broken something. I'd been able to ignore it while casting my attack because the magic dulled the pain, but now it was aching fiercely.
"Are you okay?" Chibi-Chibi asked as she ran towards me.
"Yeah, I'm fine," I said, though I probably didn't look like I was okay. I was amassing bruises and broken bones and burns at an alarming rate. I looked around the room, realizing that I wasn't the only thing that wasn't in great shape. Rubeus's bombs had definitely left their mark, including a few holes in the floors. I got to my feet. I had no idea where Rubeus was, but I knew that my attack had not been strong enough to kill him. He'd just teleported away and we had to move before he came back. "Come on, Chibi-Chibi."
I gave Chibi-Chibi my staff to carry and then picked her up, because I knew she wouldn't be able to keep up with me on foot. She was just too small. I walked over to the nearest hole and peered through. The next floor down was about twenty feet below. It would've been too far for anyone else, but fortunately I happened to have wings that would make that drop a lot more feasible. I sat down on the edge of the hole and spread my wings before I pushed off. We hit the ground below a little harder than I'd been hoping for, but it wasn't too bad.
We were left standing in the middle of a corridor, though it was a different one from before. I didn't know whether it would be better to go left or right. Both ways looked exactly the same. "What do you think? Which way should we go?" I asked.
"How about this way?" That was the only warning I got before Rubeus's arm wrapped around my neck and yanked me backwards. I screamed and dropped Chibi-Chibi. My staff vanished before it could hit the ground, but poor Chibi-Chibi wasn't so lucky. I heard the thud and then the sound of her beginning to cry, only I couldn't do anything about it. I was tugging at the arm around my throat but Rubeus was just too strong. It was like trying to push a car up a hill, useless. I gave up on trying to get him to loosen his grip and started jabbing at him with my elbow, aiming for his belly or groin. Rubeus just chuckled in my ear and tightened his grip until I had no choice but to go limp because I couldn't breathe.
"How does it feel, Sailor Moon?" he hissed in my ear. "To know that you are so close to death, and that you have only yourself to blame?" He lessened his grip just a little, giving me a split second to gasp for air, before he tightened it again. It was a cruel and frustrating game. He might have done it forever, but all of a sudden he stiffened and let go just enough that I could breathe unhindered.
For a moment, I thought for sure that I was hallucinating from a lack of air. I forced my eyes to open and realized that no, what I'd heard was real. Sailor Star Fighter was standing about twenty feet away from us, and even more surprising than that was the fact that Petz was at her side. I couldn't say anything in response, but I knew that my relief at Fighter's presence was more than conveyed on my face. She looked pissed, for one thing, and I knew that Rubeus was in for a world of pain as soon as he stopped using me as a shield. He must have realized that, because he took a step backwards and twisted until my body was fully in between him and Fighter.
"Don't come any closer," he said, his hot breath gusting over my ear, "or I'll snap her neck."
"Rubeus, stop this," Petz said, spreading her hands to prove that she wasn't any danger to him. "You must know that you won't be able to win this way. Let Sailor Moon go and leave. Don't ever come back."
There was no way Rubeus was leaving this ship alive. I wasn't sure if Petz was aware of that or not. It didn't matter anyway, because Rubeus certainly didn't believe her. "Why should I believe you? You've never been anything but a disappointment, Petz. You left me for Sailor Moon before, and now that I've given you a second chance I find that you're still trying to side with her!"
"No, I'm not," she replied, just a shade too slowly to be convincing. "Rubeus, please."
"Enough!" he roared, so loudly that I flinched. I felt his other hand coming up around my waist, and then the world sort of twisted and turned and there was so much pressure coming down on me from all sides that I really couldn't breathe. It only lasted for a second, though, and then Rubeus let me go. It was so sudden that my legs wouldn't hold me up and I fell to the floor, gasping for air. I couldn't help tensing up, expecting an attack at any moment, but the seconds kept ticking by and nothing happened.
At last, I found the strength to lift my head. We were in a very small room with more of those crystal spires all around us. These ones were very dark in color, and each one pointed up towards the ceiling where there was a huge, dark red ruby. It was in the same shape as the earrings Rubeus wore, and it was crackling with bright red flashes of light. The presence of evil coming off of it was enough to make me feel ill, but there was no way to get away from it. The room was about twice the size of my bedroom, and even when I stood up shakily and leaned against the wall I could see Rubeus on the other side without any problems. It only took one swift look around to confirm that there was no exit. I was trapped with him unless I had the time to make my own through the walls or floor.
"Your whole plan is falling apart around you," I said. My words came out as a broken wheeze, and my throat hurt so much when I spoke that tears came to my eyes. Between Rubeus and Koan, I was certain that my neck had to be one huge bruise. "You can't possibly think that you're going to win, Rubeus. You're all alone, and you're not strong enough to defeat us all by yourself. You would have already if you could."
"Proud words considering that you also lack the power to defeat me," Rubeus said with a smirk. "But unlike you, Sailor Moon, I have untapped resources." He raised his hands towards the ceiling, and I noticed that the flashes of light around the ruby in the ceiling started to get even brighter. "The closer I am to my power source, the stronger I become. You, on the other hand... You look very tired, little princess, and your original attack wasn't able to do anything more than singe me. What makes you think you'll be able to do anything more now, when you're exhausted and beaten?"
"I am not beaten," I said immediately, because if there was one thing I would never allow myself to do it was give up. The memory of the last time I had tried to accept defeat still haunted me, and the determined words that the Starlights had said that day stayed with me. As long as I did not give up my friends were still with me, and I knew what they would want me to do. I raised my hand and put it over my locket, feeling the warm power that stirred under even that simple touch. I called to it and felt it flare in response. The top of my brooch vanished, revealing the ginzuishou underneath. The sweet shining light was a comfort. "And I will never give up, Rubeus. Even if I have to die to stop you."
"That won't be necessary," a voice said, right before a golden light shot across the room and straight into the ruby above us. The effect was immediate: Rubeus crumbled to his knees with a strangled scream, one hand clutching at his heart. At first I thought Fighter had followed us, but then a spray of familiar white feathers flooded the room. Several of them came close enough to caress me, and where they touched me - even though some of the damage remained - I no longer hurt.
"Pegasus!" I said, hardly daring to believe that he would have shown up right when I needed him the most. I couldn't even begin to convey how relieved I was as I spun around to face him. What I saw stopped me in my tracks. I stared, wondering if I was seeing things, and this time my voice was broken for a completely different reason when I whispered, "Chibi-Usa?"