A/N: We're getting really close to the end here, just as a heads up. Also, there is character death in this chapter so read with caution.
Teleporting with Petz felt exactly the same as teleporting with Rubeus had. It left me feeling sick to my stomach and resolving to never do that again unless it was absolutely necessary. It worked, though. Petz and I arrived first, flickering back in the room that Pegasus and Chibi Moon had first found me. The shard of the dark crystal was pulsing with bright red light, staining the walls an ugly color that looked a little like blood. I noticed that Petz flinched when she caught sight of it, and I knew she knew what it meant.
"You haven't seen Doom Phantom around, have you?" I whispered.
"No." Petz shook her head quickly and averted her eyes from the crystal. Her face had gone very pale. "I don't think that he's around. If he is, Rubeus didn't mention him."
That didn't exactly fill me with confidence, but I had no more time to ask her questions. The others were popping into the room now, and then Pegasus appeared with Chibi Moon and Chibi-Chibi on his back. I walked over to the dark crystal and stood underneath it. The amount of power radiating from it was amazing. It was truly no wonder that Rubeus was so much stronger now. Last time, he'd been limited as to how much power and energy he got from the stupid thing. But this time, there was no one to stop him from absorbing it all. How much of himself had he fed into that crystal over the years?
I tilted my head back and looked up at it. I remembered my last encounter with the dark crystal. I remembered holding Prince Demande in my arms as he died a slow, painful death after the encounter with the Doom Phantom. I'd cried for him and he had told me he loved me. I remembered watching Safir as he tried to warn Demande. I remembered seeing Crystal Tokyo on the verge of destruction, the beautiful queen who'd been encased in crystal, the king who had been forced to watch from afar because he was too injured to fight.
So much death, so much destruction, and this was what was left over. A future that would never come to pass and a man that was the sole remnant of that time. I clenched my hands into fists, my resolve to destroy the dark crystal only growing. I had no doubts that Rubeus, his mind now completely warped by exposure to that negative energy, would not stop until the whole world was torn apart. And even then he probably wouldn't stop, he would just keep going until somewhere, someone else in the galaxy stopped him. It would be Galaxia and Chaos all over again. I was not going to let that happen.
"Mommy," Chibi Moon said, walking over to me. She took my hand. Fighter followed her and stood on my other side, our hands coming together naturally. Healer and Maker took up the last two positions in the group. I glanced around at them and tried to ignore the way my heart twisted. It felt right to have Fighter, Healer and Maker here with us, but I couldn't help thinking that this circle should have been a lot larger. The other senshi should have been there too.
"Sailor Moon?" It was Healer, this time, who said my name to get my attention, and I blinked rapidly. All four of them were looking at me, waiting for my command.
"Right," I said. "Sorry." There was no point in explaining what - or rather, who I had been thinking about. I was pretty sure that they probably already knew. I took a deep breath and squared my shoulders. "Okay, let's get rid of this stupid crystal once and for all."
"I don't think so," Rubeus said. He flashed into the room as his words echoed eerily. Fighter tensed and started to turn to face him, but I clung to her hand and kept her in place. If we got separated by Rubeus now, the chances of us coming back together weren't very high. He would do whatever he could to keep us away from the dark crystal. We had to stand our ground.
"Enough, Rubeus," Petz said wearily, stepping forward. She actually moved in front of us, spreading her arms as though to keep him away. "Don't you understand that your efforts to destroy this planet will always be in vain? The Earth is a good place. We've lived here in peace for several months now and we're happy. It doesn't have to be like this. You could join us, you know. Let Sailor Moon heal you."
I didn't know how I felt about the idea of Rubeus staying on Earth, healed or not, but fortunately it didn't matter. Rubeus just laughed at her. "Live here with these disgusting humans?" he sneered. "Have you forgotten what they did to us, Petz? Not one of them stood up for us when Neo-Queen Serenity decided that we weren't good enough to live here on her precious planet. No, they were all too happy to exile us to Nemesis. You've been swayed to their side through brainwashing. Why is it that you are only good enough to live here when you don't have any power at all?"
"That's not true at all!" Chibi Moon said furiously. "Rubeus, you're completely twisting things around. We healed them of the dark energy in their bodies that was going to kill them!"
"What's the point of living if you don't have power?" he retorted, and then he spread his arms. I knew what was coming and ducked my head, knowing that I couldn't do much more without physically moving away, but as Rubeus let loose with the little exploding balls Petz threw her hands up and dark energy crackled around her. I watched in horror as the energy drew those balls in like a magnet. She took every single one of them to the body, standing her ground the whole time.
"Petz!" Koan screamed, sprinting across the room just as Petz started to slump to her knees. Words couldn't describe how relieved I was to hear Petz moan faintly in reply.
"Is she okay?" I asked frantically.
"Never mind!" Calaveras snapped. "You guys power up. We'll take care of Rubeus." She sounded pretty pissed, and she turned on Rubeus as Berthier and Koan bent over Petz. Her whip lashed across the room and Rubeus scrambled to dodge.
"Hurry," Maker said. "They won't be enough to distract him for long. If we're going to do this, it has to be now."
"Right," I said, my stomach churning. I looked at Chibi Moon and she nodded.
"Pink Moon Eternal Power!" she yelled, closing her eyes. Her locket opened, revealing the pink moon crystal, and she started to glow pale pink.
"Healer Dawn Power!"
"Maker Twilight Power!"
"Fighter Midnight Power!"
One by one, the others began to shine as well. The light was getting so bright that I was having a hard time seeing anything other than black spots. I let my eyes slip shut and opened myself up again, feeling the unstoppable rush of power that was flooding into the ginzuishou. The pure strength of the Starlights combined with Chibi Moon's sweet warmth: it made all of my exhaustion and fatigue seem like it was miles away. I felt invincible, like there was nothing I couldn't handle.
I wished that I could have said the same for Berthier, Koan and Calaveras. Petz was in no condition to fight Rubeus. She was still lying on the ground, and even though her head was turned away from us I could hear the watery rasp from her lungs as she fought to breathe. Her sisters were trying hard, but Rubeus was too strong. Too skilled. He had the ability to move around the room so fast that no sooner would one sister attack than he would appear behind another. All they were really succeeding in doing was destroying the room and keeping Rubeus's attention away from us, since every time he teleported near us one of them would immediately strike at him. Fortunately, that was all we needed.
"Moon Eternal Power!" I shouted, tightening my grip around Fighter's and Chibi Moon's hands. I could feel the faint echo of pain in my hands and I knew my knuckles had turned white from how tightly I was holding on, but this was it. This was the moment when our fate would be determined. I could feel our combined power beginning to build as the ginzuishou and pink crystal started to work themselves into a frenzy. Raw power whipped around the circle, searching for a convenient spot to strike, and with each rotation it only grew stronger. The light shining from all of us was blindingly white, and I couldn't look anymore. I couldn't even watch to see where Rubeus was. I shut my eyes.
"Sailor Crystal Attack!" All five of us yelled together, our voices blending perfectly into one. I felt all of the air leave my lungs in a brutal rush as the power exploded out of me, shooting above my head to hit the dark crystal. It took everything I had to remain standing and somehow, even in spite of the brightness, I found my eyes open. I stared up at the dark crystal and the light that was pouring into it. The light lit the dark crystal up from the inside out, and those cracks I'd noticed before started to tremble. Slowly, they started to widen and light began to spill out through them.
"No!" Rubeus screamed, the sound an agonizing one. He staggered towards us.
"Now!" Pegasus commanded. As he spoke, the golden crystal on his forehead flashed with a beautiful light. A gold beam leapt from his horn and combined beautifully with an attack from Berthier, Calaveras, Koan and... Petz. The attack struck Rubeus in the back, dead-on. He screamed even louder as he collapsed to his knees, a hole neatly blown through his body. He tumbled over onto his side.
Above us, the dark crystal shattered. Little sparkling bits of what looked like black glass started to rain down on us. I flinched, but the bits vanished long before they reached us. When they were all gone and there was no sign of the dark crystal, I glanced over my shoulder at Rubeus. His body was glowing, and as we looked on he started to dissolve. Within a matter of seconds, all that was left of the Black Moon warrior Crimson Rubeus was a small pile of sparkling moon dust.
The silence left behind in the wake of it all made me wonder if I'd somehow gone deaf. I'd become accustomed to thinking over the high-pitched ringing and sounds of battle, and now it seemed eerily quiet. I listened hard and gradually became aware of the sound of my own harsh breathing. "We did it," I said out loud, stunned. I felt a brilliant smile crossing my face as the knowledge truly set in. "We did it!"
"Petz!" Koan cried out again before I could get too excited. My happiness drained as I watched the three younger sisters gathering around Petz. She was crumbled on the ground, but now she was turned towards me so that I could see what bad shape she was in.
"Sailor Moon, please," Berthier begged me. Her pretty face was streaked with tears. "You have to save our sister."
"I..." I wanted to say that I didn't know if I could. I was so tired. I let go of Fighter and Chibi Moon and walked over to them, my legs shaking with the effort of holding me up. I sat down hard beside Petz and gazed at her, overwhelmed.
"No." Petz opened her eyes. It hurt to see how much effort it took for her to do even that. "No, Sailor Moon. It's okay. Don't."
"Petz," Calaveras pleaded.
Petz shook her head very slowly. "No. All this time, I've waited - I can hear Safir calling my name. His voice sounds so sweet." A dreamy smile crossed her face, and then she sighed. She twitched her fingers in a beckoning movement at me and, after a moment of hesitation, I took her hand and bent closer to hear what she had to say. "Please help my sisters," she whispered to me. "Heal them and guide them for me, please. Don't let them spend all of their time wondering over what might have been, like I did."
"I will," I whispered, my throat tight. "Petz, I -"
She shook her head again, silencing me as effectively as if she'd spoken. I could only sit there stunned and helpless as the life drained from her eyes.