Chapter Six: Hide The Emptiness
It was cold inside her cell. Colder, even, than the watery depths of Neptune usually were. The atmosphere on Neptune was heavy and differed most greatly from the other planets. It was as if water floated in the atmosphere, thick visible droplets that would be difficult to breathe if not for the fact that those that visited Neptune were already used to breathing the strange vacuumed atmosphere of space. Neptune was one of the colder planets, along with Saturn, Pluto, and Nemesis. Neptune was the worst, however, because the water that collected in the atmosphere clung to the cold, and vice versa, but it did not ever freeze. Uranus was surprisingly and pleasantly warm, despite being so far from it's source of heat and warmth. It seemed like the planet was made to counter or balance that of Neptune and the two planets often kept good relations.
Neptunians were never cold on their planet. Michiru was cold, though. And she was Michiru, now, not Sailor Neptune. She had been forced out of her transformation because she'd lost so much energy, something that had not ever happened to her before. She couldn't remember the last time that she had been just Michiru and this was not how she envisioned the return of her civilian self. She had envisioned a pleasant stay with her princess and a secret meet with her lover, instead she got this: Locked in cell and stripped of her transformation and energy.
The texture of the floor beneath her was like hard natural rock and sand, the ocean floor, and chains held both her wrist and ankles. There was enough give in the chains for her to stand, though she couldn't lift her arms above her waist if she did so, but she was slumped on the ground using the wall as support. She was too weak to stand, too weak to fight against the chains. She'd tried all that anyway and it hadn't worked. She was alone, now, but she wasn't always. Her mother had sometimes been allowed to visit her, always with the promise that she'd find a way to release her.
Even though her transformation was broken, her connection to her planet was not. It was tainted now, she could feel it. There was a darkness spreading through her planet. The Phantom had done something, but she didn't know what it could be.
The door to her cell opened and a woman in a blue leotard entered. This woman was the one that kept watch over her most often, but it was rare for her to enter without the Phantom beside her. She leaned down close to Michiru, but not so close that she could touch the captive senshi. "Your mother's been gone a long time. Your people are starting to worry."
"They should worry," Michiru said. "If they knew what you've done—"
The woman continued as if she had not heard. "It would be easier to deal with them if they were kept calm and what better way to calm them than a word from their princess."
"You can't make me lie to them," Michiru said, looking her in the eye defiantly.
"Oh?" the woman questioned curiously, her mouth making such a perfect 'O' in surprise that Michiru was certain it was just for effect. "Even if not doing so would result in their harm and death? Even if not doing so would mean the death of your mother? Even if doing so could earn you the chance to see your lover on Uranus?"
Michiru's heart clenched at that last one. She did not want the death of her people or her mother, but part of her thought that her people would better with the truth, and the senshi part of her couldn't forgive the things her mother had allowed to happen just to keep her safe. She wouldn't be any better if she threw those things away just to see Haruka, but she hadn't seen her lover since hearing that Haruka had been captured, and she was just so worried.
"You don't even have to do much," the woman went on. "Just calm them down, tell them your mother has been busy with something on another planet and then announce your departure to Uranus."
"I'm going to Uranus?"
The woman tilted her head towards Michiru in another display of confusion. "You don't want to go?"
Michiru chose not to answer that. "They won't be used to seeing me this way."
The woman smiled brightly at her, looking extremely cheerful. "Don't worry about that. You're going to be transformed." Michiru's heart almost jumped at the hope that filled it. "Of course, you won't be allowed to recover your full energy and if you fight or cause a scene your mother will be killed."
All the hope in Michiru drained out of her, but she tried not to show it. "I understand."
"That's a good girl. Your people are already very familiar with me, your mother told them that I was her new adviser, but I think it would put them at ease to see someone they are more familiar with. I'm Berthier, by the way." Michiru didn't reply and the woman, Berthier, pouted. "I suppose it's hard to be pleasant when you're in such a drab condition. Well, let's get you fixed up." Berthier reached to Michiru and placed a purple crystal earring in each ear, making the senshi feel heavy. The woman then removed the black earring from her own ear and held it to the chains. The crystal emitted a dark glow, then Michiru was released. Berthier helped Michiru stand, that bright look still on her face. "You'll feel better soon," she told her.
Somehow, Michiru doubted it.
Serenity was haunted. Whether her eyes were open or they were closed, she kept seeing awful things. They couldn't be real, but she didn't know with certainty. She just didn't know. Luna's reaction to her kept playing back before her.
"I thought you would never betray Crystal Tokyo… The senshi… Endymion…"
"It isn't like that!" Serenity cried desperately, clinging to Diamond.
"How could you do something like this?" Venus questioned.
"I never thought that you were that kind of person," Mercury said, shaking her head with visible disappointment.
"He was suppose to be your true love," Jupiter added.
"No. No! It isn't what you think! Endymion betrayed me!" she cried.
"How awful," Mars said, moving close to Endymion. "I can't believe she would do that to you and then to lie to us about it when the evidence is right there."
"No…" Serenity shook her head. She turned to Diamond. "Diamond, please, help me convince them!"
Diamond looked away from her and stepped out of her arms. "Serenity…" he said quietly. "I am not certain that I can do this."
"I don't think I can be with a woman that cheats on her husband."
"What are you saying?" Serenity asked him.
"If you do would something like this to him, how do I know that you won't do this to me?" He asked.
"You know that I wouldn't."
"I'm not sure that I do," he said, moving further away from her. "I'm sorry, Serenity."
An image of the Dark Kingdom's generals flashed before her eyes and a voice spoke in the back of her mind. "They were victims and your Ginzuishou destroyed them. Your power only destroys. Why protect such a power?" Images of other senshi flashed before her eyes. The starlights, Lethe and Mnemosyne, Kakyuu. "Your crystal causes unrest and strife throughout the galaxy. These lives were ripped apart in pursuit of your crystal, would you protect such a power?" The images of the death busters filled her mind, the corrosive image of Pharoh 90. "Your crystal draws forth danger to those you love, brings trouble, brings death! Why would you protect such a power?"
"I can't let the crystal fall into the wrong hands," she said in a pleading voice to herself.
"You are the harbringer of death! You are the keeper of destruction! You are the embodiment of strife!" The images of the fallen moon kingdom flashed before her. The death, the battles, the despair. "And you are the protector of such devastating force!" The voice was yelling now. "Why do you protect such a power!"
Serenity was crying now, keeping her eyes tightly shut. "I'm sorry that I couldn't save them! I did the best that I could!" She was hesitant to open her eyes. When she did, Diamond was before her. Overwhelmed, she launched herself into Diamond's arms.
"Serenity," he whispered, holding her close. He stroked her hair and clung to him as she cried. Then suddenly, she felt something pierce through her back and she couldn't breathe from the shock for a moment. "Give me the Ginzuishou, Neo Queen."
The senshi and Endymion were again gathered together in a private room. The faces were all grim after what they had learned about the Phantom and about what Nephthys had tried to do to King Jasper. No one felt inclined to speak first, so Venus naturally took charge. "So, what are we going to do?" she asked them, looking to Endymion the most. Angry as she was, he was still the King of Crystal Tokyo and she did serve Crystal Tokyo. "The Phantom has Serenity, Neptune, and possibly Uranus."
"We have to rescue Serenity!" Jupiter said forcefully.
"We don't know where Serenity is," Endymion pointed out. "And what if they attack Earth, next?"
"So what do you want us do, leave her?" Jupiter asked.
"No, that isn't what I'm saying," he replied, eyes hard.
"We know for a fact that the enemy is on Neptune," Mars said. "Maybe we could launch some sort of preemptive attack."
"That could cause problems diplomatically," Endymion argued. "Neither the people of Neptune nor the other planets know about this, they could take the news of our assault to mean that we are striking out for supremacy. They have to be worried about so many planetary senshi gathered on one planet."
"So what are we going to do, then?" Jupiter growled.
"I'll go to Neptune," Endymion said.
"What?" Echoed the voices of the senshi.
"If I go, it will simply be assumed that I'm visiting, nothing out of the ordinary," he said.
"That's too dangerous," Venus spoke up. "With Serenity missing, we can't risk you going missing too. Luna's too out of it take control of things right now and Artemis is a wreck over whatever the Phantom did to her mind."
"I trust you and Mercury to handle thing in my place," he said. "You are both very diplomatic and should anything happen, Jupiter and Mars will be with me."
"No way," Jupiter said sternly, turning a hate filled glare on Mars and Endymion. "I'm not going with the two of you."
"Jupiter—" Venus began to object.
"No!" she insisted, glaring at Mars and Endymion. "I won't protect traitors."
Mars returned Jupiter's glare and Endymion merely looked cold and indifferent.
"I'll go," Mercury said. "Neptune is a water-based planet, my powers would be the most natural to use."
"Mars would be at a disadvantage," Venus said with a frown.
"We don't have much other choice." Mercury said. "We need you to stay here. You and I are the most able to keep Crystal Tokyo functional in Serenity and Endymion's absence, and should something happen, it would be best to keep your power in reserve."
Venus frowned. "I don't like it," she said.
"There aren't many options if Jupiter refuses to perform her duties as a senshi," Endymion said.
"What did you say!" Jupiter slammed her hands on the table as she stood.
"Jupiter!" Venus scolded. "Now is not the time."
Jupiter stormed toward the door. "Tell me once we have a plan," she said as she stomped out the room, slamming the door shut behind her.
Venus turned a glare toward Endymion. "That was both unnecessary and unwise," she told him. "There was no reason to piss her off further."
"I was only stating the truth and since we know her only condition, we can strategize better without her," he replied calmly. "How was King Jasper doing? Has he left?"
"He hasn't left yet and last I checked, he seemed fine," Venus answered. "Why?"
"Try and persuade him into accompanying us," Endymion said.
"According to his own testimony, he and Nephthys were known to be close on their planets. It will be less suspicious if we arrive in the company of someone like that. And, though he is not a senshi, he is likely to be able to bring some minor aid. Perhaps he can even convince his warriors to return to his side."
"It is a decent plan," Mercury admitted. "But should something happen, we may find it difficult to protect the both of you."
"I'll protect Endymion," Mars answered with fire in her eyes. "You can protect King Jasper."
"Do not forget, Mercury, that neither myself nor King Jasper is helpless. Should a situation arise, I will be capable of protecting myself should either of you be needed elsewhere." He looked at Mars when he said this and she lowered her head a little at the admonishment.
"Well, Venus?" Endymion turned to her. "You are the commander of the senshi. You have the final call on this matter."
Despite his words, his look told her that he had the power to overrule her if he wished and his asking was little more than formality. It made her angry, but she didn't have time for anger. Not when her princess—Queen—was missing. "It seems like a sound plan. Mercury, I want to put you in charge on this mission."
"Why?" Mars asked.
"Because Mercury is the best at strategizing and I believe that you will have distracted priorities," Venus said firmly. She met Mars eyes steadily and the fire senshi backed down.
"Now that we've settled that," Endymion said as he stood, "we should prepare to depart. We leave immediately."
Michiru did feel marginally better after a bath and a good meal, though not at ease. Berthier had not let her out of sight. Not while she dined, bathed, or dressed. It was not only annoying, but disheartening. She really did not think that she would get a chance to escape. The slight rest and food had raised her energy reserves enough that would be able to transform, but not enough to do much else. She wouldn't be much of a match for anyone in her condition.
Berthier gave her a big bright smile as she handed Neptune her henshin pen, saying in a cold but cheerful voice, "Don't forget that we have a deal. If you renege then so do we."
Michiru merely nodded her consent and the pen was placed in her hand. She activated her transformation quickly, feeling like she was finally back in her own skin. Finally back to being Neptune, instead of Michiru. Over the last few years she had become very comfortable in her senshi form and felt that it was an entirely separate identity from her civilian self.
"Now, let's go greet your people," Berthier said.
Neptune tried to keep her demeanor as calm and elegant as it had always been before as she stood before her people, Berthier at her side. The people had already been gathered and she got the feeling they had been made to wait. Part of her was surprised at how well this woman had organized everything so far. Who was this woman and where had she really come from? The questions flew through her mind, but she pushed them aside.
"People of Neptune, put your worry aside. I know that your queen has been long gone, but there is no need to fear her safety. While she has been kept her away and occupied on the other planets, it should not persist much longer. Until her return, be assured that I will be protecting you all and I do not plan to let any harm come to any of you." Neptune looked at all the faces in the crowd, trying to convey the seriousness of her words. She had not said a single thing that was false and intended to keep it that way. When she didn't add anymore, Berthier stepped forward.
"In order to assure your safety, your senshi will not be lingering too long on the planet's surface and is soon to depart. There should not be any worry, though. I will be here in contact with both the Queen and princess, so should any problems arise, bring them to me and I will handle them."
The address was ended soon after and they returned to private quarters. The platinum blonde woman smile at Neptune and said cheerfully, "Now that wasn't so hard, was it?"
Neptune didn't answer, but it didn't seem to make much difference to the woman as her smile did not at all falter. They were only in silence for a moment before a knock came at the door and Berthier went to answer it.
"Yes? What? With such short notice? Turn them away! …Fine. We'll receive them," Berthier looked irritated when she return to the room. Neptune was merely curious, having heard only one half of the conversation. "It seems that you will have to play good senshi a little longer, so our trip to Uranus will be postponed."
It wouldn't surprise the senshi of seas if the other woman had been lying about letting her leave her planet if the first place, but she was still compelled to ask, "Why?"
"The King of Earth has decided upon an impromptu visit and there doesn't seem to be a way to delay him." She answered. "The same deal is in place, Michi. Be good and good things will happen, be bad and… well, you know."
"Don't call me Michi," Neptune said to her.
Berthier pouted again, this one looking even more put out than the first time. "Fine, fine… Neptune," she said. She walked forward and took Neptune's hands and the senshi fought the impulse to pull away. "Don't give me any reason to attack them, alright? I don't want to hurt innocent people."
"Then why are you threatening Queen Nephthys? Why are you threatening Neptune?" the senshi demanded.
"Queen Nephthys is not innocent," Berthier said softly. "I'm not surprised that you didn't know, you don't have any bearings on the political situation here, but she was planning a coup once she got the support from the other planets."
"You're lying," Neptune snapped as she pulled away.
"It's true. She was trying to join with King Horus—"
"How would you know anything about it?" Neptune asked.
"Because I was keeping tabs on her," Berthier told her. "She was seducing King Jasper and I wanted to know why."
"That isn't true," Neptune objected, but Birthier spoke over her.
"So when I looked into her, I found that she was also trying to involve herself with King Osiris of Pluto and King Set of Jupiter. She and King Horus were—"
"What proof do you have?" Neptune demanded.
"You don't have to believe me," Berthier relented. "But I know this to be the case. I'm just trying to protect—"
"You should reconsider who you're protecting."
Berthier glared at Neptune with icy eyes. "I know who I'm protecting. Who do you think you'll be protecting if you cause a scene like this when the Earth King arrives? Just because I don't want to hurt you, doesn't mean that I won't. So bite your tongue off if it'll keep you silent." Neptune was tense and primed to attack, but Berthier added, "You're still weak. Don't be a fool. I can put you back in the dungeon and no one would be the wiser. I'm trying to give you a little freedom. So get a hold of yourself and think about which option will serve you better."
Neptune was silent and the two stared at each other for a long moment. Neptune backed down first, letting herself sink deeply into a chair. There would be no point in her using up her meager strength now, not when she would have a much better chance of escape once King Endymion arrived, hopefully bringing the inner senshi with him.
Berthier retreated to a corner of the room, as far from the senshi of Neptune as possible. She removed her earring and held it above her face until a holographic image appeared at the tip. The image of the Phantom was before her and she spoke in a quiet whisper as if to keep her conversation secret. "The King of Earth just informed us of his intention to visit. The trip to Uranus will have to be postponed, unless you think I should leave him here without supervision…"
"No, stay to greet the King," said the Phantom. "Entertain him quickly and send him on his way."
"Right," she nodded. "But, are you certain… about Nephthys? Her daughter seems adamant that the Queen of Neptune just wouldn't do something like that."
"It's understandable that the daughter would want to think highly of the mother," the Phantom said. "But the senshi was not often on her planet, so she wouldn't be likely to know such a thing, would she?"
"No, I suppose not."
"And if Nephthys didn't think her daughter would support her, then she would be likely to hide such a thing, don't you think?" The Phantom's eyes began to glow as did the orb that floated between his palms. Birthier felt a shiver run through her that caused her to grip the crystal in her palm tighter. A surge of energy filled her and after tensing a moment, she felt calmer. "You shouldn't let the senshi's words shake you, Berthier. Once this is over, King Jasper and even the other planets will be grateful for what you've done."
"Yes, you're right. I shouldn't let my resolve be shaken so easily. King Jasper will have to be grateful once the truth comes out and doing something like this will have to increase our standing with the other planets."
"That's right. This is all for the good of Nemesis," the Phantom said.
"Alright, I'll try to get this task done quickly and join Calaveras on Uranus."
Not long after the king's departure, Venus went to visit the two captives they were keeping. She had checked on Jupiter, who had gone to spar with the other guards so that she could take out some of her aggression. It was good training for them, but Venus hoped that Jupiter went easy on them. Even without using her powers, her strength had grown tremendously over the years and she could hurt them badly if she wasn't careful.
Venus went to the computer inside the room that held Luna and Nephthys, the latter still unconscious while the former was being watched over by Artemis. Something was really bothering her about Serenity being missing and she couldn't put her finger on it.
"Venus," Luna called out. "Is Serenity still missing?"
"Yes," Venus answered sadly.
"Have you checked to see if she is with Diamond?" Luna asked.
"Luna, you're still not in your right mind," Venus said softly. "Your thoughts are confused."
"I know you won't believe me, but I know that I saw Serenity and Diamond together."
"Luna." Venus turned around to face the humanoid feline. "Serenity would never do anything to jeopardize Crystal Tokyo. I know that for a fact. And you know that. You know her."
"I didn't want to believe it either," Luna said in a despairing tone. "But I saw her with Diamond. She was kissing him! Betraying Endymion, Crystal Tokyo—"
"I know what I saw!" Luna insisted.
"Why would she do that?" Venus asked, trying to be reasonable. "Why would she be kissing the Prince of Nemesis?"
"I don't know," Luna said. "But if she is a danger to Crystal Tokyo, then her being away and out of sight is dangerous. She could be—"
"Luna, I don't want to hear this," Venus snapped. Something was worrying her, now. She knew what Luna did not, that Endymion and Serenity already had a rift between them and it had been that way for a long time now. Not to mention that Serenity and Mars had gotten into a fight not a week ago. Earth was allied with Nemesis. Serenity and Diamond were close. They were friends, that wasn't a secret, but more? Serenity would have told her… 'But she didn't tell you about her and Endymion, did she?' her mind replied. Maybe it would be worth a look…
Venus quickly typed up a letter announcing herself and her intentions to visit. It was improper to show up out the blue without notice. It was improper to announce your intentions without requesting a visit to another planet, but this couldn't wait. Serenity would never betray Crystal Tokyo. That was a fact and Venus did not doubt that at all. But all the pieces were starting to point to Serenity and Diamond having been together. King Jasper had said that Diamond had been attacked and Luna, even if she was confused, says that she saw Serenity and Prince Diamond together, so it was worth a look.
"Artemis," Venus called. "Look after things for me. I have something to take care of."
"Alright," he replied.
She was probably wrong, but it never hurt to check and Jupiter and Artemis could hold down the fort until she returned. It wouldn't be that long of a trip.
Serenity didn't think that she could take anymore. All the pain and doubt that filed her mind was driving her mad. She couldn't waver. She had to protect the crystal. She had to be strong. But she'd already begun to waver, hadn't she? The Ginzuishou only brought pain. It brought darkness and death. To her mother, to the moon kingdom, to her friends, to people that would never have had to become enemies if not for someone seeking the dangerous object. Her life would be happier, wouldn't it, if she gave up the crystal? No one would come for her, no one would be harmed… But she couldn't protect anyone either… So what was she to do?
Diamond was hovering close to Serenity. Over the last few hours, her body temperature had begun to drop and he was worried that she was taking a turn for the worse. He was hovering half over her body with his forehead pressed to her own. He wanted to give her warmth, but he couldn't bring himself to move improperly close to her. Not that he wasn't already improperly close.
"Serenity," he said to her. "Serenity, please… Please, open your eyes. Serenity… whatever's happening, you have to fight it." He worried about doing so before, but now that she seemed to be getting weaker, he had to try something. He pulled on the power from the dark crystal and tried to push it into her, to strengthen her. Not all people took to the energy of the dark crystal very well and he had been hesitant to try forcing it into her. But her own power was failing her and all that was left was to try and give her his own. "Please Serenity, please, I need you to wake up. I need you." A tear slipped from his eye and landed on her cheek as he placed his hands in her hair and continued trying to share his energy with her.
Serenity's head snapped up as she felt something strange. Something other than the black energy that surrounded her and different from the familiar force of the Ginzuishou. She was hesitant to reach out to the energy, but it felt… not familiar, the way the Ginzuishou did, but like something that she could recognize. It was cold, unlike the warm energy that she radiated, but not unpleasant. It was a soothing cold, a calming feeling, like a splash of water in her face that cleared her mind.
"Serenity." She heard Diamond's voice and she reached out for the power. It couldn't reach her through the barrier of her own energy. Determined, she let down her barrier, the black energy rushing at her, and she reached quickly for the cold energy that reminded her of Diamond. The cold power reached for her, as well, battling with the black force that tried to consume and corrupt her, and she felt Diamond's presence.
"Diamond," She said to herself, taking comfort from the presence. The thoughts hit her then, the thoughts that plagued her over and over again about how she had betrayed and brought misfortune to all her friends, everyone around her. The thought of them leaving her, of Diamond leaving her. The thoughts overwhelmed her mind and she couldn't think.
Serenity's body became colder and her skin turned pale. Diamond felt panic course through him. For just a moment, she had seemed as though she was coming back to him, but now she was worse off than before. He couldn't let her go! He couldn't! He summoned the energy from his dark crystal, leaned close to Serenity and kissed her, pouring all the energy he could muster into her. Trying to strengthen her, trying to protect her, trying to give her the energy to fight off the force that was plaguing her. With all his power he willed her to wake, willed her to respond, willed anything to happen! 'Please.' He thought desperately. 'Please!'
Clarity hit Serenity full force as a wave of that clear, cold energy poured into her. She felt like a weight was lifted off of her as she felt Diamond's presence so close to her, so clearly by her side. The confusion had not completely subsided, but that one fact was all she needed. Even if it was just one person that needed her, that wanted her, that loved her, it was enough to fight off the darkness.
Serenity lifted her hands above her head, the Ginzuishou held firmly between her palms, then she unleashed her power against the darkness.
Serenity gasped as soon as Diamond moved away from her lips, her eyes flying open and her heart beating at an accelerated rate. Diamond was above her, his head hovering not far from her own as he stood next to the bed. They stared at each a long time before Serenity began to tear up, a smile lighting her face. "Diamond!" she cried, throwing her arms around his neck and embracing him tightly.
His arms wound around her waist automatically. "Serenity!" He was so relieved, so overwhelmed, that he dipped his head back to hers for one more kiss. She pulled him close, both holding on tightly to the other until he was pulled onto the bed over her, but neither really noticed. The kiss was long and deep, filled with love and desperation and a wild need to convey their feelings. Once they broke apart, their eyes were glued to the other. "I was so afraid… So afraid that I wouldn't get you back," he whispered to her.
"I thought the same thing," she said. "I… I don't want to lose you, Diamond. I… I think that I…"
Serenity never got to finish that statement. The door behind them opened and the voice of a very angry senshi yelled out, "Get away from my princess!"
And then Diamond gasped as a beam of light went through his chest and his body pitched forward onto Serenity's. Her eyes were wide and she was frozen almost in shock. Blood was spilling onto her from his wound and his body wasn't moving. Shaking and afraid, Serenity whispered fearfully, "Diamond…"
"Prince Diamond!" Emerald cried from the doorway.
Serenity felt numb to everything that was happening in the room except for the body that was in her arms. He wasn't moving. He wasn't moving! She was quickly becoming hysterical in her mind as more and more blood poured out of him. And then she screamed. "DIAMOND!"
The image of Berthier fled The Phantom's crystal as the communication was ended, and he turned to the King of Mercury. Thoth was standing not far from him, conversing with two women, but turned to the Phantom as soon as he knew the man was no longer occupied.
"The King of Earth has left his planet," the Phantom reported. "And the Neo Queen should still be weakened from my spell."
"Then move immediately," Thoth said. "Ready all forces and move against Earth."
A/N: Special thanks to Luna Goddess of the Night Sky for the kissing idea.
Hope everyone is enjoying and please leave a review. They make me happy.
Special Thanks to my beta, Midnight's Violet Haze.