SAILOR MOON SUPERS: THE WAR OF DREAMS PART SEVEN (Finale)
A Sailor Moon Sekkushiaru Roman
By Sailor Mac
In a palace somewhere on a level of reality unknown to humans, a handsome man who was at once ancient and ageless sat on a velvet-covered throne, gazing out the window at Earth.
His clothing suggested royalty of ancient Egypt . . . a conical crown with two guilded feathers on the sides, a jeweled pectoral and a white kilt. But his surroundings looked more out of 18th century Europe . . . heavy, ornate furniture, velvet drapes, a large fireplace with several logs burning in it.
It was only natural hed exist in a mixture of times, because hed lived in just about every time period of the earths existence. Century after century, he had calmly observed the affairs of the world, watching civilizations rise and fall, humans gradually gaining mastery over their own destiny, only to have it dashed by some natural or man-made catastrophe. Theyd just pick up the pieces and begin again.
Very rarely did he intervene in the affairs of these humans. After all, he had a representative on Earth to take care of that. He always had.
Earth was *his* planet, after all, and had been since the time before time. But now, his planet was threatened in a way it had never been before.
Who would have thought that a human, even a cunning black sorceress like her, would be capable of doing such damage? he thought. But she *did* manage to tap into one of the strongest forces in the universe . . . the power of human dreams.
He chuckled ruefully to himself. Dreams . . . the thing that allowed humans to look into their own souls, to realize what they truly wanted in life. In a way, they were the force which propelled human civilization onward.
Nobody, human or god, had thought anyone would be able to harness that power. Perhaps they thought that nobody *could*. And when somebody *did* manage to do it, it was a shock unlike any theyd ever known.
He stood up, and walked toward the window. I have mobilized all the gods to assist in this, he thought. They have done their part. They have made sure their own Sailor Soldiers are ready to meet the enemy. My own, though . . . He shook his head.
My own has yet to come to full fruition. There is just so much more that needs to be conquered. And I cannot help. My Sailor Soldier will have to do this alone. Its destiny.
The god looked out the window, studying his planet, tightly focusing on the pulse of darkness in the area humans called Tokyo. It was stronger than ever now. The enemy was about ready to unleash her final assault on humanity. She would have to be defeated, or else the population of Tokyo, and then the world, would be trapped in eternal nightmares.
There was a shimmer of light across the room, which grew brighter, until a human form began to appear within it. It flared up, and faded, and then there was another person in the room, a woman with long, flowing blonde hair, dressed in a white gown that was a bit too tight, a bit too low-cut, but still managed to seem graceful and elegant.
Im sorry for the intrusion, she said, but I was looking in on my Sailor Soldier, and studying the status of the Earth, and theres something that you should know.
The man turned to her, barely moving from his position at the window, and said, quietly, I know already.
Ive been talking to the others, the woman said, sitting on one of the other chairs. We all feel that our own representatives on that planet are ready for the final battle.
The man walked over toward her. Youve all done well. They all reached the optimum level of power at the same time . . . which is exactly what I had hoped for.
None of us would have settled for anything less, she said. We knew how important this was. She smiled, softly. Its not too often you see this level of cooperation amongst immortals.
Venus, its not often you see something like this happen on Earth, either, the other said. The first time there was a threat of this magnitude . . . we were caught unaware. We hadnt paid enough attention to our Sailor Soldiers, or our planets. We thought things would take care of themselves. And, as a result . .
Queen Beryl was able to wipe out the civilizations on every planet except one, Venus finished, wincing at the horrifying memory.
I have made it a point to make sure that never happens again. And Im sure all of you have as well.
Venus looked out the window, at the view of the blue and white ball spinning in space. Do you think theres a chance that Nehelenia might win?
The god stood up, and walked back toward the window. The future is undecided. Its in the hands of our representatives on Earth now.
And us? said Venus.
Your job is done now, and the job of the other patron deities. You helped them get the power they need . . . now they just have to use it.
And *your* job? she said.
The god could only shake his head and say, That . . . will depend on many things.
Venus nodded, and stood up. Im going to leave you alone now . . . Im sure you have a lot of things to think about.
He gave her a nod, then went back to staring out the glass again, not noticing the flash as his counterpart disappeared.
He reached out with his consciousness, seeking the minds of his fellow gods, the patrons of all the Sailor Soldiers protecting the planet, and sent them a short, but vital message. . . Its time.
* * *
Nehelenia gazed out of her mirror to the world outside, to the Dead Moon Circus. It was quiet now. Zirconia had retired for the evening. She wondered if that old bat really slept, or if she just sat still in one place, wheezing all night.
Her hand touched the glass which had held her in place in this small pocket dimension ever since Cassiopeia and Serenity had trapped her there, centuries and centuries ago.
Im about to have the last laugh on you two bitches, she thought. Im not going to be in this mirror much longer. The time has come. I have enough data now. I know all there is to know about human dreams . . . and Ive devised a spell to invade them and plunge everyone into nightmares. And them . . . theyll have to turn over control of the planet to me, so I can get them out.
She let out a loud, self-satisfied laugh, whirling away from the glass like a teenage girl practicing a waltz before the big dance. You didnt want to use those three henchmen of ours, Zirconia, she said. You kept begging me to replace them. But they *did* come through in the end. They brought me enough dreams before my spell of concealment wore off. And now . . . its the end of the line for them.
She laughed some more, thinking of her own cleverness in devising the perfect little drones for this project by transforming animals into humans. Tiger Eye, Hawk Eye and Fish Eye . . . they hadnt always done the job at the speed shed wanted, but . . . they had done it.
They would have done it a lot *faster*, she snarled, if not for those Sailor Soldiers. That was the one flaw in her plan . . . those creatures from the Moon Kingdom who had somehow managed to reappear in contemporary Tokyo. They had destroyed so many of her beautiful nightmare monsters, her lemures.
Its the end of the line for them, too, she said. They may have powers, but Im still stronger than they are! And if they come after me . . . theyll regret it. Ill trap them in my nightmare spell along with everyone else!
She whirled over to the glass again, gazing out at the world like a starving man eyeing a buffet dinner.
Soon, she thought, Ill be in the *real* world again. Ill be able to touch, taste, see . . . and everything, *everything* I touch will be *mine.*
* * *
Somewhere within the bleak darkness that was Nehelenias mirror world was a single pulse of light.
Helios hung suspended from the ceiling of a back room, so wrapped in strips of cloth that a viewer could hardly tell that his form was that of a beautiful winged horse.
It used to be that of a beautiful boy a long, long time ago. But that was thousands of years ago. Before the curse. Before Nehelenia.
Now he was a prisoner of the would-be Queen of the Earth . . . although she could not conquer him entirely. His body was a prisoner, but his consciousness could still roam free. And it was because of this that he met Reenie, his one true friend.
It is because of her that I am still sane, he thought as he drifted in the strange state somewhere between consciousness and unconsciousness that was where he spent the majority of his life. Shes given me the hope that . . . Nehelenia may not win this war, after all.
He knew that the evil queen had been collecting dream data. He also knew she was nearly ready to begin her assault on the Earth. He hadnt needed to do any detective work to determine that. She came back to his prison on a regular basis and bragged about it in loud tones. She thought she was torturing him, driving him to deeper and deeper despair.
Little does she know, he thought, that whenever I hear her boast . . . I laugh. Because I know that Neo-Sailor Moon and her fellow Sailor Soldiers are getting stronger, and stronger . . . and theyll be more than ready for her. My maiden *will* find the missing piece of the Golden Crystal, and restore its full strength. And then . . . Nehelenia will regret the day she even thought of attacking Earth.
He realized that helping Neo-Sailor Moon, serving as her mentor, had been the biggest source of pride and joy he had ever experienced. The only thing I will miss about this prison, he thought, will be her.
As his thoughts meandered, he suddenly became aware of something unusual. A pressure at the edge of his consciousness. The feeling that someone was trying to invade his mind. Nehelenia, he thought. Shes testing her methods of invading humans on *me*. Shes not going to get away with hit. Im going to throw her off. He summoned all his psychic energy and began to push back.
But then, he heard a voice, warm and gentle . . . the sound of a concerned father speaking to a worried child. Helios . . . theres no need to be afraid. I mean you no harm.
Helios gave a start. Hed heard that voice before, somehow, somewhere. . . Who are you? Helios said. What are you doing here?
An image began to fill his mind, of a young man with bronze skin, dressed in a white Egyptian kilt and bejeweled gold pectoral. His strong, but somewhat pretty face was topped by a headdress that looked like a hawks head.
You dont know me? the man said. I have spoken to you in your mind many times.
Now Helios knew where hed heard the voice before . . . this was the presence that he had heard innumerable times, instructing him on what to tell Reenie, comforting him in times of trouble.
I know you, he said, but I dont know *who* you are.
I am closely connected to your friend, Neo-Sailor Moon, the other replied.
Then . . . why have you been speaking to *me?*
You have been serving as Neo-Sailor Moons partner, in a way. Youve been her teacher, her companion and her helper.
But . . . why didnt you speak to her directly? Why did you use *me* to convey your messages to her?
She would listen to you, and trust you, because you are her friend. A stranger, even a god . . . shed be less likely to trust. She may be a princess, and a Sailor Soldier . . . but she *is* still a child, after all.
Not just a regular child, Helios said, softly. Shes very, very special. And shell grow up to be an extraordinary young woman.
She will, the young man said. With your help. You dont realize how much of a difference youve made in her life. Shes come a long, long way.
I just hope . . . that everything works out, so she can attain her true destiny.
The other regarded him for a moment, thoughtfully. Then, he said, Helios . . . Im going to need your help again. To assure that Nehelenia will be defeated, and that Neo-Sailor Moon *will* achieve her true destiny.
What is it? he said. Ill do anything it takes.
It doesnt involve Reenie herself this time. It involves her parents. Youre about to play a very important part in their destiny.
* * *
Darien Chiba was missing from class.
David Chase looked at the empty seat. This was *not* like his friend. Not at *all.* Hed been dragging himself to school, day after day, no matter how sick and listless he was. And hed been *very* sick and listless lately.
He could still remember being at his friends apartment, watching in horror as he went into a coughing fit, started coughing up some kind of black fluid . . .
At the head of the class, the professor was starting to go into his daily drone about biochemistry. This wasnt one of Davids favorite classes to begin with. This guy just stood there like a statue, ancient suit hanging limply on his shrunken body, gray hair hanging in his eyes, mustache drooping, talking in a tone of voice that made Ben Stein sound animated . . .
Today, it was the last thing in the world he wanted to sit through. He reached into his pocket, took out his mini-cassette recorder and turned it on. Might as well let the machine absorb the class; there was no way his brain was going to.
He tapped a pen against his notebook, studying it as if it would suddenly start glowing with kanji that would reveal all the mysteries buzzing around his brain to him.
What was wrong with Darien? Did it have something to do with his secret identity as Tuxedo Mask . . . the identity David knew about, even though he couldnt tell Darien hed found out? Just how severe was it? And . . . what was with that black fluid? David had spent hours poring over medical and biology books, trying to find an answer about that . . . and came up empty.
Hed tried to talk to Lori about this. Just *talk* to him, already! shed said. Youre only going to make yourself sick worrying about him, David. Whats the worst that could happen?
What, indeed, David thought. I could lose his friendship, for one. And thats the last thing in the world Id want to do. Having him as my friend . . . its been the first time in a long, long time since there was somebody who I knew wanted my company because Im *me*, not just because Im The Guy Who Wants To Save The World.
And even if their friendship wasnt totally destroyed . . . Darien could be suspicious and mistrustful of him, wondering where he got the information, why hed want to know such a thing . . .
After having lived through the porn controversy, with so much mistrust, so much backstabbing, so much not knowing who was your true friend was . . . he didnt know how much more of *that* kind of thing hed be able to take.
He started to scribble the corner of the notebook, coloring in a little triangle. If I *dont* talk to him, he thought, whos going to? I doubt hes gone to Serena about this. He wouldnt want to worry her. And hes got no other family, or close friends . . .
I could very well lose his friendship, or his trust, he thought, starting to roll the colored corner around the pen. But . . . if I dont do something, if I dont intervene and make him *face* whats happening to him . . . he could very well lose his *life.*
He knew now what he had to do.
David tore a piece of paper out of his notebook and wrote on it, I have an emergency. Please record the rest of the class and give this to me tomorrow. He tapped on the shoulder of the guy next to him . . . one of his former Freedom League colleagues, someone he knew could be trusted . . . and passed the recorder and note to him, then slipped out of class.
* * *
Darien was buried under the covers, unable to move.
There was absolutely no question about him going to class today. Hed had coughing fits from the moment he woke up. Hed brought up three times as much black fluid as ever. He felt like his entire body had been run through a clothes press, not once, but several times.
Hed been getting steadily worse over the past few days, but this . . . this literally felt like death was near.
I cant let it beat me, he thought. I have to find out whos doing this . . .how they did it . . . how I can take it off . . .
He wondered if anything could take it off, if Serena failed to do so with the Silver Imperium Crystal. He could still remember her standing at his bedside, pouring all her power into the stone . . . and the look of utter despair on her face when it dropped to the bed, useless as a piece of coal.
Theres got to be some other way, he thought. Something else that could be used *with* the Silver Imperium Crystal, maybe . . .
He thought of his own Golden Crystal, mounted on his Earth Blade. Would that do any good? he thought. Probably not. Reenie had been told by that Pegasus that the crystal was missing a piece, and we had to find it.
If we could track it down, he thought, and join it to my own Golden Crystal, then maybe, just maybe . . .
And then, it started again. A tightness in his chest, like he was being choked. . . a feeling of being starved for oxygen, like his lungs would catch on fire, his head would burst. . .
Then, the actual coughing. Agonizing spasms that seemed to tear and twist every muscle in his body, making his already sore lungs feel like they were going to rip to shreds . . . until the black fluid shot out of him, splattering all over the sheets.
He collapsed to the bed, bathed in cold sweat, panting. He didnt know how much more he could take . . . how many times he could do that before his body just gave out . . . no, no, he couldnt make that happen. He had to stay alive, for Serena, and Reenie. He had to find an answer. He just *had* to.
When the knock came at his door, he didnt respond. He couldnt. He didnt want to, anyway.
Darien? a voice said from outside. Its David . . .I came to see if you were all right . . .
He tried to say, Its all right, go back to class. He couldnt. No sound would come out but a small, hoarse croak.
David tried the knob . . . it was unlocked. He pushed the door open to find the apartment quiet . . . so quiet it didnt seem that anyone was there . . .
Except from a small sound coming from the bedroom. Something hoarse and raspy, like labored breathing. He crossed the livingroom, trepidation filling him . . . he didnt want to know what hed find in that bedroom . . .
When he looked in, he gasped. It was far worse than hed imagined. Darien was on top of his sheets, his skin literally gray, his eyes glassy, staring straight at the ceiling.
Its like those pictures Ive seen of people about to die from AIDS, David thought, fighting back the pure terror that was rising inside him.
Struggling to remain calm, he said, I just . . . came to see how you were doing . . .
Darien managed to take a deep breath. David . . . I can handle this . . .
No, you *cant*! David shouted, stamping his foot, his entire body trembling with emotions struggling to break free. Im not going to just stand around and watch you *die* any longer! Youre just getting sicker and sicker and you refuse to get help . . . well, Im going to see that you do!
Darien managed to sit up a bit, feeling the world whirl around him. No, David . . . you cant take me to a doctor. It wont . . . it wont do any good.
David leaned over, clenching his hands into fists, his face just inches from his friends. So . . . youve given up on yourself? he said, in a snarling voice. Is *that* what youre saying?
No, Darien replied, falling back to the bed again. Its just . . . you wouldnt understand . . .
David drew himself up to his full height, folded his arms across his chest . . . and suddenly heard himself saying, I *know* your secret, Darien.
Darien suddenly panicked. Secret? What secret? I dont have any . . .
I know youre Tuxedo Mask, David said. Lori and I were helped by one of your . . . colleagues. Sailor Venus. And while she was helping us, she lost her transformation, and Lori saw who she really was. And . . . well, from there we pieced the evidence together and figured out who all the other Sailor Soldiers were. When he saw a look of fury cross Dariens face, David quickly put a hand on his chest and said, Don t worry . . . we didnt tell anyone. We wouldnt dream of it. We know how important it is to keep your secret.
Darien reached up, with what little strength he had, grabbed Davids ever-present flannel shirt and yanked him down. You had better *not* tell anyone! he said. Theres enemies everywhere now! Anybody could be one! I wont have anyone endangered because of this! If I find out . . . if I . . .
And then, the pains came again. He let go of David and rolled away with a choking sob, trying desperately to hold it back, mentally willing his body to let go, to not give into the curse yet again . . . but it was to no avail. The agonizing spasms came again, and again, and again.
David stood there, stunned . . . no, there was no way a human body could survive something like that and live! It looked like Dariens guts were tearing themselves out from the inside. And then, the black fluid came.
Its nothing of this world, he thought. Its nothing, nothing at all, that can be explained by medical science.
When Darien fell back to the pillows again, shaking with pain and cold, David pulled the blankets over him. I cant do anything, he thought. Nobody can do anything . . . nobody whos not a person like *him*, that is. And suddenly, the young man who once thought that hed be able to change the world through public demonstrations and political activism felt as powerless as a newborn chick.
Its a curse, isnt it? he said, quietly. Somebody . . . one of your enemies . . . is attempting to destroy Tuxedo Mask.
Darien just closed his eyes and nodded in the affirmative. He wasnt going to hide the truth anymore. It was comforting, actually, to have David know . . . to have somebody understand . . . even if he couldnt do anything about it.
I . . . I wish there was something that I could do, he said, quietly.
You cant, Darien said in a voice that was little more than a hoarse whisper. Its something the other Sailor Soldiers and I have to do. Dont worry . . . I have an idea of who might be doing this, where its coming from. Im not planning on dying.
But . . . the way you are right now . . . David sank down in a bedside chair, feeling like he was being pulled down, pulled under, by the weight of the situation.
David, Darien said, right now, the best thing you can do is go back to class and back to Lori. Live *your* life. Dont worry about me. Im just going through a crisis right now, and when the crisis is over . . . Ill be back.
David reached over and patted his friend on the shoulder. You be sure to call me if you need anything . . . anything at all . . .
Darien smiled, weakly. I will.
David turned to go, looking back over his shoulder at his friend one last time. Darien was just looking out the window, as if he was trying to find the cure he sought in the patterns of leaves outside.
Slowly, he left the apartment, and rode down the elevator. He walked through the lot to his car, feeling like a zombie as he sat down, started the ignition and pulled out.
When he got to the road, for the first time in years, he started to cry.
* * *
Unknown to David, two women had watched his departure from behind a clump of trees across the street.
Him again, said the taller of the two, a woman who was dressed, as usual, in mens clothing -- a button-down shirt and khakis. Hes been the only person we saw come into or out of this building for days, other than the prince himself.
It still could mean nothing other than that hes a trusted friend, said her elegantly dressed companion as the breeze ruffled her long, wavy aqua hair.
Or that hes coming up there to *hurt* him, the first woman retorted. Remember, Darien has *not* been looking well at all lately. Somebody is doing *something* to him. And I still say this man, and his girlfriend, are our prime suspects.
The second woman sighed. Alex . . . in all this time, have we seen *anything* truly concrete at all connecting those two to the enemy? Weve been spying on them for what seems like forever.
Have we seen anything *not* connecting them to the enemy? said Alex, running a hand through her short, blond hair. I think weve seen plenty of evidence.
All circumstantial. Im sorry, love, but . . . I still think no court in the world would convict them.
Alex frowned. This was *not* typical, for them to disagree on something this important. She knew Michelle had been getting rather weary of this constant pursuit, but she had no idea she felt this strongly about their innocence.
You should know very well, Michelle . . . the enemy is *not* going to tip their hand. Theyre certainly not going to do anything in broad daylight that is going to let anyone on the outside know that . . .
But then, Alexs voice was interrupted by . . . a sound. A strange humming, a vibration of the very air around Michelle. She quickly whirled around, looking for any sign at all that an enemy might be present, her trained eyes scanning the landscape around her.
What is it? Alex said, looking around herself. She neither saw nor heard anything unusual.
Did you hear that? said Michelle.
That humming! Michelle put a hand to her head. It was getting stronger . . . and now, it felt like her very skull was vibrating. She couldnt tell if it was coming from within or without.
I dont hear any . . . But then, Alex began to hear it as well. The sound of a thousand bees, starting soft and low, then getting louder and louder by the millisecond, a furious crescendo that seemed to be coming from everywhere and nowhere at once.
At the same time, the cell phone in Michelles purse seemed to go beserk, ringing frantically, every light on its keypad going on and off. The pager in Alexs pocket began to beep as well, and the car alarms of the two cars nearest to them began to squawk and bleep full-blast. Above them, the bulb in a streetlight shattered. The two Sailor Soldiers thrust their hands into the air, preparing to call for their transformation wands, sure that the enemy was close.
But suddenly, somewhere in the middle of all that humming, there was a voice, a human voice, deep and female, growing stronger and clearer. . .
Soldiers of the Outer Planets, the voice said, the Time of Reawakening has come. The ultimate destiny is about to be fulfilled.
The two looked at each other. Time of Reawakening? said Michelle. Whose?
Sailor Saturn, the voice said. I am Kali, her Guardian Deity . . . the Guardian Deity to all of you.
Sailor Saturn? said Alex. But . . . she was reduced to a baby. . .
Only temporarily, the voice of the goddess said. She is being restored to her full state. She is needed. You all are. The enemy is about to lay waste to the earth. You will all have to fight alongside the Soldiers of the Inner Planets to destroy her.
Who is the enemy? said Michelle. Is it that boy and girl?
The enemy, said the goddess, is one who threatened the Silver Millennium in the past, and threatens its survivors now. I will guide you to her. But first . . . you must go to the Tomoe household. Sailor Saturn will be there.
The humming faded, and the voice with it. Both Sailor Soldiers were left feeling disoriented and dizzy for a few seconds.
Michelle shook her head, as if to clear it. What . . . was . . .
I think we should go, Alex said. I dont think that was an enemy. An enemy wouldnt know about Sailor Saturn. She only appeared once . . . and the enemies she revealed herself to are dead now.
Well just have to be on our guard, Michelle said. The enemy could have tried anything. Anything at all.
As they rushed off, Alex thought about what the voice of the goddess had said . . . that the time of the final battle was at hand, that they were going to have to defend the Earth . . . and that they were going to have to fight alongside the Soldiers of the Inner Planets.
The two groups of Sailor Soldiers didnt get along, and hadnt done so for a long time. But it would be necessary to put those differences behind them, if the Earth was to be saved.
* * *
Serena let herself into Dariens apartment, holding her breath. When David Chase had approached her in the arcade, hed taken her aside and told her what hed seen, what bad shape Darien was in.
I have no idea what Im going to find when I go in there, she thought. Id seen him in bad shape before, but . . . the way David looked, the way his eyes were absolutely haunted . . . it has to have gotten worse. *Far* worse.
She hadnt seen her lover in a few days, and he hadnt been that bad when she was with him last . . . he had his coughing fits, but hed bounced back, like he always did. But then again, one of the characteristics of this curse was how it came and went.
Pausing in the living room, she put her bookbag and jacket on the couch, then reached for the locket on her school uniform. Shed failed to heal him before, but she was going to try it again. She *had* to. Maybe, she thought, if I bring the crystals power up more gradually, if Im not in such a huge rush to work the healing spell, itll have an effect.
Moon Crisis Power! she said, quietly. There was a brief, brilliant flash of light in the living room, and when it faded, she was in the Sailor Soldier uniform that Reenie had designed a white Egyptian-style dress with a red and blue sailor collar, worn over a white body stocking that protected her arms and legs, with knee-high white boots completing the outfit.
Steeling herself again, she opened the door to Dariens bedroom. There he was, lying flat on his back, one arm up over his head, the other across his body, staring straight at the ceiling. The sound of his breath was a death rattle.
Serena bit her lower lip, desperately trying to hold back the tears. It wouldnt do Darien any good if she got emotional. Not now. She *had* to be strong.
He turned his head toward her, slowly. Serena? he whispered. Why did you come here?
David told me how sick you were, she said, taking the crystal out of her locket. Im going to try to heal you again.
He tried to sit up, then fell back, waves of dizziness washing over him. No. You cant.
I have to *try* again! she said. Even if I cant *cure* it, maybe I can lessen it a little! At least until we find this missing piece of the Golden Crystal! Im not going to just sit by while you waste away to nothing! She sat on the bed and grasped his hand with the one not holding the crystal. We . . . weve been thought too much together for that . . .
He covered her hand with his other one. Please . . . dont waste your strength. Youre going to need it for the enemy.
Its not a waste of strength! she said, leaping to her feet again. Using my powers to stop traffic so I could cross the street *that* would be a waste of strength. But . . . not when it comes to you.
Shes grown up so much, he thought. Shes almost unrecognizable as the klutzy girl who cared for nothing but where her next dose of sweets was coming from. Im so, so proud of her.
She raised the crystal into the air, and it levitated from her hands, beginning to glow . . . very dimly at first, then slowly getting brighter, brighter. She focused her power through it, opening every magical and psychic channel in her mind, probing for the source of the sickness.
I can feel it, she thought. Something large and black and malicious, lodged in his very soul. Almost like some kind of evil, poisonous rose that put down roots deep within him.
She put out mental feelers, grasping for the thing, and when she felt them connect, she began to pull, drawing it out . . . she could feel something start to move . . .
Then, the psychic connection suddenly snapped, like stretched-thin rubber bands breaking, and Serena was thrown backwards, tumbling over and over until she came to rest against the wall.
And at that moment, deep in the darkness of the Dead Moon Circus, the slumbering Helios felt a jolt, like a lightning bolt slamming into his brain. He snapped to full awareness, reaching out into the world with his consciousness, trying to determine the source.
His mind began to fill with an image of Super Sailor Moon, struggling to her feet, retrieving her Silver Imperium Crystal which had been thrown from her grasp. Then, she gasped, and began to cough . . . and cough . . .a series of horrible spasms wracking her small body.
On the bed in the room was the prince . . . and he was sick, so sick . . . he sat bolt upright and looked at her.
Serena! he cried. Oh, gods . . . no, no . . .
The Sailor Soldier let out one last horrible cough, and black fluid flew from her mouth and splattered on the rug. She collapsed next to it, eyes closed, panting. . . then, she sat up, looked at it, and began to scream.
Helios began to sense what was in the girls mind, and he knew what she had done, and what was happening. In trying to remove the curse, she had taken part of it into her own body.
Its time, he thought. I have to do what the voice told me to do, in order to save them . . . and to stop Nehelenia.
He reached for the princes mind as well, keeping his connection to Sailor Moon, then began to send strong sleep waves to them both. He lost consciousness first, due to his weakened state, and she followed soon after.
Now, Helios thought, I can draw them into my natural world . . . the world of dreams . . . and tell them everything they need to know.
* * *
In the Tomoe household, a baby slept in a pink-painted nursery, a beam of sunlight warming her crib.
But Heather Tomoes dream life was anything but typical.
Since her strange rebirth, the child had been hearing voices every time she went to sleep. Female voices, usually deep and rich and comforting, telling her she was special, that she was going to claim her destiny once again, that the future of the world rested on her.
The voices addressed her as Sailor Saturn.
Sometimes, shed hear a jumble of voices all at once. They seemed to be instructing her, telling her things she would need to know for the future. She didnt really pay attention to them . . . although there were parts of her mind that were always absorbing them, storing them away for the future.
The abnormality stopped as soon as she woke up, though. Heather would remember nothing of her dreams, except that a nice lady was singing and talking to her. And then shed sit up, and start looking for her daddy, and cry if she was hungry or needed to be changed.
Today, soon after her father put her down for her nap and went downstairs, the voices started again.
Sailor Saturn, the woman said, the time has come. You are about to reawaken . . . to save the world.
The baby suddenly stiffened. Her eyes flew open . . . but she was still in the dream state. The lady was still there . . . in fact, she seemed to be filling the childs entire mind, as if there was no *Heather*, just the lady.
Doors flew open deep within her consciousness, and all the knowledge that had been stored there began to flow out, like a river bursting its dam. Her past life rushed in on her in a series of images and experiences. There was a brief flash of her learning to walk, the sensation of what it was like to take those first steps without help . . . then, for a couple of seconds, she experienced her first day of school, the mixture of anticipation of meeting new friends and fear of being separated from her father, then a flicker of puberty, of looking at herself in the mirror and realizing her body was starting to change, not really knowing why.
The shaft of light that had been shining over her crib turned brilliant white, almost blinding, as the child began to levitate.
* * *
Serena opened her eyes. She was . . . somewhere else . . . it felt like she was outdoors . . .
She sat up and looked around her. What met her eyes looked like the ruins of an ancient palace. There were several crumbling columns, an elaborate marble wall that was standing by itself, looking like it had been sheared from the building it had once belonged to with a dull saw . . . a couple of stone benches, lopsided and leaning . . . a fountain, now dry, cracked and filled with dead leaves.
And all around her, overgrown vegetation . . . vines crisscrossing the ground, growing inhuge knots and snarls, grass so high it almost looked like cornstalks, flowers in disorganized clumps.
Looking beside her, she saw Darien starting to come to, slowly. He didnt look as sick as he did before . . . he looked healthier than he had in a long time.
Darien, she said, what *is* this place?
He looked around her. There was something very, very familiar about it, as if hed been there a long, long time ago. . . in another life . . .
I . . . Im not sure, he said.
And then, a voice that came from everywhere and nowhere said, You are in Elysium. It is my home . . . the place that was once called the Land of Beautiful Dreams.
A small spot of light appeared in front of them, growing bigger and bigger, until it took the shape of a human . . . a young man in his mid-teens, with a face that was almost feminine in its delicate beauty, a pair of sparkling silver eyes, and a great shock of white hair. Growing from his forehead was the horn of a unicorn.
When he saw Serena and Darien, he dropped to his knees and bowed low. Greetings, prince and princess. I will probably not be able to hold onto this form for very long, but I thought you might remember me if you saw me as you knew me, Prince Endymion.
Now, the feelings of deja vu were stronger than ever . . . but Darien just couldnt seem to place who this young man was, where he might have known him before.
Im sorry, he said, but . . . I dont know if I can remember your name. . .
I was your friend and advisor, the young man said, getting to his feet. Your mother, Queen Cassiopeia, made me governor of Elysium. My name . . . is Helios.
Helios! Darien suddenly sprung to his full height, memories flooding into his mind. I remember now! You were a courtier at the Earth Palace . . . around the time that . . .
He stopped short. Another memory was coming into his head, a bitter one, and one that he had a sinking feeling was relevant to their current situation . .. . but he didnt know why.
That. . .what? said Serena, standing up beside him. Darien, whats going on?
My . . . my aunt, he said, quietly. I had an aunt who was mad. She was related to you as well, Serena . . .a cousin of Queen Serenity. She thought she had more claim to the throne than my mother or I, so . . . she threatened to attack our kingdom . . .
Nehelenia, Helios said. She was jealous of your mother . . . thought she had no right to the throne because she was incapable of bearing a daughter . . .and furious that she had the audacity to name a *man* as her heir, even if that man was her own son.
She . . . was a sorceress, wasnt she? Darien said. A very powerful and evil one.
Helios nodded. She dedicated herself to the Black Arts and studied under the most powerful evil sorceress in the Earth Kingdom . . . Zirconia.
Darien looked puzzled. Why do I know that name as well?
You probably heard it from your grandparents, Helios replied. Zirconia had been a sorceress at their court . . . until they caught her using magic to assassinate certain high-ranking public officials. There was a courtier she was in love with, though he didnt love her in return, and she wanted to further his career so shed gain his attention.
So . . . what happened to Nehelenia? Serena said, looking around her again. What did this place look like before, she wondered. . . and how did it get to the state its in now?
She went back to the Earth Palace and challenged Cassiopeia to a duel for the kingdom, said Helios. Fortunately, Queen Serenity was at the Earth Palace at the time, and she helped Cassiopeia fight her off. They trapped Nehelenia in a parallel dimension . . . it had a mirror as its gateway.
So, that was the end of her? said Serena.
Helios shook his head, sadly. Far from it. Inside that mirror, she only got stronger. And she started to plan her revenge.
* * *
Alex and Michelle burst into the Tomoe house without knocking. The first thing they saw was a tall, calm figure standing on the stairs.
In the nursery, Sonya said. Its already begun.
The two raced up the stairs, and followed their fellow Outer Planet Soldier into the first room on the right. There was a shaft of brilliant white light . . . and the baby floating over the crib, eyes closed, rotating slowly, slowly, like a revolving stand of watches in a jewelry store.
As they watched, she started to spin faster . . . and grow. Her little pink baby sleeper vanished as her arms and legs stretched, her torso became longer, her hair grew down until it reached her shoulders. Eventually, her body began to get curvier, as it took on the changes of puberty, her bust beginning to grow, her waist growing slimmer, hips rounder. . .
When she had reached the growth level of a girl of 13 or 14, there was another flash of light, and a purple and white Sailor Soldier uniform appeared on her body. The spinning stopped, and she floated down to earth, gracefully, her boots alighting on the floor. She put out her right hand, there was another flash of light, and a weapon was there, a long-handled scythe.
The young woman opened her eyes. She was a teenager now, physically and mentally. And she knew what to do, what to say.
Hello, Sailors Neptune, Uranus and Pluto. We dont have much time. We have to act . . . the enemy is about to strike.
What enemy? said Michelle. Who are they?
An old enemy of the Moon Kingdom, Sailor Saturn replied. Kali has told me who she is, and where to find her. But first. . . you have to receive your Super-level powers. She raised her glaive in the air, and three wands appeared above them, looking like the wands the Sailors of the Inner Planets had received . . . a gold stem with a handle, topped with a large, crystal ball bearing the appropriate planetary symbol.
Michelle took hers, saying, What are our Super-level powers?
You will know once you transform, Sailor Saturn said. Now, hurry . . . before its too late . . .
* * *
Helios walked back and forth, contemplating the ruins of Elysium. The kingdom that had been beautiful, until Nehelenia. . .
She gathered an army around her, he told Serena and Darien. Lemures . . . the creatures that normally invade human nightmares. And she devised a plan to take over humanity by invading their dreams, and plunging them into eternal unconsciousness and terror. The only way they could be freed would be to turn over all power to her, so she would rule the world.
Lemures, said Serena, quietly. Those three weird guys . . .they called those monsters they sent after us lemures . . . Her head snapped up. So . . . Nehelenia is the enemy were facing *now*?
Im afraid so, said Helios. She chose to begin her invasion during a total eclipse of the sun. Do you remember the legend of Amaterasu, the sun goddess?
Serena thought it sounded vaguely familiar, but she couldnt put her finger on it exactly. She shook her head.
However, Darien said, She was ashamed of her brothers wicked ways, so she hid herself in a cave . . . and the whole world turned dark, and was overrun with evil spirits.
Theres some truth to that old story, said Helios. When the Earth is suddenly plunged into darknesslike that, it enhances negative energies, and decreases positive ones. During the total eclipse of the sun, Earths psychic defense fields were down enough so that she and her group could invade, and set up an encampment near where you live. They call it the Dead Moon Circus. She concealed it with magic so no humans would know she was there. And then . . . she captured me, so that she could lay waste to Elysium, the place beautiful dreams come from, so that nothing but nightmares could get through to humans.
He sighed. Not that I was hard to capture. She had weakened me years ago, when she put the curse on me.
A . . . curse? said Darien.
Once she was in the mirror, the first thing she wanted to do was to punish Cassiopeia by hurting the one thing she loved most in the world . . . her son. She decided to put a curse on your that would kill you slowly and painfully before you got a chance to reach the throne. But . . . she needed to test her spell first. And so, she chose someone shed always hated. Me. I had always mistrusted her from the beginning, even when she had some of the other courtiers hoodwinked.
You carry the same curse as me? Darien said.
Not quite, said Helios. You see, it didnt kill me. It nearly did . . . I became deathly ill. But just as my physical body was about to die, I heard a voice saying that I couldnt leave this world yet, that I had a destiny to fulfill. And now, I know it was the same voice that led me to help Reenie, he thought. The curse couldnt be lifted entirely, because it had been in my body for too long, but the nature of the spell could be changed, so I would mutate into a new form instead of dying. And so, I ended up in the form of a winged horse.
Winged horse. . . said Serena. A. . . Pegasus? Like the one Reenie has been seeing in her dreams?
Helios smiled quietly, and put a hand on Serenas shoulder. Dear Princess. . . I *am* the Pegasus Reenie saw in her dreams. Princess Small Lady Serenity has become a very dear friend of mine.
You. . .you *are*? Serena cried, her hand covering Helioss. Then, you must know about the Golden Crystal!
Only its history, he said. I have no idea what the location of the missing piece of the Golden Crystal is.
Darien stepped up next to them, putting a hand between them. Wait a second, he said. The curse you were the test subject for. . . that *is* the one she eventually put on me?
It is indeed, said Helios. Look, you can see it. He put a hand on Dariens chest, and a white light began to glow deep within him, first a tiny pinpoint, then bigger and brighter . . .
And a large black pattern suddenly appeared in the midst of it, in the shape of a rose. Serena gasped. Make it go away! she cried.
I wish I could, Helios said, sadly. The only thing that will remove that curse is if the Golden Crystal is made whole again . . . and the only thing that will defeat Nehelenia is the Silver and Golden Crystals used together.
You keep saying you know about the Golden Crystal, Serena cried. Tell us everything you know! Maybe . . . maybe we can figure out how to put it back together.
Helios lowered his hand, and the curse rose disappeared from Dariens chest. When Queen Beryl destroyed the Moon Kingdom, she also destroyed the inhabitants and civiliations of every other planet in the solar system except Earth, which was her home world. But she *did* attack the capital of Earth, the continent of Atlantis, and eventually sank it . When Queen Cassiopeia knew that her forces were being defeated, she decided that the Golden Crystal would not fall into the hands of the enemy. And so, she divided it in two, and hid the pieces.
I found one piece, Darien said.
Helios wheeled around, eyes wide. What did you say? he said.
I found one piece of the crystal, Darien said. Last year. It was when Serena and I were working on developing her psychic senses. She saw where it was, and she led me to it.
The young mans brilliant silver eyes shone with pure joy, looking as if he would dance around the palace ruins at any second. Why . . . why, thats wonderful! Because I know where the second part is! The piece you have is the one Ive been looking for all along!
Serena gripped his arm. You have to tell us where the other piece is! We have to put them together! We. . .
But just then, there was an enormous roaring noise, like a hundred thunderclaps on top of each other, and Serena and Darien both felt like they had been hit straight in the head with a powerful zap of electricity.
And then, they opened their eyes, finding themselves lying on Dariens bed.
What. . .. what happened? she said, sitting bolt upright. He was going to tell us!
Darien sat up, slowly. The curse was gone . . . at least for now. He felt normal, more normal than hed felt in a long time.
Something interrupted the dream state we were in, he said. Somebody found out, somehow, that we . . . His eyes slowly moved toward the window. Something was going on outside, something strange . . . there were silver strands of a material that looked like spider webbing in the tree outside, and they seemed to be reaching downward.
Serena, he said, take a look at that.
They both went to the window and peered out. Shimmering strands were stretching between telephone poles and houses, from tree to tree, and then down to the ground, winding around bushes, flagpoles, wrapping themselves around cars. As they watched, the strands began to grow more, and more, crawling around the ground like silver snakes, then rising up to wrap around whatever was available.
Whats going on? she said.
I think our enemy might be readying her ultimate assault, Darien said. Call the others, *now*. Were going to find that Dead Moon Circus, and put a stop to Nehelenia before she gets a chance to destroy the world.
* * *
Reenie was at the computer, typing up the last paragraph of a report, when her communicator beeped. She pushed the button, and saw her future mothers face on the little screen.
You have to come to Dariens apartment *now*, Reenie, Serena said. The enemy is attacking! Look out the window . . .
The girl stood up and turned around. . . and gasped. There were spiderwebs everywhere, covering everything.
This must be why Pegasus didnt come the last couple of nights, she thought. He must have known, and hes fighting this enemy, too.
Im on my way, she told Serena, rushing toward the door. She shouted something to Serenas mother about going to a friends house to work on the report schoolwork was always such a convenient excuse when one was running off to do her Sailor Soldier duty and rushed out into the street.
The spiderwebbing was crawling everywhere. One piece tried to wind its way around her leg. She jumped to avoid it, then had to do something akin to a dance step to avoid more of them.
Why are the streets so deserted? she thought. Youd think more people would be coming out of their houses to try to figure out what was going on here. But, theres nobody. Not even faces peeking at the windows. Is this stuff . . . trapping them in their houses, somehow? Maybe they cant move?
But then, she began to hear sounds coming from the houses around her. Screams, moans, whimpers . . . as if the people inside were being attacked. That must be it, she thought. This stuff must be carrying some kind of monsters into their houses!
She ducked behind a cobweb-covered bush and opened the locket on her blouse, saying, Moon Crisis Power! There was a flash of pink light, and she was in the uniform of Neo-Sailor Moon.
Rushing to the nearest house, she looked in the window . . . and saw no monsters, no lemures, none of the three weird guys. Just a man, a woman and a teenage boy, lying on the floor unconscious . . . but writhing around, clutching at the air, batting at things only their minds eyes could see.
Nightmares, she thought. Theyre having nightmares. So *this* is what the enemy is doing!
Hey! she called. Wake up! Now! You have to! The enemy will get to you if you keep having nightmares. . .
But there was no response. She opened the window, reached down, and found a small rock. She flung it inside, so it would glance off the mans leg. Still nothing.
They cant wake up, she thought. This is the enemys spell.
She turned from the window and ran for Dariens apartment, twice as fast as before.
* * *
David looked out the window as the spiderwebs covered, and covered, and covered the world outside. A sick feeling of dread was in the pit of his stomach. You could barely see anything anymore. There were just silvery strands overlapping each other, twisting around every available surface. It was as if someone had wrapped the outdoors in a thin, shimmery twine.
Lori was across the room, still typing away at the computer as if nothing was wrong. Were under attack by gods-only-know what, he thought, and shes still organizing a protest rally to get her damn extra ladies rooms on campus. Or maybe, by acting normal, shes hiding from whats *really* going on.
Whats going on? she said, not looking up from the screen.
He shook his head. Its bad . . . still bad.
Its just spiderwebs still, right? They havent launched any bombs or anything? She hit send, clicked the new message button. Or . . . sent any more of those damn bat things? She shuddered inwardly at the memory of the creatures that had attacked her and David, which she had tried to fend off with a baseball bat. If it hadnt been for Mina . . . Sailor Venus . . . theyd all be dead.
No bat things. But . . . this could turn into something a hundred times *worse* than the bat things. He sat on the bed, his head in his hands. Not only do we have to worry about whatever this is, he thought, we have to worry about our friends going out there to *fight* this thing. Especially in the shape that Darien is in.
Or . . . it could be nothing, some kind of false alarm, she said, turning back to the computer, typing again.
Does this *look* like a false alarm? he snapped, pointing to the window. You dont exactly see anything like this every day! He rushed over to look outside again . . .
There was somebody there. A black shape, somewhere in the middle of all the shiny webbing. He jumped back, tensing, remembering the person who had assaulted him in the park. Had they come back after him?
The figure moved toward him, slowly, then stopped. There was a cape billowing around the person, he could see that . . .
A hand reached out and tapped on the door. Dont answer it! Lori cried.
And then, a voice, which was familiar and not familiar at the same time, said, David?
He knew who that was. The voice was changed just enough to disguise it, but anyone who knew his everyday self would be able to figure out who it was.
David threw the door open, and there was a young man dressed in a black tuxedo and cape, a white mask covering the upper part of his face. Darien? David said, quietly.
I have to go fight this thing, Darien said. But I wanted to make sure the two of you are protected first. He reached out, and there was a rose in his hand . . . although it seemed to glow with an unearthly light.
I couldnt *not* do this, Darien thought. Theres no way Im going to leave them unguarded with this happening. I had to drain a little bit of power to charge this talisman, but its worth it to make sure theyre safe.
What is this? said David, taking it gingerly, like someone handling a newborn puppy.
This rose has been charged with magic, Darien said. It will form a barrier around you, but its range is not that great. I want you to not leave this room under any circumstances until its over, and youre both best off if you stay close to the rose at all times.
Lori got up from the computer and walked over toward them. What is it? she said. Whats going on?
This enemy wants to plunge people into eternal nightmares, said Darien. And if you dont use the rose properly, itll happen to you, too.
Eternal nightmares? said Lori, eyeing the rose as if it were something that had just fallen to Earth from the planet Mongo. What kind of sick shit-for-brains would do that?
Darien smiled, sadly. Thats exactly the kind of person were dealing with, unfortunately. And now, I have to go. Remember what I said . . . stay near the rose. He turned and left the apartment, disappearing into the haze of spiderwebs like a ship vanishing in the fog.
David closed the door. The rose was pulsing with a soft, pink light, and it felt . . . *alive* in his hand. Not like a plant, like some kind of warm-blooded animal.
What the hell was *that* about? Lori said. Eternal nightmares?
Suddenly, there were sounds coming from the apartments around them. Shrieks, screams, moans . . .
Its started, he said, clutching the rose tighter.
Holy *shit*, Lori whispered. And for one of the very few times in her life since her stepfather stopped assaulting her, she knew true fear.
David grabbed her and drew her down to the bed with him. Hey! she said. What the hell . . . at a time like this. . .
Its not that, he said. Were going to stay here . . . huddled with this rose . . . until those screams and those spiderwebs go away. Neither of us is going to go anywhere.
Normally, Lori would fly off the handle at being given an order like that. Shed come up with a biting retort, and follow that with a quick barrage of stinging remarks. But now . . .she wasnt going to protest at all.
They lay together, clutching the rose, silently hoping that the battle would be swift.
* * *
Darien walked back into his apartment to find the other Sailor Soldiers waiting for him.
Where were you, Tux Boy? Raye said. We were just ready to leave without you!
Im sorry, he said. There was just . . . something I needed to check on.
Youd better detransform, Darien, Amy said, looking up from her computer. The scan I just ran of the Dead Moon Circus area shows that theyve got a barrier that will prohibit anyone with magical powers from entering . . . a defense precisely against people like us.
Were going to sneak onto the grounds and *then* transform, Lita said, looking over Amys shoulder.
Can you figure out exactly where Nehelenia is? said Artemis, padding over toward Amy.
Amy shook her head. There seems to be no central source of Dark Energy. It looks to be evenly distributed across the entire site.
The spiderwebs are coming faster now, said Mina, who was at the window. The city will be completely coated before long.
What I dont understand, said Lita, is why *were* not affected by these nightmares.
The magical energy concentrated within you has apparently given you immunity from the spell, said Luna, walking over toward where Artemis was. Were going to have to leave now if we have any hope of getting there before the streets are impassible. At this rate, I estimate she should have the entire city wrapped like a cocoon within half an hour.
Darien finished his detransformation. All right, he said. Well just head down Front Street and. . .
Suddenly, he was seized with a massive coughing fit, as bad as all the others, if not worse. No warning this time! he thought. He dropped to his knees, hearing the gasps and cries of the others, who had no idea hed been that sick .
Reenie just stared at him, dumbfounded, eyes wide open. Whats going on? she thought. Why is Darien so sick? People dont cough like that when they have a cold! They cough like that when they have some horrible disease, something that could kill them . . . She ran across the room to him, putting a hand on his shoulder, crying Darien! and watched in horror as he expelled a hideous black fluid.
His eyes opened, slowly, and he raised his head to see his future daughter looking at him.
Oh, Reenie, he thought, I never wanted you to find out. Especially like this.
Darien, she said, tears in her eyes, whats wrong? Tell me!
He reached up and hugged her, looked around at the faces of the others, which also registered shock and horror.
Its a curse, he said, quietly. The enemy put a curse on me a long, long time ago.
Reenie felt sick to her stomach when she heard that. A curse? she thought. Who would *dare* curse my father? Im going to find this person, and Im going to make them pay.
Artemis walked over to him, saying, Ive suspected that for a long time, Darien. You know for sure, now?
He nodded. Yes . . . my old friend from the Moon Kingdom told me.
Well, youre not going to fight, then! said Raye, storming over to Darien. Youre too sick.
Darien drew himself up to his full height. Raye, I have to do this. I am the only person who can wield the Golden Crystal.
So? she said, leaning over so she was literally in his face. We can find some other way of beating her! Well combine powers!
Darien shook his head, pulling away from her. If there was another way, Id say lets do that. But . . .
Serena turned to the window again. The outside world was almost completely silvery-white.
Were going to have to go *now*, she said. Or we wont get another chance.
They looked at each other and nodded. Quietly, they filed out into the hall. All around them was a chorus of screams and wails, as the other residents of the apartment building suffered their nightmares.
Reenie tried to tune the horrible sounds out. It sounded too much like when the Black Moon Family attacked Crystal Tokyo to her, and she had to listen to the screams of the dying everywhere.
But she took a deep breath and steeled herself. I want to bring these peoples suffering to an end, she thought. And I want to punish whoever it was who hurt Darien. And to do that, Ill face anything.
The group rode the elevator down to the ground in silence, then headed out into the silver-covered world.
* * *
Tiger Eye, Hawk Eye and Fish Eye lingered outside the main tent of the Dead Moon Circus, watching what was going on all around them.
This is definitely it, said Fish Eye. Its over.
We dont have to gather mirrors anymore, sighed Hawk Eye. Thank the gods . . . now, she can set us free.
Free? Tiger Eye said, wheeling around to face the other two. I dont wanna go free!
Are you crazy? said Fish Eye, folding his arms over his usual blue outfit which looked like a stack of tires. After having to listen to that old bat bark orders for an eternity? And spending so much time pulling out dream mirrors?
Shes not setting *any* of us free until she gives us our reward! said Tiger Eye. Come on, with everything weve put up with, you mean were not entitled to something?
At this point, Hawk Eye said, freedom will be reward enough.
Well, its not enough for me! said Tiger Eye, starting to stalk into the tent.
Hey! said Fish Eye, running after him. Where are you going?
Im going to talk to Nehelenia herself! If theres ever a time when were gonna catch her in a good mood, its now!
Youre nuts! said Hawk Eye, running after both of them. We never talked to Nehelenia before!
So? Nows the time shed be happy to see us, right? We were the ones who helped her get enough dreams to launch this attack! The swaggering blond led his two compatriots to the far end of the tent, an area where they had previously been forbidden to go. In an alcove protected by a flap of canvas, there was a large mirror with an ornate frame, the type youd see in a Victorian ladys dressing room.
This is it? said Fish Eye.
Shes not going to want to talk to us, said Hawk Eye. If she was going to do that, we would have heard from her a long time a . . .
Just then, a white light flared up from within the mirror, and all three of them jumped. The form of a woman with long, dark, flowing hair appeared, her face beautiful, but wearing a cold expression.
What is it? she said. Why are you interrupting me in the middle of my assault?
So much for catching her in a good mood, Fish Eye whispered.
Tiger Eye stood rooted to the spot, his usual confidence evaporating like milk in bright sunlight. Um, Nehelenia. . ..your highness . . . we want to talk to you about our, um . . . reward?
Not that we *need* one, said Hawk Eye, quickly. Tiger Eye elbowed him in the ribs.
Nehelenia just stared at them for a moment, then started to laugh, first a few chuckles, then a cackle that got louder and louder. The three looked at each other. This was *not* good.
Reward? she said. Reward? You idiots! You really have no idea what you are, do you?
Um . . . your employees? said Fish Eye.
Employees? Nehelenia laughed. Hardly! Slaves is more like it! But *that* isnt even the word. After all . . . slaves are *human*.
Hey, wait a minute! said Tiger Eye, taking a step toward the mirror. What are you trying to say?
Im saying youre not human! You never were! Youre animals I cast a spell on!
The three exchanged shocked looks. Not. .. . human?
If were not human, said Hawk Eye, how can we talk?
Yeah! Fish Eye added. And how could we do the dream mirror thing?
You dont believe me? said Nehelenia. Fine. Look in the mirror, and see your true forms!
Her image disappeared, and the surface of the mirror became shiny silver, reflecting back the three henchmen. And then the images shifted, changed, mutated . . . until they became a tiger, a hawk and a fish.
Fish Eye trembled, his hands covering his face. No . . . no . . . it cant be! But something in the back of his head knew it was true.
Tiger Eye just stared, wide-eyed, and Hawk Eye looked away from the mirror, fighting back tears.
Nehelenia appeared again. Youve outlived your usefulness! she said. As soon as my assault is complete, you will regain your original forms. Now, go! I dont want to waste my time on garbage like you. The mirror went dark.
The three stumbled away, shell-shocked.
Were not human, Fish Eye said in a hoarse whisper.
I cant believe it, Hawk Eye mumbled, wondering how he was managing to put one foot in front of the other. If were animals, then . . . our bodies wont be able to take the strain of having lived as humans. Soon as we take our original forms back, well probably die.
All this time, I looked forward to when this would be over, and how wed live afterward, Tiger Eye said. And . .. there *is* no afterward.
Why didnt anybody *tell* us this before! Fish Eye wailed, stomping a foot into the ground, before running toward the bar tent where theyd spent all their off-hours, as if seeking the comfort of familiar settings would make the horror go away.
That old bag probably knew all along, said Hawk Eye. And . . .she didnt tell us, either.
Do you think she would? Tiger Eye said. Shes just as bad as the other one.
They started to follow Fish Eye into the bar tent, a funeral silence descending over them.
Then, Tiger Eye said, quietly, If we get a shot, before we go . . . Id like to make them pay for this.
What good would that do? Fish Eye snapped. You think she cares if *we* go after her now? You heard her call us garbage!
Hey, he has a point, said Hawk Eye, sitting at their regular table. We cant take this lying down! We did everything for her!
We didnt know any better, Fish Eye said, sitting down beside him.
All the more reason for us to *get her*! said Tiger Eye, hopping onto his stool and thumping the table for emphasis. Let her know that were *not* garbage!
You wanna prove that shes *right* about us not being human at *all*? said Hawk Eye. We have to show her that we *know* what she did to us, and that were gonna kick her butt for it!
Fish Eye sat quietly for a moment, as if mulling it over. Then, he said, All right . . . Im with the two of you. What are we going to do?
Hawk Eye leaned across the table. Yeah! What are we going to do?
Tiger Eye paused for a moment, blinking. In his zeal over getting revenge, he hadnt thought to come up with any kind of a plan.
Um, I dont know, he said. At least, not yet. . .
The three slumped into their seats in silence. They were back to square one . . . at least until they could come up with a workable plan.
* * *
The Dead Moon Circus area was the only site in Tokyo not covered by the spiderwebs. When the seven figures emerged from the thickets, it felt almost as if they had come up from underwater.
Doesnt look like much of a circus to me, said Mina, looking around. Few tents, maybe, but . . . no animals, no straw . . .
Its not a *real* circus! Raye hissed. Probably their head honcho is some kind of whacko who *thinks* theyre running a circus.
Amy had her palmtop open again, and was typing away madly. Can you get any kind of a reading on a central headquarters? said Serena.
Amy shook her head. The Dark Energy still seems evenly distributed. It could be in any one of those tents . . . or, perhaps, even underground.
Well, then were just going to have to spread out, said Serena, opening her locket. Now, transform, quickly. . .
The group formed a circle, with Serena, Reenie and Darien at the center. One facet of their Super-level powers was a group transformation which could be done quickly and easily. Each brought her transformation wand spinning into her hand and pointed it at the Royal Family, who had their own lockets and Earth Blade ready. The group said as one voice, SAILOR PLANET POWER! There was a brief flash of white light, and when it faded, all were in their magical forms.
All right, said Serena. Raye and Amy, you go off to the right . . . Lita and Mina, you go to the left . . . and well search the central area. Call everyone else if you see anything the least bit suspicious.
The group split up. Amy and Raye walked off into pitch darkness, scrutinizing every surface for any sign of a possible trap door.
At least here, said Raye, we dont have to listen to those terrible screams.
Its far too quiet, in fact, Amy replied. Like everything in here is dead.
They continued on, looking around them, testing the ground with their feet . . . but finding nothing unusual.
I dont know, said Raye. Maybe this is some kind of dupe, and its not their real hideout after all . . .
Just then, Amy saw something out of the corner of her eye. A glowing wisp of smoke, rising out of the ground not too far from Raye . . . starting to take some kind of shape . . .
Raye, on your left! she cried. The other turned .. . to see something that looked like a human form made of liquid silver, a wonderfully sculpted body but a featureless face. It raised an arm, and a stream of liquid shot out of it. Raye barely dodged out of the way and hit the ground, and the fluid hit a nearby tree, evaporating it.
Amy swung into action, putting out her right hand and crying, MERCURY! An Irish-style harp appeared in it, which she pulled toward her chest, plucking the strings while shouting, AQUA RHAPSODY! A bolt of water shot from the instrument, slamming into the silver thing, which exploded.
But then, both girls became aware of an eerie glow all around them. There were smoke wisps forming everywhere, solidifying into one silver creature after another.
Oh, CRAP, Raye said, springing to her feet. She put out her hand and shouted, MARS! A glowing red bow and arrow appeared, seeming to be made of fire itself. She drew back and fired, shouting, FLAME SNIPER! The arrow streaked toward one creature, which blew up so violently it also took out the creature next to it.
But at that moment, two more fired at her, and Raye hit the deck again, rolling over and over to avoid the blast. Amy had been flung to the ground as well, and she was crying out her attack again, firing upward, managing to get rid of another, but it seemed to be not nearly enough. The silver things were firing, and firing again, and the girls had to roll this way and that just to get away, unable to fire . . .
A voice behind them shouted, SPACE SWORD BLASTER! A powerful beam streaked through the air, slicing to the left, cutting down four of the creatures in one blow.
Then came a second voice, shouting SUBMARINE REFLECTION!, and a super-powered stream of water came slicing to the right, taking out several more creatures.
It was just enough of an opening for Amy and Raye to scramble back to their feet and relaunch their own attacks. Fire and water blasts flew rapidly, and the remaining creatures exploded, one by one.
Finally, both Sailor Soldiers took a deep breath. Who was that? said Raye.
We havent seen you in awhile, Sailor Mars, said a familiar, low-pitched voice from the directions the blasts came from. Amy and Raye turned . . . and there were two figures they knew very well. A tall blond, an elegant aqua-haired woman, dressed in the same fukus they had worn during the Death Busters battle . . . but with the star chokers and larger bows that marked them as having attained Super-level powers.
You, Raye said through clenched teeth, balling her hands into fists. She could still remember the last time shed seen these two. Theyd come close to killing her best friend.
We are on the same mission as you this time, Michelle said, calmly. We were sent to help you eliminate Nehelenia and the Dead Moon Circus.
How can we be sure of that? Raye said, advancing toward them, slowly.
Amy put an arm in front of her friend to stop them. If they say theyre on our side, she said, we have to believe them.
We just saved your lives, didnt we? said Alex. Look, we had our differences in the past, but . . . can we drop it? At least for now?
She has a point, Amy said. Were going to need their help. All the help we can get.
Raye folded her arms across her chest and harrumphed. Shed never considered these two true Sailor Soldiers. Theyd been willing to sacrifice innocent lives to achieve their ends . . . it was against everything shed been taught was moral and ethical on her home planet.
Who gave you the assignment? she said, narrowing her eyes.
The goddess Kali sent us, Michelle said. She told us where to find Nehelenia, and that wed have to detransform before sneaking onto her ground.
Raye sighed. She knew better than anyone the roles that the gods played in the lives and actions of the Sailor Soldiers. And she doubted theyd know exactly where to look for Nehelenia if not for divine intervention.
All right, she said. Well work together. You might as well help us look for . . .
Just then, her communicator beeped. She raised it, to see Serenas face.
Everyone, I think Ive found something, she said. We looked in the central tent, and . . . theres some kind of *throne* in here. This could be it.
Were on our way, Raye said. She looked around at the others. Well . . . you might as well come with us.
She cast a sidelong glance at Uranus and Neptune as they walked along. I still dont know if I can fully trust them, she thought, but I have no choice. Were going to need all the help we can get right now.
* * *
Serena, Darien and Reenie crept quietly into the tent. It was like no circus tent theyd ever seen. There were three rings in the center, and trapezes hanging from the ceiling . . . but they looked too neat, too new, without dirt, sawdust, scuffs from human and animal feet. It looked like a plastic childs toy blown up to life size.
Over there, Serena whispered. Its a throne, all right.
The three approached, cautiously. There was a carved, ornate seat on a dais, a pair of large floor torches burning on either side of it.
This belongs to Nehelenia? whispered Reenie.
Darien shook his head. No . . . shes sealed away inside the mirror. It probably belongs to someone whos . . .
WHO IS IN HERE? cried a voice, sounding more like the croak of a frog than any sound a human would make. A figure emerged from the area behind the throne, stooped and wrinkled, skin turned a dull gray with age. It was impossible to determine the exact age or gender of the newcomer.
Serena pointed her weapon at the person. Tell me where Nehelenia is!
The thing made some kind of wheezing noise that might have been a laugh. You must be the Sailor Soldiers I heard so much about.
Youd better believe it! Serena replied. Im . . . She stopped herself from going into the long speech about being a champion of love and justice that she used to spout at adversaries. She knew now that Raye had been right about that . . . it only made her look silly. And she could *not* afford to look silly now.
Youre Sailor Moon, no doubt, the other said, raising the staff in her hand, which was topped with some kind of giant eyeball with wings. You might have been able to beat those three useless henchmen, but youre no match for me!
The eye glowed red, and two beams of flaming energy shot from it, knocking into Serena and Reenie and flinging them to the ground, their weapons flying out of their hands. They struggled to get up . . . but the beams were pressing down on them like lead weights, making them feel like their skin was aflame.
SERENA! Darien cried. Of course, he thought, this must be Zirconia . . . and she attacked them and not me . . . she thinks Im not a threat because Im male . . . well, Ill show her! He raised his hands a short distance apart at chest level, and focused his thoughts, concentrating, willing a ball of energy to form between them. He thrust them toward the old hag, shouting, SMOKING BOMBER!
Nothing happened. Oh, no, Darien thought . . . the curse cant be sapping my powers, not now . . .
Zirconia guffawed, and only increased the power of her energy beams. The two girls trapped beneath them screamed. Darien pulled his knife out of his sheath and pointed it at her, yelling, EARTH BLADE EXECUTION! Still . . . nothing.
What do you call *that*? Zirconia croaked. A *man* who thinks he has the power to attack me?
He does! Serena cried, redoubling her efforts to get up. . . but the beams were holding her down, as if she were encased in cement. I have to move, she thought . . . or else. . .shell do *something* . . .
If thats power, Id hate to see a weakling, Zirconia scoffed.
There was one last resort, his most basic power. He held up his hand, and a magic rose formed in a small puff of pink smoke. He flung it at Zirconia . . . and it cut across the beams long enough for Serena and Reenie to free themselves. They scrambled to their feet, grabbing for their weapons.
Zirconia was flabbergasted. She . . . the most powerful black sorceress in the world, save for Nehelenia herself, had her spell interrupted by a mere *man* . . . with a mere *rose* . . .
And then, she exploded in fury, shouting, YOULL PAY FOR THAT! A huge ball of slivery-blue energy appeared instantly in her hand, and she flung it at Darien with every ounce of venom in her.
He saw it coming, and tried to jump out of the way. But in his curse-weakened state, he was a bit too slow, and didnt quite make it. The ball slammed into his body, knocking the mask from his face. He fell forward, landing on the ground.
In the depths of the Dead Moon Circus, Helios felt an enormous jolt, and his minds eye filled with the scene of horror that was unfolding. He would have screamed if he could.
How dare you do that to the prince, he thought. How *dare* you! I will punish you for that, Zirconia, one way or another.
Serena and Reenie both rushed over to him, screaming his name. Serena turned him over, holding his head in his lap, and pressed her fingers to his throat. There was no pulse.
No, she cried, softly. No . . . Darien, you cant do this, you cant leave me! Wake up! Please . . . please, you have to fight with me, Darien! She began to rock him in her arms, tears coming thick and fast. Please, please . . . Then, she burst out into a keening wail that echoed throughout the cavernous tent.
Reenie just stood there, rooted to the spot, feeling numb inside, feeling as if she were watching this on TV . . . this isnt happening, she thought, this cant be happening. Hes supposed to be there in the future! Hes supposed to be my father!
And a fury began to rise in her, unlike anything she had ever felt before, a boiling, black emotion that blotted out any mercy or compassion within her. There was nothing but the desire to make this old hag pay.
She saw Zirconia start to make her way across the tent . . . perhaps in search of the mirror. She planted herself in front of the ancient crone, wand pointed at her.
Out of my way, brat! Zirconia croaked. Or Ill do to you what I did to him!
Reenie just stood there, fearless. Youll pay, she said, in a sinister, quiet voice.
*Youll* make me pay? said Zirconia. Dont make me laugh! And she put out her hand to form another energy ball.
Reenie put out her own hand at the same time, willing her Crystal Clarion to appear, having no doubt that it would. She grabbed it out of the air and rang it, shouting, CLARION CALL!
There was a flash of golden light above Zirconia, and she looked up, saying, What . . . Her eyes grew wide when she saw a white winged horse appear, a golden horn glittering in the center of its forehead. This is it, she thought, the thing we were looking for!
TIGER EYE! HAWK EYE! FISH EYE! Where are you? she barked. Its the second Pegasus! Capture it!
Helios swooped down from the ceiling, toward Reenie, and she leapt on his back. Pegasus. . . she whispered. Hes not a dream creature now, she thought. Hes *real*, he has a solid body.
I know, he said. I saw. And . . . I know what we must do. Hang on.
He climbed up for the ceiling as the ancient woman below him still hobbled around, yelling for her henchmen. Reenie regarded her with venom, waiting for the perfect moment, when her target would be coming in just the right direction. . .
Then, she tugged gently on the horses mane, steering him downward, and he swooped down from the sky like a guided missile on a deadly trajectory. Zirconia just stood there, paralyzed to the spot, unable to believe, unable to move.
And then, Helios slammed into her, his horn tearing into her body like a spear, impaling her. She just stayed still for a moment, trembling, making a gurgling noise. Then, she exhaled a last, rasping breath, and fell to the ground, off the horn.
Reenie leaned over Helios neck, hugging him, breathing heavily. I have avenged you, Father, she thought.
Something was stirring in the back of her mind, a memory of a story she had heard once about a god who avenged his fathers murder. It was Horus, she thought. The son of Isis and Osiris. Isis is Sailor Moons Guardian Deity, and Osiris is the Guardian Deity of Tuxedo Mask. That means . . .
Helios heard her whisper the name Horus under her breath. Yes, Neo-Sailor Moon, he said. Horus is your Guardian Deity. Hes the one whos been talking to me in my dreams and helping me guide you.
I feel like . . . Ive just *become* him, she whispered, feeling a bit dazed.
Slowly, she climbed off. There was red blood splattered all over her friends white hide. . . . and the horn had snapped off from the impact, hanging from his head by just one thin piece of gold.
Neo-Sailor Moon, he said, I want you to take the horn, and give it to Sailor Moon.
Reenie cringed a second at the thought of having to touch something soaked in the despicable hags blood . . . and the thought of having to break it off her friend.
Wont that hurt you? she said.
Just for a second, Helios replied. Please, its of the utmost importance.
Reenie grasped the bloodied horn. When I was losing my baby teeth, she thought, and I had one hanging on by just one root, like this horn is hanging on by just one piece, I would twist it, and it would come out.
She gave the horn a firm turn, and it snapped off. She noticed that it was hollow, and there was something inside.
A Golden Crystal, she thought. Like the one on Dariens Earth Blade.
This is the missing piece? she said.
No, Helios replied. I had it all along. Cassiopeia was clever, doing what she did. She left one piece with me, and hid the other within the Earth, because she knew that the energies of the planet would guard it. I didnt know where the exact location was, though . . . or that Sailor Moon had already guided the prince to it.
She walked with the bloodied horn over to her future mother, who had the Silver Imperium Crystal out and was frantically trying to revive Darien with it . . . to no avail.
Serena, she said, quietly, I have it. She held out the bloodied horn.
Serena looked at her with blank eyes . . . and then, comprehension dawned . . . The . . . Golden Crystal . . .
The other piece, said Reenie. We can put them together now.
A growling noise by the tent entrance interrupted them. They both turned, and saw things starting to slink in. . . apelike creatures, but with leathery, oozing skin instead of fur.
Lemures, said Reenie. Weve been found out. We have to hurry . . .
* * *
Darien was in a corridor that seemed made of pure light.
How did I get here? he thought. The last thing I remember was trying to save Serena and Reenie from Zirconia . . . did I succeed? Am I still at the Dead Moon Circus? He ran down the hall, looking for a door, an outlet of any kind. There was nothing.
And then, there was a swirling gray mist in front of him . . . little wisps at first, which began twirling around, turning into a whirlwind which got bigger, and thicker, and began to take on the form of a man. Someone hed seen before, in another time, another place. His eyes took in the conical drown, the jeweled pectoral.
The other held a hand out to him in greeting. Prince Endymion . . . its a pleasure to see you again.
Darien just stared, mouth open, in awe at the mans sudden apperance, and wondering where it was hed seen him. Youre . . .
Osiris. Im your Guardian Deity.
The memory came back to Darien in a rush. You gave me the Earth Blade! he said.
A long time ago, the god replied. Back when you were first starting to come into your power. Not even I had hoped that you would achieve what you have now.
Darien was puzzled. What is that?
You are about to fulfill your destiny of saving the world.
This startled Darien. Me . . . save the world? But Im not even a Sailor Soldier!
Osiris shook his head, his arms crossed over his chest. You *are*. Youve been held back, both by the curse Nehelenia put on you, and by the limitations you put on yourself. The limitations, youve already overcome. Think of the progress you made with Artemis. Youve proven to yourself that you *are* as capable of wielding magical power as any woman. When you used the Smoking Bomber attack, you reached deep into yourself, and pulled something out..
But . . . the curse . . . the only thing that can remove it is the Golden Crystal.
The second piece of the Golden Crystal has been found. You can now claim it and use it.
Darien grabbed the gods arm and cried, Found? By who?
By your daughter, in the act of avenging your death.
Reenie . . . avenged me? He was finding the concept hard to grasp. How?
She and Helios have destroyed Zirconia, working together.
This filled Dariens heart with a flood of love and pride. My future daughter is coming into her own power too, it seems, he thought.
And Serena? he said quietly.
Your future consort is currently working on healing your body with the Silver Imperium Crystal, so that you can be resurrected.
Resurrected, Darien said, quietly. Rebirth . . .
You and I are as one now,the god said, putting a hand on Dariens shoulder.
Darien mulled that over for a second. Destroyed by a relative, avenged by my child, resurrected by my wife . . .
Yes, Darien thought. Everything thats happened to me in recent months, ever since the end of the Deathbuster affair. . . its all ultimately been leading up to this.
He thought of the campus porn controversy that had made him realize how powerless he was, and how Serena had helped him claim some of his power. His first real friendships with other males David, Artemis. His journey toward claiming his own magical power . . .
Im no longer just an appendage of Serena, he thought. Im a *man*, a full being in my own right. And Im capable of doing what I must.
You said I would save the world . . .
Because you are the only one who can wield the Golden Crystal, Osiris said. It is your familys greatest power, and most precious birthright. I have made sure since the beginning of time that it would only fall into the right hands. I was the one who told your mother to divide and hide it, so Queen Beryl wouldnt get hold of it.
And did you also have a hand in this current case as well? Darien said. In giving everyone their power-ups?
All the gods made sure all the Sailor Soldiers would come into their full power at the right time, he said. Including you. We know this is the crucial moment in the destiny of the world. There will only be a future if Nehelenia is defeated.
But . . . why didnt you just attack Nehelenia yourselves?
Gods cannot alter human history, Osiris said. We created these planets, then left them to the humans. All we can do is sit back and watch. We influence humans sometimes, and inspire them, but basically, we stay out of things. Thats why we have Sailor Soldiers to be our representatives among the humans, and act on our behalf. And, right now. . . what needs to be done is assuring the new threat is utterly destroyed.
His words inspired no fear in Darien. Only a sense of what needed to be done.
I need to go back, he said.
And you will, Osiris replied. You have a battle to fight. . .
And as he thought about going into battle, Darien felt himself being flooded with knowlege, as if it had been there all along . . . and it very well might have been. He knew what he was going to do, and how to do it, once he got back to the land of theliving.
He blinked, feeling a bit disoriented, trying to absorb everything at once . . . and then, he felt comfortable, and ready.
Darien stretched out a hand toward Osiris. Thank you, he said.
Osiris took it, and said, I am proud of you. Now . . . go . . .
The corridor of light faded away, and Darien opened his eyes. He was still on the floor of the Dead Moon Circus. Serena was leaning over him, holding the Silver Imperium Crystal . . .
And Reenie had his Earth Blade in one hand, and the severed horn of Helios in the other. Darien could see the other piece of crystal within. Of course, he thought. Why didnt we figure that out a long time ago?
Darien? said Serena. She leaned over . . . and felt his breath on her face. DARIEN! she cried. You came back . . . oh, gods, you came back!
He sat up, calmly, eyes filled with purpose. Serena . . . Reenie . . . look away, please, he said. Its time.
For what? Serena said.
You will see. Give me the two pieces of crystal. . .
Serena saw Darien take the horn and knife from Reenie. The halves of Golden Crystal detached themselves and floated up into the air, moving toward each other like a magnet and steel drawn together.
Darien lay back down with the utmost calmness, eyes closed. A black fluid suddenly started to pour from every part of his body, like sweat run amuck. Serena nearly screamed . . .until she realized what was going on. The curse was being purged from his body. She knew for sure when it started to happen to her as well, black fluid running down her face, her arms, splattering all over her fuku . . . then immediately disappearing.
The pieces of crystal suddenly fused together, bursting into the same flower-like shape as the Silver Imperium Crystal, and the light became blinding. Serena looked away. The lemures that had been approaching them were staggering around, blinded, some of them falling over dead instantly from the energy discharge.
Reenie leapt to her feet with her wand. ROSE HEART SHATTER! she shouted, repeating the attack a second time, and a third, her pink beams evaporating the remaining monsters. But they seemed small and insignificant compared to the overpowering golden glow.
It faded, and the two Sailor Soldiers turned around, gasping.
There stood a man dressed head to toe in gleaming golden armor which molded itself to his body, seeming almost a living thing, a part of his flesh, rather than cold metal. His head was covered with what looked like a medieval knights helmet, except it left his face bare. A cloth-of-gold cape billowed from his shoulders. One gold-gloved hand held a long sword with Egyptian hieroglyphics carved into the blade. The handle was shaped like an ankh, the Egyptian symbol of eternal life.
D . . . Darien, Serena said, softly. It was the most magnificent sight shed ever seen. Hed come into his full power at last.
Im what I was supposed to be all along now, he said. I am Knight of Earth.
She gave a small, ecstatic cry, and threw her arms around him. I can feel power radiating from him, she thought, absolutely radiating. Now, at long last. . . hes fully *one of us.*
Serena heard a chorus of gasps behind her, and turned. There were all of the other Inner Sailor Soldiers . . . and Neptune and Uranus as well. And they were staring at Darien as if he were an enemy. Raye even had her Flame Sniper bow poised to strike.
Who the hell are you? she said. Get your hands off Sailor Moon, NOW!
No, Sailor Mars! Serena cried, holding her hands up. Its nothing like that!
Its *me*, Sailor Mars! a familiar voice said.
Raye frowned . . . squinted at the newcomer . . . and then brought her psychic senses into play, so she could see beneath any glamour magic that could be hiding his identity from the outside world. When she saw who it was, she dissipated the magic bow, and stepped toward him, trembling a bit.
Tux Boy? she said, in a voice barely above a whisper.
He walked over to her and patted her shoulder. Not anymore.
Reenie found herself choked up with emotion. She threw her arms around Helios and hugged his neck. She knew she had just witnessed the most important moment in her future fathers life.
Helios, however, was starting to feel himself weaken. Hed expended a lot of energy since hed projected himself out of his physical body. He had hoped to be able to help the Sailor Soldiers in their battle, but he knew now it was impossible . . . not without a rest.
I have to go back, he told Reenie.
Now? she said, swallowing hard.
Now. I will return if I can. I want you to listen very closely to me, Reenie. Over there, behind that curtain, is a mirror. That is the gateway to Nehelenias dimension. There, you will be able to destroy her.
He was fading away, his physical form growing fainter, more transparent. Reenie grabbed at him, but found herself grabbing at thin air, and then, he was gone.
She walked over to the others. Raye and Amy were telling their fellow Inner Soldiers about the lemures that had attacked them earlier, while Alex and Michelle seemed to be talking into Michelles mirror. Reenie wondered if it was being used to transmit a message to someone.
Everyone, she said, I know where Nehelenia is. She pointed to the far side of the tent, which looked like solid fabric . . . until you noticed there were a few more ripples there than in the rest of the tent.
How did *you* find out? said Amy. My computer showed absolutely nothing!
Reenie smiled. I have my sources.
You mean, that horse that was with you? said Raye.
Ill explain about her horse friend later, said Serena. Right now . . . weve got a job to do.
The group approached the section of tent cautiously. Everything seemed quiet, deathly quiet . . . Serena put out her hand and touched the cloth, to draw it aside . .
And suddenly, the cloth jerked itself away from the rest of the tent, like a living thing, pulling itself out of her hand and hanging in the air. It divided itself into numerous rectangles of fabric, which twisted into balls, and then rapidly grew into faceless canvas creatures with round arms, legs and bodies.
LEMURES! Serena shouted. But before she could move, one of the cloth things leapt into the air, transformed itself into a long rope and wrapped around her throat, choking her. A second wound itself around her body. She fell to the ground, struggling with them both.
More canvas creatures began flinging energy bolts from their hands, and another twisted itself into a snake, which quickly wrapped itself around Michelle like a boa and began to constrict, squeezing the air out of her. She struggled with it, trying to writhe out of its grasp, or at least push it away from her, but to no avail. Alex tried to blast the thing with her Space Sword . . . but it was impossible to do without hitting Michelle as well.
Mina found herself battling a thing that seemed to be bouncing everywhere like a Superball, making it impossible for her to aim her Love and Beauty Shock attacks . . every time she threw a glowing heart, it would only end up scorching another part of the tent, and the thing would shoot a bolt of blue electricity at her, making her yelp.
Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Lita taking down one of the creatures, and Amy eliminating another. Why did they get the *easy* ones? she thought.
Darien ran toward where Serena was thrashing on the ground. He put out his hand and produced a rose . . . but it was far different than the plain red flowers of before. This was a large blossom made completely of gold energy.
He threw it at the ropelike thing around her neck, then a second one at the one around Serenas body. . . then produced a third and flung it at the struggling Michelle. It loosened its grip just long enough for her to slip away. Alex immediately pointed her weapon at the thing, shouting, SPACE SWORD BLASTER!, and a beam of silver-white light shot from the tip, blowing up the creature.
The things attacking Serena loosened themselves from her body, and she rolled away, gasping and choking. But then, they turned and headed straight for Darien, intending to attack him the same way. He raised his sword above his head and said, Earth . . . Sword . . . Pointing it at the creatures, he shouted, ANNIHILATION! and a huge ball of golden fire erupted from it, flying toward the monsters and eliminating them instantly.
* * *
Outside the tent, three forlorn figures listened to the chaos inside.
Theyve gotten in there, Fish Eye said, quietly. He was sitting on the ground, his legs in front of him, arms wrapped around his knees.
Who has? said Hawk Eye, who was leaning against the tent wall, arms crossed over his chest.
The Sailor Soldiers, Fish Eye replied, slumping even lower.
Well then, said Hawk Eye, shouldnt we go after them?
Tiger Eye, who was lying on his back on the ground, sat bolt upright. Are you CRAZY? After the way she treated us? I hope they *do* get her!
We dont have much time left, Hawk Eye said, starting to walk slowly around the other two. We might as well go out in a blaze of glory.
Not fighting for Nehelenia, Fish Eye retorted. No way. He covered his face with his hands. Gods . . . gods. . . if only shed *told* us. . .
What good would it have done? said Tiger Eye. If anything, it would have made things *worse*.
Hawk Eye sighed. Hes right. We would have had *no* desire to do our missions then.
They could hear the voices of young women calling out their attacks, see the bright flares of their energy blasts. All three instantly felt jealous of these young women who were fighting to destroy their creator. They were true *humans*, with homes, and loved ones, and a future.
The three of them . . . were nothing at all.
We would have been better off if shed left us animals, Fish Eye sighed.
I still wish there was a way we could get her back, said Hawk Eye, plopping to the ground next to the other two.
How? said Fish Eye. We wracked our brains, and we could come up with nothing. Short of just charging in there and attacking her.
Hawk Eye snorted. You want to go in there and fight *her*? Good luck and nice knowing you. None of them acknowledged that the latter part of his statement was chillingly appropriate.
Silence again, except for the sounds of battle in the background, as all three just stared at the ground.
* * *
Meanwhile, Mina continued to struggle with the bouncing creature. She was beginning to wonder why she even bothered to try anymore, because her attacks werent even coming close. Its got to get tired and give up sometime, she thought. It just has to. She knew if it werent for the magically charged material covering her arms and legs, shed be covered with electrical burn marks.
Then, a voice behind her shouted, TIME FREEZE! There was a crackle of purple energy, and the cloth lemure was suspended in the air, hanging right in front of her like something on a washline. Mina wasted no time, shouting VENUS LOVE AND BEAUTY SHOCK! and flinging the heart-shaped energy bullet at the seemingly ordinary ball of canvas. It exploded in a shower of white sparks.
Mina turned around to see Sailor Pluto, Time Staff in hand. S . . . Sailor Pluto . . . but I thought you were gone for good!
Sonya lowered her weapon. For a time, I thought I was, too. But, I had to come back . . . to help you defeat this enemy.
What did you just do? Mina said, rubbing a place on her arm where the thing had managed to scorch her despite the protection.
A new attack, the taller woman said with an enigmatic smile. It only freezes one person or object in time, temporarily.
Across the tent, Reenie had been battling another bouncing lemure, trading Rose Heart Shatters for energy blasts. Neither had scored direct hits. She chased the ball of cloth across the room, only to have it leap over her head and end up behind her. She turned around, and it leapt behind her all over again.
Where are you! she shouted, looking all around her. Come back here, you . . .
Something dropped down from above and landed on her . . . a net. She began to kick her legs and flail her arms, but she only got more tangled in it . . . and more. . and more . . . and then it was shrinking, tightening itself around her whole body, threatening to choke her.
A female voice called from everywhere and nowhere at once, GLAIVE SILENCER! A thousand tiny needlepoints of energy cut the net, making it fall away from Reenie. She struggled to her feet . . . to see a familiar figure.
Older than when she saw her last, but still recognizable. Same chin-length raven hair and violet eyes. Same purple and white fuku that Reenie remembered her wearing when she had returned her heart crystal to her.
HEATHER! Reenie cried, mindless of the rule that Sailor Soldiers were not allowed to call each other by their real names while in magical form. She launched herself at her old friend like a freight train, barreling into her and hugging her tightly. I thought you were dead! I thought Id never see you again!
I always knew that I would see *you* again, her friend said, gently, returning Reenies hug. It was my destiny.
Then . . . youre staying? Please say youll stay! Oh, Heather, Ive got so much to tell you, so many things have happened since I saw you last. . .
Yes, Heather said, quietly. Im staying. And I want to talk to you again so much . . . but now . . . we have a job to do. She pointed at the now-unguarded mirror. In there is our enemy. Your parents have to launch a crystal attack, with our help.
Reenie nodded, looking at the pane of glass covered with swirling mists. It looked so ordinary, so innocent . . . but Helios had said that it concealed the hideout of their enemy. This is it, she thought. Were going after her at last. And well show her no mercy.
* * *
Nehelenia looked out of the glass at the massacre of her protective lemures. More Sailor Soldiers than I knew existed! she thought. Where did those ones in aqua and navy blue come from? And those two with the long weapons!
Damn you, Serenity! she shouted. You had some kind of reserve troops you didnt tell me about, didnt you? She stormed around her gloomy world like a tiger pacing its cage.
Sailor Soldiers, she thought. Invading my hideout . . . destroying my defenses . . . in my greatest hour of triumph! Ill annihilate them all . . . personally . . . one by one . . .
Then, she stopped short, and gave a cackling laugh. Of course, she thought. Theres nothing they can do to stop me now! My attack is already in progress! Theres only one thing that would get in my way now, and I made *sure* that wouldnt happen, way back in the Silver Millennium.
But then, she looked out the glass again, and her heart froze.
There was a golden glow among the group of Sailor Soldiers, looking like the sun itself had been captured there. The kind of glow she knew could only come from one thing, one person.
No, she growled. No, that cant be! Its impossible!
A figure moved to the front of the group of Sailor Soldiers. A man, covered head to toe in gold armor that seemed to be a living part of his body, a long gold sword in his hand.
NO! she screamed. YOU COULDNT HAVE DONE THIS! Theres NO WAY you could have become Knight of Earth, son of Cassiopeia! HOW DID YOU BEAT MY CURSE? HOW! She began to beat her fists against the glass, her voice rising to the shriek of a wildcat. HOW?!?
She took a deep breath. She had to get hold of herself . . . summon all her powers . . . and destroy them. She stepped back from the mirror, holding her hands over her head and chanting a dark spell.
Sailor Moon and Knight of Earth, youre as good as dead, she thought.
* * *
With her weapon in front of her, Serena led her group into the canvas alcove left uncovered by the lemure-fabric. It was empty except for a single item a full-length mirror with an ornately carved gold frame.
Is this *it*? Mina said in a hushed voice. It looks so . . . so . . .
Ordinary? said Lita. Did you expect it to be eight feet tall and covered with human skulls?
Nehelenia is probably dormant right now, said Serena, getting out her crystal. We have to attack now before . . .
The mirror suddenly came ablaze with a brilliant white light, and a force field expanded outward from it, slamming into the group and sending them sprawling. When they tried to get up, they found they were pinned to the ground.
Who are you and what are you doing here? cried a low-pitched female voice with the cultured tones associated with the high-born of the Silver Millennium.
Darien managed to reach over and grasp his sword. He willed his power into the Golden Crystal, and it began to glow, pushing the force field back a little . . . then a little more . . . until he was able to struggle to his feet.
He faced the mirror, which showed the image of a tall woman in a low-cut, flowing black gown, her coldly beautiful face topped with long, wavy black hair. At the top of her head was a pair of small odangos, signaling her royal status.
Oh, he remembered this face . . . the face of the woman his mother had hated more than anyone in the world.
With the utmost calmness, he said, Im what you have feared the most, Nehelenia. Im Knight of Earth. And my friends and I will not allow you to take this planet.
Knight of Earth? she said. You might have a lot of fancy armor, but youre still no match for me. She held up her hands shoulder-high, palms turned outward, and spoke a few words in an archaic tongue. An energy blast shot from the mirror and knocked Darien back down again.
Thinking quickly, Serena pushed her power through her own crystal, hoping that when Nehelenia focused her power into the spell to attack Darien, it would weaken the shield holding the rest of the them down. She was right . . . she could feel the weight lifting from her. She leapt to her feet, shouting, Everyone! Lend me your power! Serena began to push her full strength through the crystal, focusing its energy on the mirror.
Amy was the first to get up. She shouted, Mercury Crystal Power!, concentrating on sending her own energy toward Serena. A streak of blue light shot from the crystal at the front of her fuku, shooting like a tiny comet toward the Silver Crystal, and making it glow a little brighter when it impacted.
Raye followed suit, shouting, Mars Crystal Power! A red streak hurled through the air to join the blue one, and was soon joined by green, then orange.
The Soldiers of the Outer Planets looked at each other briefly, then nodded. They knew what they had to do. One by one, they called out their transformation phrases, and beams of aqua, yellow, black and purple sped toward the Silver Imperium Crystal.
But as this was going on, Darien was still trapped by Nehelenias spell. Reenie just stood there, watching helplessly, wondering what she could do to help either Serena or Darien. Where is Pegasus? she thought. Why cant he tell me what to do? No . . . I cant keep relying on him all the time. I have to do this myself.
She concentrated on opening her mind, searching deep within herself for the answer. And sure enough, one was there, as if it had been lurking just under the surface of her consciousness all along.
Holding her wand out and pointed toward him, she formed an image in her mind of her mothers Silver Imperium Crystal, the one kept on a pedestal in the Crystal Palace, the one which protected Crystal Tokyo. She envisioned its energy flowing across space and time toward her, through her body and toward her wand. . .
She shouted, Future Moon Crystal Power! and felt a surge of energy shoot through her and out through her weapon. It was enough to weaken the spell for just a second, so Darien could activate his Golden Crystal again, blasting his way out. He leapt to his feet and held his own crystal out beside Serenas, slowly brining it up to full strength . . . then pushing its energy toward the silver one. They merged, and he could feel the combined power of both of them, and the rest of the Sailor Soldiers, with all his magical and psychic senses.
Reenie called up the energy of the Future Moon Crystal again . . . held it for a second, letting it gather full strength . . . then shouted, Future Moon Crystal Power! again, sending it toward her future parents crystals. It was the last thing they needed to launch their attack.
Serena and Darien shouted as one voice, MOON AND EARTH COSMIC POWER! A ball of white light bloomed in front of them like a star going supernova and hurled toward the mirror, leaving a blazing tail in its wake. It slammed into its goal with a noise that sounded like the footfall of a giant, sending a shower of sparks everywhere.
Nehelenia felt the impact, and she was slammed against the far wall of her prison, screaming as pain ripped through every part of her body. She felt a flaming sensation envelop her, and she felt that the end had come . . .
And then, the energy faded. She got to her feet, laughing. They had failed. With both those crystals, and all those Sailor Soldiers, they couldnt defeat her. You idiots, she thought. You shouldnt have even tried.
She stood up and stalked to the mirror. The group was all slumped on the floor, energy spent. Now, she thought. Now Ill get him.
A flickering of light caught Serenas eye. Is it some kind of aftershock? she thought. She looked up, expecting to see the charred remains of the mirror. Instead . . . it was intact. And Nehelenia was standing there, a smirk on her face, a glowing ball of energy in her hand.
No! Serena thought. It isnt possible! And she instinctively knew what Nehelenia planned to do with that energy ball. She flung herself in front of Darien as it came screaming out of the mirror. It hit her so hard and so fast that her mind didnt even have a chance to register pain.
Dariens mind was suddenly overloaded with information, sensations . . . the feel of Serena against him, the sight of Nehelenias image fading from the mirror, the sound of the other SailorSoldiers screaming Serenas name. Amy was suddenly at his side, pulling Serena away from him, touching her pulse line . . . and then pulling away, a look of horror on her face.
She . . . Amy whispered. Shes . . . oh, gods . . .
NO! Raye flung herself at her best friends limp body, grabbing hold of her and shaking her. Sailor Moon, cut it out! Wake up, you Meatball Head! We still have to fight . . .
Mina was looking away, biting her hand to keep from sobbing. Lita just stared straight ahead, tears running down her face, one fist tightly clenched in fury. The Soldiers of the Outer Planets just hung back, their faces registering shock and disbelief at what had just happened.
In the mirror, Nehelenia was catching her breath. Damn brats weakened me, she thought. I have to recover before shooting again . . . and I didnt take him out. But I got Serenitys spawn, and thats almost as good.
A short distance away, three figures stood watching. Look at that, Fish Eye said, quietly. Look at how much they *care* about her.
Nobody cared that way about us, said Hawk Eye.
Nobody got a *chance* to, Tiger Eye mumbled, looking down at the ground. Our time was too short. He kicked at the ground. All those dreams we had about what we wanted to do when all this was over . . . all for nothing.
* * *
In a time that was not a time, in a place that was not a place, Serena opened her eyes. She was lying on grass that was too green, looking up at a sky that was too blue. She leapt to her feet, looking around her. Nothing but endless expanse of emerald and azure, as far as the eye could see.
Im dead, she thought. She killed me . . . Nehelenia got me, and I never got a chance to save the ones I love. Sorrow and anger filled her, and she covered her face with her hands, trembling, tears running down her face. Everything we did, she thought . . . everything that Darien accomplished . . . all for nothing . . .
A pair of comforting arms were suddenly around her, drawing her into a maternal embrace. She looked up into a beautiful, kindly light-brown face, crowned with the familiar full moon and cows horns headdress. But instead of being filled with a sense of awe and wonder at the appearance of her Guardian Deity . . . she just felt worse.
Isis, she said, quietly, I have failed you.
How have you failed me? the goddess said in her melodic voice.
Serena drew out of her embrace. I didnt destroy Nehelenia. She destroyed me instead.
Did she? Isis said. Did she *really*?
Serena crossed her arms over her chest. Im *here*, arent I? she said, angrily. Im not back with Darien and the others where I *should* be.
But she hasnt *destroyed* you, has she? said Isis. Your spirit is still ready to fight.
My *spirit* isnt going to do me any good if my body is broken, Serena replied, turning away from Isis.
The goddess put a gentle hand on her shoulder, turning her back around. Princess, you cannot give up now. Look . . . your body is being healed. She gestured toward the full moon on her headdress, which began to glow, then a picture gradually faded into view. Serena saw her own body lying on the ground, and Darien standing over her, Golden Crystal in his hands, the other Sailor Soldiers fanned out behind him, concentrating as if focusing their power.
Hes doing the same thing for me that I did for him, Serena whispered.
Yes, he is, Isis said. You helped him to be reborn with a new kind of power. Now, he is helping you do the same thing.
The image faded. Serena blinked, trying to comprehend what the goddess just said. New power? Me? But I just got . . .
You received *more* power, said Isis. But you did not come into your *full* power. Youre about to do so. You will be just one level of power below Neo-Queen Serenity.
And . . . I will be able to defeat Nehelenia now?
The goddess touched her face, gently, and said, Ill just tell you this . . . the best of advice sometimes comes from the most unexpected sources. And now, you have to go back . . .
Serena wanted to ask her more, but the blue and green world was fading away, fading away . . . and then, she was opening her eyes, and looking up at Darien and the others. They were still concentrating, willing their power into her. . .
The combined strength of all of us, she thought. That is the source of my new power.
She opened her locket, so the Silver Imperium Crystal was directly exposed to all the energy. It began to glow, more brightly than ever before.
Darien saw the brilliance, and he opened his eyes. Serena was alive, standing in front of him enveloped in white light, looking more divine than human.
Sailor Moon . . . he said, quietly.
Stand back, everyone, she said with authority. She raised her arms, and shouted, MOON ETERNAL POWER! The light got brighter, until it enveloped her.
When it faded, she was clad throat to foot in silver armor that matched the gold armor covering Darien, and, like his, it looked more like an organic part of her body than cold steel. Silver ribbons were tied around her odangos and woven throughout her tails of hair. Even her weapon had changed . . . instead of the Kaleid Moon Scope, she held something that looked like a shortened queens scepter, a bejeweled heart on top.
But the most remarkable thing about her new costume was what was in back of her. A pair of enormous, white feathered wings grew from her shoulderblades and spread out gracefully behind her . Wings, like Isis herself.
Oh . . . gods . . . Raye could only whisper in awe. The others just stood there in stunned silence. It was the most radical transformation they had ever seen any of them undertake.
Sailor Saturn knew instantly what she was looking at. Kali had told her many times about the ultimate form of Sailor Moon that was to come.
Now, she is the one who stands just below the Queen, Heather said. Eternal Sailor Moon.
Darien just wordlessly held his arms out to Serena. She fell into them, and they embraced for a moment that felt like forever.
The observers at a distance felt themselves near tears. So . . . thats what we were fighting all along, said Hawk Eye. The Sailor Soldiers . . . theyre . . . beautiful, arent they?
Why were we fighting them in the first place? said Tiger Eye.
Because Nehelenia told us to, said Fish Eye. Because we didnt know any better.
If she had told us what was really going on from the beginning, said Hawk Eye, we could have told her to get lost right away . . . and gone to work for these people.
There was a flickering in the mirror in front of them. Shes going to attack again, said Fish Eye. Theyre going to fight her, but . . . even with Sailor Moons new power, I dont know if itll be enough.
They all looked at each other, communicating without words, wishing once again there was something they could do.
Then, Tiger Eye said slowly, Maybe . . . there *is* something we can do . . . that *doesnt* involve fighting Nehelenia . . . directly.
The other two looked at him. And what would that be? Hawk Eye said.
Tiger Eye simply began to walk toward the group of Sailor Soldiers.
Hey! said Fish Eye. Where are you going? The other two rushed to keep pace with him.
Im going to help them win, said Tiger Eye. Remember, the old bat told us a couple of things about Nehelenia once. And one of those things, I think Sailor Moon will be very interested to hear. He turned to the other two and smiled. Dont you see? Were getting our revenge!
* * *
It was Lita who first spotted the trio entering the alcove. She spun on her heel, pointed at them and spat, YOU!
The trio pulled up suddenly, like criminals caught by the police. Wait! said Tiger Eye. We can explain!
Theres *nothing* to explain! said Amy, calling up her harp. You work for *her*!
Not anymore! cried Fish Eye, backing up several steps.
Yeah, right, said Mina, producing a glowing heart. VENUS LOVE AND BEAUTY. . .
Serena suddenly rushed in front of the three. WAIT! she shouted. Dont attack!
Are you nuts, Sailor Moon? said Raye. These are the three that yanked peoples heart mirrors out!
Yanked *our* heart mirrors out! said Lita, wincing at the horrific memory.
Listen to what they have to say, Serena said. Is this what you meant, Isis? she thought. Is this the unexpected source of advice?
We want to help you, said Tiger Eye. Nehelenia . . . lets say she double-crossed us.
We were her slaves, Hawk Eye added. She created us out of animals, made us think we were human, and forced us to do her dirty work.
But . . . she was always intending to just use us up and let us die all along, said Fish Eye, sadly, eyes focused on the ground.
And we want to get her back now, Tiger Eye added.
Raye stormed over to them, starting to push Serena aside. How do we know this isnt some kind of a trap?
If we intended to trap you, said Hawk Eye, we would have had you all strapped to mirrors by now. You *know* what were capable of.
Raye had to admit he had a point. She quietly retreated back to the others.
So, Serena said to the three, how do you intend to help?
We have information, Tiger Eye replied. You see, the reason you werent successful against Nehelenia before is . . . she had no fear of you. Shes only vulnerable when shes truly afraid.
And shes afraid of just about nothing, Fish Eye added. He looked around, leaned over toward Serena like a child sharing a secret, and whispered, Except . . .
Except . . . what? said Serena in the same tone.
The others watched as the strange being in blue whispered something, and Serena nodded. I still cant trust them as far as I can throw them, Raye said with a scowl, arms crossed over her chest.
We may *have* to trust them, Darien told her. It could be our only shot. Look at the mirror, the lights getting stronger. Nehelenias almost ready to attack again.
Serena approached the group, a small smile and an expression of absolute confidence on her face.
All right, she said to the others. Heres what were going to do. . .
* * *
When Nehelenia was ready to power up her attack, she glanced out of the mirror, expecting to see those foolish Sailor Soldiers attempting to attack her again, to avenge their precious princess.
But instead, they were gone. Vanished. There wasnt a fuku in sight.
She smirked. Theyve retreated, she thought. Given up. So much the better. Well, soon my nightmare spell will have taken full effect, and Ill be ruler of the world. Their Sailor powers might keep them safe from my magic for a time, but eventually, theyll end up trapped in nightmares like everyone else.
Then, she saw a solitary figure walking out of the darkness, approaching the mirror. A girl in her early teens, dressed in a purple and white Sailor Soldier outfit, holding a long staff with a curved blade at the end.
So, she thought, one of them decided not to surrender. What a little fool.
Nehelenia, the girl said, you are not going to be ruler of the Earth.
This struck Nehelenia as the funniest thing shed ever heard. Why did a single Sailor Soldier . . . one of the smaller ones at that . . . think she could defeat her? She let out a loud peal of laughter.
Who are you, that you think you could defeat me? she said.
The girl raised her weapon. I am the Messiah of Silence, the Sailor Soldier of Death and Rebirth . . . Sailor Saturn.
This startled Nehelenia. Shed heard legends during the Silver Millennium about the coming of a Sailor Soldier with the power to destroy the world, but shed laughed them off, as had most people with an ounce of logic. The very purpose of Sailor Soldiers was to protect their planets . . . why have one whose purpose was destruction?
You *cant* be Sailor Saturn, she said.
I can be, and I am. And I will destroy the world rather than let you take it.
A flash of fear passed through the evil sorceress. What if this girl was serious? But no, there was absolutely no way she could be! was there? You wouldnt, she said, struggling to regain control of her emotions . . . but she was starting to tremble, ever so slightly.
The girl lifted the glaive into the air and seemed to concentrate. Purple sparks began to shoot from the blade. A flicker of purple light appeared on her forehead, and then began to take shape of a symbol . . . the planetary sign of Saturn.
And suddenly, the evil woman knew true fear for the first time in her life. Everything shed dreamed of for so long . . . everything shed worked for, poured all her effort into . . . about to be squandered . . .
DEATH . . . REBORN . . . the girl said, slowly. Purple lightning shot from the tip of the glaive, and the earth began to tremble.
Now, Nehelenia was terrified. She knew what the legends said once the girl uttered the last word of the spell, REVOLUTION, the Earth would be torn asunder. She fell to her knees with a scream of agonized fear.
Tiger Eye, Hawk Eye and Fish Eye heard that, and it was their cue. They opened their teleport portals and jumped out . . . followed by the Sailor Soldiers. Serena and Darien had already been charging their crystals while they were in hiding, and the other Sailor Soldiers rapidly called out their transformation phrases, the balls of colored energy streaking toward the two.
MOON AND EARTH COSMIC POWER! Serena and Darien shouted, and when the blast launched itself from the crystals, it was twice as big and bright as the first one. It slammed into the mirror, and there was an unearthly scream, then an enormous explosion. Fireballs shot into the air, and the tent began to collapse.
And deep in his hiding place, Helios felt the fetters that bound him dissolve at long last. His equine body dropped to the ground, and was enveloped in a bright white light. It began to shift and change, the wings pulling themselves into his back, the front legs becoming arms, the head shrinking, neck becoming thinner.
He was free at long last.
In Loris dorm room, she and David huddled on the bed, clutching the rose, listening to the horrifying screams all around them . . . as it felt they had done foryears.
And then, all at once, they stopped.
Huh? said Lori, sitting up. What happened?
Lori, dont! David said, pulling her back down. Youre too far away from the rose! Youre gonna . . .
No, David, she said. I think its over. She got up from the bed and ran to the window. The spiderwebs were gone, completely.
It . . . really is over? David said, joining her. Sure enough, there wasnt a trace of silvery stuff anywhere . . . and he saw people starting to come out of the surrounding buildings, some of them rushing with books, as if late to class, others meandering at a leisurely pace toward the parking lot, off to get their cars for a jaunt to the mall or the grocery store.
Its as if nothing happened at all, he said, softly.
Back at the Dead Moon Circus, the Sailor Soldiers turned and started to run from the destruction around them, feeling the heat of the fire at their backs, dodging falling tent poles . . .
But then, everything began to dissolve and dissipate, like mist drifting away after a storm. Soon, there was no trace of the existence of the Dead Moon Circus at all.
Alex, said Michelle, stopping dead in her tracks. what . . .
Alex looked around her, reaching out with magical senses as well as sight. There was no sign of Nehelenia at all, no trace of Dark Energy.
Shes gone, she said. Completely.
Serena looked around her as well . . . and saw three figures collapsed in the grass not too far from where she stood. She rushed over to them, knowing all too well who they were.
Sure enough, Tiger Eye, Hawk Eye and Fish Eye were starting to lose their human forms. Their skin was covered with scales, feathers, fur . . . and their bodies were slowly, agonizingly mutating.
Oh, no, she said, softly. Her heart was flooded with sympathy for her former enemies, who had suffered at Nehelenias hands just as much as anyone else.
Tiger Eye managed to give a small smile and say, weakly, Its all right, Sailor Moon. Were . . . at peace now . . .
Serena felt a hand on her shoulder, and a gentle, familiar male voice said, You *can* help them, Sailor Moon.
She turned, and saw a beautiful young man . . . the same one shed seen in Elysium, except the horn that had been in the middle of his head was missing. Helios? she said, quietly.
Reenie, who had been walking away from the site with the others, heard that voice, and stopped dead in her tracks. Pegasus? she whispered. She reached out and grabbed Dariens arm.
Wed better go over there, she said.
Serena and Helios were kneeling by the bodies of the trio, who were now almost completely back to animal form. You still have some of your combined power left in the Crystal, Helios said. Focus it on them, and wish for them to live normal human lives.
Serena took out the crystal, which still pulsed softly with energy. How do you know. . ..
I am familiar with what such crystals can do, Sailor Moon. I was a courtier and confidant to both Serenity and Cassiopeia.
She concentrated . . . focused the crystals energy, and envisioned the three as humans, for real this time. Their bodies were enveloped with a silver glow, and began to shift again, arms and legs starting to grow, take human form once more, heads sprouting human hair.
When they were fully formed again, their eyes opened, slowly.
What happened? said Fish Eye, sitting up. I thought we were dead?
You have a second chance, Helios said. Youre human.
Quit playing cruel jokes, Tiger Eye said, sitting up as well . . . but he realized that he felt different, somehow, than he did before. There was something inside him that felt more *real* than previously.
Its not a cruel joke, said Serena. Think of it as a reward for helping us.
Hawk Eye sat up . . . ran a hand over his body, as if to confirm that he was truly human . . then leapt to his feet with a shout of joy.
Were really human! he shouted. Guys! Dont you get it? Now we can do everything we wanted to do!
Like what? said Fish Eye, standing up slowly.
Well . . . you know, get jobs, go on dates, do . . . oh, you know, people stuff!
We dont know *how* to do people stuff! Fish Eye retorted.
So? said Tiger Eye, jumping up beside them. Well *fake it*!
Fake it? said Fish Eye. How?
Ill just use my charm, and . . .
Forget it, Hawk Eye said. Your *charm* is only good for getting us in trouble!
My charm goes a long way, said Tiger Eye. Women cant resist me!
Sure, said Fish Eye. Well just have tons of angry husbands and boyfriends coming around intending to *kill* us.
Hey, Ill have you know that. . .
Darien approached the trio and put a hand up to silence Tiger Eye. Excuse me, but . . . I have a couple of friends who will probably be glad to help you get adjusted to society.
Serena shot him a quizzical look, and Darien told her, David and Lori, dear. Why not? Theyre into helping people, making a difference. Well, they can make a difference in their lives.
Are you sure theyll want to? said Serena.
Darien smiled. I know those two. Neither one is happy unless they have something major to work on, and they really havent had anything since the porn war. Loris been taking on a bunch of small projects and trying to make big deals out of them, and David . . . hes just been adrift. This will be good for both sides, I think.
Meanwhile, Reenie walked slowly toward the young man who had been kneeling on the ground with her mother. Why does something about him seem so familiar? she thought. The voice I heard, the one I thought was Pegasus . . . did it come from him?
The boy got up, looked around . . . and saw her. A broad smile spread over his face. Hello, Neo-Sailor Moon, he said. Its a pleasure to se you at last . . . when Im in my *true* form.
The voice . . . it was unmistakable . . .
Pegasus? she said, in a voice barely above a whisper.
My true name is Helios, he said. I was in the form of a Pegasus because Nehelenia put a curse on me. But now Im free . . . thanks to you.
She gave a small cry of joy and threw her arms around him. He hugged back, thinking how good it felt to be able to do this at last, when he spent so long thinking hed never be human again.
Thank you so much, she whispered. You dont know how much I owe you. Your friendship has meant everything in the world to me.
I should be the one thanking you, Helios replied. It was through you that I was able to find the missing piece of the Golden Crystal . . . and that put everything right again. Me, the world . . . and the prince.
Prince Endymion was only able to come into his full power because of the reunited Golden Crystal. If not for that, Nehelenias curse would have killed him.
Reenie shuddered. . . she didnt want to think of that. She quickly switched to brighter topics. Im so glad to see you . . . really see you, and not in a dream, or when Im in trouble. I cant wait to introduce you to my other friends . . . youre going to live here, right? Are you going to go to school?
Helios face fell a bit. I cant stay, Reenie.
Why? she cried. You cant leave, Helios! We just met for real!
He reached out and tenderly stroked her face. I need to go back to my home, Elysium, the Land of Beautiful Dreams. Nehelenia laid waste to it, and I have to make sure its restored. But you and I will see each other again, I promise.
In my dreams? she said, softly.
He clasped her hand. In your dreams . . . and in life, as well. Perhaps, when things are fully straightened out in Elysium, I *will* come to Earth to live as a human for awhile.
Yes! She hugged him tightly again. I would *love* that!
But in the meantime, he said, your other friend has come back to you. Youll have her company now.
She pulled away from him. Heathers really back to stay?
Back for good, he replied. Shes been restored in body and mind.
Ill go see her tomorrow, Reenie said. Im so glad . . .
He squeezed her hand. Come on . . . I have to talk to your future parents.
They walked over to where Serena and Darien were still talking with Nehelenias former henchmen. The two Sailor Soldiers turned . . . and saw Reenie and Helios hand-in-hand. They smiled at each other, thinking perhaps they were seeing their little girl growing up.
My future king and queen, he told them, it was an honor to serve you again. He dropped Reenies hand and gave a low, elegant bow.
It was a pleasure to see you again, Helios, Darien said, bowing back. We owe you so much, if theres anything at all you desire . . .
Helios held up his hand. I desire nothing. You repaid anything I did for you by saving Elysium from Nehelenia. And now, I must return there.
Serena reached out and took Helioss hand in hers. You can always count on our friendship, she said.
And you can count on mine. He took a step back, and said, Farewell . . . for now.
As Reenie watched through tears, he smiled, waved at her, and then faded from sight.
Darien put one hand on his future daughters shoulder, and took his future wifes hand with the other. Come on, he said. Were going home. We all need to rest up. He looked back at Tiger Eye, Hawk Eye and Fish Eye. Come with us . . . you can crash at my apartment, and then Ill call David and Lori to come over and meet you.
As they walked away, Serena looked back at the site that was once the Dead Moon Circus, now a peaceful, vacant plot of land once again.
Its over, she thought. Its really over . . . at last.
* * *
Three weeks after the final defeat of Nehelenia, there was no sign at all that she had ever been there. All the little disturbances in nature that had been there since her arrival had corrected themselves. The flowers were no longer droopy, animals werent agitated and on edge anymore.
Even the water in the mud puddles looks much clearer, Mina thought as she headed toward Dariens apartment to pick up Artemis. She was anxious to get him home so she could get ready for her big evening.
As she passed the gourmet cook store, she nearly crashed into Lita, who came out toting a huge bag, as she almost always did when she went into that place.
Hey, there! Mina said. Big night tonight?
Well, sort of, Lita said. Ken and I are going to try cooking Korean barbecue tonight. Neither one of us ever attempted it before. She didnt want to say that the *rest* of the evenings plans revolved around the thong and tube of KY waiting on her nighttable at home.
Oh, Ive got *huge* plans! Mina said. After I pick up and drop off Artemis, Im going to get Glenn at the airport. And then, later tonight . . . were double-dating.
With who? said Lita.
David and Lori, believe it or not! Mina said. I think they kinda want the break for the evening, theyve been busy with their three guys.
Hows that working out? Lita said, shifting her bag to the other hip.
Lori said theyre adjusting rather well, Mina replied. Of course, theyre still pretty much overgrown children, but shes managed to teach them to read and write somewhat. And she took them to a gymnastics match at the college and they loved it . . . started imitating the moves the next day. So now shes arranged to have them work out with the team.
Lita laughed. Gods . . . I can just see them trying to be Olympic gymnasts.
Well, she said theyve been talking about becoming performers in a *real* circus someday. Which may be the best place for them. She looked at her watch. Well, gotta boogie! You know what they say, time waits for no man whos tied up!
Okay! Later! Lita said, continuing on her way, happily humming to herself.
Mina was in such a rush to get down the street that she didnt notice the three familiar figures sitting in the window of the coffeeshop. She wouldnt have had time to talk to them, anyway.
Sonya was thanking the waitress as she put their cups down. There was a moment of silence as all three Soldiers of the Outer Planets picked them up and drank.
Then, Alex said, Youre going back after this?
Yes, Sonya replied, pushing her long, green hair back. I belong at the Time Gate. And I have no qualms about going back at all now. Since Knight of Earth has come into his full powers, and Eternal Sailor Moon has come into hers, the planet is truly safe from any invasion. She stirred a sugar into her coffee and looked at her two companions. Were you disappointed that the couple we were tailing turned out to be completely innocent?
I was relieved, actually, Michelle said. In a funny way. . . Id come to like them. It sounds strange, talking that way about someone you were spying on, but . . . there you go.
I know, Alex said, dunking her spoon in her cup, dishing out some coffee and pouring it back in, then repeating the action. By the end . . . I felt the same way.
Michelle smiled at Alex. Were going to have to go back to Europe. Were without a mission again.
Alex scowled a bit, sitting back in her seat. I am *not* going back to Europe again. Im perfectly happy right here.
But Alex, Michelle said, youll be *bored*.
Im not going to be *bored*, her lover retorted. I have my music, and my racing. She grabbed Michelles hand under the table, her eyes saying without words . . . and I have you. So Ill *never* be bored.
Sonya gave them both a quiet, knowing smile. Shed miss them, in a way . . . but she was secure in knowing that theyd always be truly happy together.
Outside the coffee shop window, another Sailor Soldier walked past, but she also did not notice the Outer Soldiers, because she was intently talking on a cell phone.
Youre going away this weekend? Raye said to Amy as she walked.
Adams going to compete in a debate contest in Kyoto, Amy replied. He wants me to come with him.
Youll love Kyoto, Raye replied, turning a corner and heading back toward Cherry Tree Temple. I was there the year before . . . everything began. The year I became a Sailor Soldier, she thought. Gods, was there ever a time like that?
Im sure I will, Amy said. And . . . Im looking forward to us having some quiet time together after the contest. She smiled to herself, thinking of how well her relationship had been going ever since they settled their problems. They were closer than ever, no illusions, no false expectations. It was the way it should have been from the very beginning.
And its nice knowing we *can* do stuff like that now, Raye said. Gods, do you know how good it feels not to have to worry about Dream Mirrors and lemures and all that crap?
Amy chuckled to herself. I know, Raye. Believe me, I know.
Okay, Im gonna let you go, Raye said, as she climbed up the temple steps. Give me a call before you leave for Kyoto.
I will, Amy said. Talk to you later!
Raye entered the temple, put her schoolbooks in her room and changed into her miko robes. The first place she went was the fire room.
Tossing some more wood on the sacred flames, she remembered the night that seemed like a million years ago, when shed thrown flowers from the garden on this very fire and wished that her lover from the Silver Millennium would come to her. And then, Mars had entered her life.
I will always love him with all my heart, she thought. But . . . its a relationship for the future, for Crystal Tokyo. For now, I have Chad. . . who I also love with all my heart. She knew that for most, loving two people equally would be a source of never-ending turmoil, but for her. . . it was natural, just another part of her life.
Thanks for everything, Mars, she said into the flames. Everything youve done for me. I mean, Im so much more . . . *happy* than I was when we first met. Hell, I would have never been able to go Super if it wasnt for you. And then, we wouldnt have what we have now. Peace. *Real* peace.
The flames flared up a bit, as if he were answering her with approval.
Outside the temple, another Sailor Soldier was heading home. Reenie was covering the distance between Heathers house and her own slowly, glad of the chance to savor life, and not have to worry about future attacks.
She was happy that Heather seemed totally unaffected by her bizarre death and rebirth. She had just picked up her life where she left off . . . only much happier. Her father was a *father* to her now, and not somebody who was exploiting her.
And Im much happier now, too, Reenie thought. I still miss Pegasus that is, Helios like crazy . . . but its so nice to have Heather back in my life. And Im happier with *myself*. I feel better about myself than I have at any time since I was a small child. Im not an appendage of my mother anymore . . . Im *me*, complete and whole within myself. And I couldnt have done it without him.
She looked up at the sky and whispered, Thank you, Helios . . . and Ill be seeing you around.
* * *
Darien was alone in his apartment. Artemis had just gone home. They hadnt really done any training today, theyd just talked about everything that happened.
You surpassed even my wildest hopes for you, Artemis said. There are no words for how proud I am.
Darien smiled at him. I surprised everyone, including myself. He laughed. I almost didnt get a chance to use my powers. Did you see how close I came to getting fried with a Flame Sniper?
Artemis shook his head. Your own half-sister from the Silver Millennium. . . youd think she, of all people, would have recognized you on sight.
So, as Knight of Earth . . . am I fully a Sailor Soldier, Artemis?
Artemis rested his head against his forepaws, pondering this. I dont really know. Its unprecedented to have a man with this much power . . . fully as powerful as Eternal Sailor Moon. You may not be a Sailor Soldier, but. . . youre something *new*. The male equivalent. Men born to Sailor Soldiers might have had this potential all along . . . its just that nobody cared to develop it, given the prejudice against males in the Silver Millennium.
Darien leaned back in his seat, smiling quietly. In the future, in Crystal Tokyo . . . Ill see to it that *all* the children of the Sailor Soldiers meet their full magical potential. Male. . . *and* female.
Now, he headed for his bedroom, and reached into his pocket. He drew out something that looked like a military medal of valor, a golden cross mounted on a red ribbon. At the center of that cross pulsed a powerful golden stone. His new transformation device. He couldnt get away with wearing such a thing casually in public like Serena could wear her locket, so he just carried it around.
He walked over to the full-length mirror on his closet door, held up the medal and cried out, EARTH CELESTIAL POWER! There was a flash of golden light . . . and when it faded, he beheld himself as Knight of Earth for the first time.
His eyes swept over the armor which molded itself to him, seemed a part of his very flesh. The knightlike helmet was so much more dignified than the old mask, the sword so much more imposing than the old little dagger.
For the first time, he didnt feel embarrassed by his own magical form, like something the villains would only ridicule and try to stomp into the ground. Now, he felt comfortable with what he saw in front of him.
Now, he said, quietly, Im me.
A sound in the living room made him give a start. He turned away from the mirror and crept quietly toward the bedroom door, peering out into the living room. . .
There was a sweetly smiling vision in a high school uniform.
Oh, its just you, honey, he said, sheathing his sword, coming out into the living room and sweeping her into his arms, giving her a quick kiss.
Something going on I dont know about? she said, taking a step back and looking at his transformed state.
Oh, this? he said. I just wanted to see it, thats all. I wanted to find out what everyone was gasping and gaping at.
They were gasping and gaping because you look so magnificent, Serena said, taking a step back so she could admire him more fully. He *does* look magnificent, she thought. No villain in their right mind would tangle with him now.
So did you, he said. Those wings . . . the most beautiful thing Ive ever seen in my life.
She frowned. Im going to have to learn to *use* them now. Luna is already threatening me with flying practice.
Youll do fine, he said. And I have no doubt of that now, he thought. Weve *both* come so far from our first mission as Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask, when Mollys mother was possessed in the jewelry store.
I will, she said. And she smiled, holding her arms open to him in invitation.
He pulled her into his arms, his mouth crushing against hers. Gods, her kisses had never tasted so sweet . . . it was almost as if they were learning each others responses for the very first time. How long had it been since they were both healthy and free from the weight of having to save the world from an unknown enemy? It seemed like an eternity.
She returned the kiss with equal fervor, her lips opening rapidly, her tongue eagerly searching for his. Making a small noise of pleasure in her throat, she crushed their bodies together, her hands moving up and down on his back, caressing him, pulling him nearer and nearer.
Around them, green vines began to appear out of thin air and creep over the furniture, the door frames, as if in answer to the spiderwebs that had enveloped the city before. But these burst out into blooms of red roses, filling the room with a sweet perfume.
He eased out of the kiss, stepping back to regard her. You have never, never looked more lovely, he said, reaching out to stroke one ridiculously long pigtail.
She put her hand atop his. Neither have you. That new armor . . . gods, it suits you so much . . . She leaned over and kissed him again, a feathery brush of lips on lips, then deeper, more urgent. But . . .
But? he said.
Youd look much better without it.
He laughed, holding her tighter. Youre still a little minx, you know that?
She nipped playfully at his ear. I try, she whispered.
He drew back from her, and concentrated, passing his hands slowly over his body. Theyd learned a long time ago that there was a halfway-detransformation that removed ones Sailor uniform, but didnt make their old street clothes reappear. On the few occasions when theyd made love in magical form, it had always meant that the clothing theyd been wearing at the outset of the day was never seen again. In this case, the sacrifice was definitely worth it.
She looked him up and down, smiling. His body seemed to have changed for the better with his rebirth. He looked more muscular, broader of shoulder . . . more like a *man.*
Well, she said, looks like Im overdressed. And she quickly stripped, laying each item of clothing over a chair, instead of tossing them everywhere as she once might have done.
Not anymore, youre not, he said, leaning over and sweeping her up in his arms. Swiftly, he carried her down the hall to the bedroom, where he lay her tenderly on the bed, then stretched out beside her.
Instantly, as if not being able to stand being apart for long, they pressed their bodies together, rubbing back and forth slightly, just enough to create friction, as their mouths found one another again. Their tongues reached for each other instantly this time, and she tangled her fingers in his short, black hair, wanting this to go on and on for eternity.
She slid her hands down his back, rapidly, grasping both his buttocks in her hands and squeezing, firmly, massaging, caressing . . . releasing them, smoothing the palms of her hands over them, then rubbing in rapid circles again. He groaned, arching back into her touch. . . only to have her slide her hands up his back again, coming to rest on his shoulders.
She always was a little tease, he thought.
He reached between their bodies, his hand coming to rest on the taut flesh of her belly, rubbing in slow circles, squeezing gently, then rubbing again, moving upward slowly, slowly, wanting to draw this out, to make this last as long as possible. She made a long, low noise of pleasure in her throat, arching up toward him, mutely begging him to pleasure her.
As his lips began to travel down her neck, his hand cupped one breast, savoring its softness and firmness all at once, the gentle curve . .. . His fingers slid over the nipple, and he heard her intake of breath, felt her shudder. It sent an answering pulse of heat shooting through his own blood.
He quickened the stroking, fluttering his fingers, caressing, taking the hardened bud in his thumb and forefinger and squeezing ever, ever so gently. She gasped, letting out a loud moan, then grasping his other hand and bringing it to the second breast.
He sat up, so he could enjoy this fully, running his fingertips lightly over both peaks, then rubbing them firmly. She moaned, tossing her head back and forth, her body writhing with pleasure. The more he touched her, the more her blood seemed to be turning into lava. More, she cried. Oh. . .yes, Darien, more!
Oh, he knew exactly what she meant by that one word. He bent over and kissed her left nipple very slowly, drawing it into his mouth and sucking on it a bit. She groaned loudly. Moving his mouth to her other breast, he repeated the action, reaching over to the first and caressing the nipple with his fingers as his mouth suckled. Finally, he drew as much of her breast into his mouth as he could and started a steady, firm sucking.
She let out a throaty moan, her fingers tangling in his hair as her hips rose off the bed. She felt her heart pound, a fiery sensation radiating from the very core of her being to the tips of her fingers and toes, every pore of her body felt alive with electricity. He lifted his head only to move it to the other breast and lick the nipple with rapid flicks of his tongue, then start to suck it.
One hand reached down between her thighs, teasing the folds, flicking, brushing here and there, pushing into her for just a second, then pulling out, moving up to brush over her jewel, then into her again, deeper, harder, pumping in and out a few times, then pulling out, flicking back and forth over her entire labia a few times before quickly stroking the swollen nub, making her arch and nearly shriek.
Good, she moaned. So . . . so very good . . .
*Youre* good, he murmured, bringing his lips to hers again, his hands back to her hair. She kissed fervently, raising her legs and wrapping them around him, rocking her hips so his erection would brush against the hot, aching need at the junction of her thighs, letting out a low, animal groan at every pinpoint of pleasure that shot through her.
Easy, he panted. Careful . . . we . . . cant . . . Oh, but how he wanted to plunge inside her then and there . . . he bit his lower lip, forcing himself to maintain control. Protection . . . they needed protection first. . .
He eased away from her, intending to go into the nightttable and get a condom. To his surprise, she launched herself at him like a cougar pouncing on its prey, wrapping her arms around his waist, her mouth sliding over his hardness. She moved down on it slowly. . . slowly . . . oh, he tasted so good, felt so good, it felt like forever since she had done this!
She pulled her head back, sucking on him eagerly the whole time, until he was all the way out of her mouth. Her tongue began to lap at the head, swirling around, creating maddening patterns, then stroking slowly, slowly down the shaft. . . When he felt her lapping at the sac beneath his erection, he let out a cry that was almost a whimper, one hand gripping the bedspread in a tight ball, the other stroking her hair.
What you do to me. . . he gasped.
She moved back up, sliding the whole thing into her mouth again, taking him as deeply as she could, then starting to move him in and out, in and out, one hand moving up his body to find a nipple, gently stroking it as he cried out.
He wanted her to stop . . . he didnt want to come like this. . .but at the same time, he wanted her to never, never stop as long as they both lived. Which wont be long if she keeps this up, he thought.
Reluctantly, she eased away, came back up to his lips and kissed him. Was I interrupting something? she whispered.
Yes, in fact, you were, he said. But . . . it was a very *nice* interruption.
He reached into the nighttable again, finding the small foil packet and handing it to her. She tore it open, removing it contents.
As she rolled it on, he let out another groan, anticipating what was to come. He sat back, balanced against the headboard, and she straddled his lap, positioning herself so that the tip of his harness just barely parted her soft folds.
She leaned over and kissed his lips. I love you, she said.
I love you too, he murmured, his hands gently framing her face, stroking it, never meaning those words more in his life.
She pushed her hips downward, groaning as he slid into her, filling her, sending tendrils of heat shooting through her all over again, their lips meeting in a hot, fierce, wet kiss. Her internal muscles instinctively tightened, squeezing him, holding onto him, never wanting to let him go.
Serena leaned forward so Darien could suck her nipple again, starting to churn her hips in a slow, grinding movement. Gods, he felt so good in her, his hardness enveloped by her wet softness. . .
She quickened her pace, shifting her angle until she found one that made her shudder and cry out with every thrust. He was kissing one breast, then the other, lapping at the hardened tips, scraping his teeth against them gently. She groaned, low, throaty sounds of sensual abandon, her head tossing from side to side.
Her arms tightened around him, her lips kissing his head again and again, and then the sensation became so intense all she could do was throw her head back and let out a deep, ragged cry, probably the most erotic sound that had ever reached his ears. She thrust faster and faster, and she could feel his hips rising to meet her every stroke, and she was almost there, almost, yes, yes. . .
Then, the delicious explosion came, and every inch of her felt like it was being consumed by sweet, sweet flames. Her body arched and shuddered as wave after wave of ecstasy passed through her, and she heard his cry, felt his spasms as he went over the edge with her.
They tumbled to the bed in each others arms, kissing gently. He stroked her sweat-soaked hair and whispered, I love you so much.
I love you, too.
He rolled away just long enough to dispose of the condom, then they settled into a comfortable position, her head on his chest, their arms around each other.
Its finally over, she sighed. We did it . . . we won . . .
Feels good, doesnt it? he said.
What just happened? Felt *real* good.
He playfully tapped her nose. I didnt mean *that*. I mean . . . not having an enemy to fight anymore.
It does . . . and what feels better is . . . I feel like we *accomplished* something with this mission. I mean, besides eliminating the threat from Nehelenia. Its almost as if . . . I feel like weve come into our *full* power at last. For the first time, Im not *afraid* of the thought of being Neo-Queen Serenity.
I always knew you were capable of it, he said.
And you . . . what happened that day, oh, *gods* . . . I just wonder what everything we went through before would have been like if youd had that power before. . .
He kissed her. Now, no woulda-coulda-shouldas. I think it happened when it did for a *reason*. I came into my full power when I was ready for it . . . and when *you* were ready for me to receive it.
And now, were ready to be king and queen, but first . . . She yawned. Im more concerned with getting into a good art school. Id like to have at least *some* kind of manga career before Im going to be ruler of the world.
You will, he said. I have no doubt of that at all. Now . . . I think we both need to get some sleep.
She didnt hear him. She was already out like a light.
He cuddled her closer, thinking hed never felt more happy, more complete, more whole. He knew there was no guarantee that the Earth wouldnt be attacked again, but he knew if it was, hed be able to *truly* defend his planet now.
But always, he would fight at her side. This planet was as much hers as it was his. Theyd be king and queen over it together someday, but now . . . now, there was time to just *be.*
He leaned his head against hers, and drifted off to sleep.
And that night, for the first time in months, everybody had beautiful dreams.
AUTHORS NOTES: The ending of this story and this series is a milestone in my career. I had wanted to rewrite the SuperS series from the bottom up almost from the moment I found out that the fourth season existed. It just seemed like an endless series of missed opportunities to me . . . and I wanted a chance to bring those opportunities to fruition.
Since I have accomplished this, and since I felt that I have taken Sailor Moon as far as I can, I am taking an indefinite hiatus from writing in this continuity. As many of you probably know, I have been writing in other continuities, and I want to explore their potential further. Original works are also a possibility for me somewhere down the line.
There will always be a soft spot in my heart for Sailor Moon, though. It was the first anime series to inspire me to write and publish fanfiction, and it led me down many wonderful roads and helped me meet many, many terrific people I would never have known otherwise, such as Sailor Skuld, Jennifer Wand, Pandora MacMillan, Dave Greenlaw, and numerous readers who have corresponded with me about my work.
The Earth Sword Annihilation attack was inspired by a similar attack in my old friend Mark Bergers Sailor Moon stories . . . it was Serena who had the lethal sword in his version.
Tons of thanks go to my editor, Steve Savage, who helped me see this project through from very first concept nearly three years ago! to its completion, and to my very dear friends Sonya-chan and Cheyne, for your never-ending support. Thanks also to A Sailor Moon Romance, for publishing every fic I did going all the way back to Soul of Fire in November of 97.
Standard Sailor Moon disclaimers apply. These characters aint mine, Im just borrowing them for a little while.
~ OWARI ~