Sailor Moon Fan Fiction ❯ The Seneschal ❯ Age of Silver, Part 01 ( Chapter 7 )
Its been a while since I updated. For that I apologize. It's been a crazy life with work and stuff. At any rate, this is the first chapter of what I hope to be an epic story arc. It may seem to be a little rough around the edges, but that's because I consider it to be somewhat of a first draft. Anyways, please read and review! And thanks to all that have reviewed me so far.
Oh, on another note, the whole 'lasgun' idea was a minor tribute to Frank Herbert's Dune. Awesome book series. I highly recommend it.
Standard disclaimers apply, I don't own anything to do with Sailor Moon or its associated properties. But I own Yumiko. I made her. She's mine. :-)
Part 01: A Royal Birthday
Sol System, 7998 FLP (Founding of Lunar Prime), 998th year of Queen Serenity XV, 19226 BCE
For billions of years the mighty Sun shone in the center of the Sol system. It was the witness to the first stirrings of life as it cast daylight upon the third planet from itself. It watched when visitors from other galaxies began to colonize its orbiting bretheren, and it bore witness to the rise and fall of the mightiest heroines the galaxy had ever seen... more than once. Today the sun bore witness to something new. Something different. Something that seemed to be borne from itself. Ejected from its fiery core. The shockwave sent violent ripples crashing across the surface of the sun with fiery waves of flame...
Elegance ruled the Royal Court of the Moon as the shimmering earthlight shone down through the crystal dome. The great ballroom of Lunar Prime was alive with the sounds of celebration. The elite of a hundred star systems had come this night for one purpose:
To celebrate a birthday.
The kingdom's birthday, Serena thought with a shiver, Which happens to be my birthday as well.
She stood on the crystalline balcony outside her sitting room that overlooked the Great Ballroom. Far below her, various heads of state from countless worlds danced in an almost surreal synchronosity, couples spinning like pinwheels in the wind.
I wonder what the wind is like.
"Come on Serena," a voice said from behind the princess, "you're already supposed to be downstairs."
Serena turned around to face the cloudy grey gaze of the impatient Princess of Mercury.
While not a real princess, at least in the royal sense, the woman in front of Serena was one of the formidable Guardians of the Kingdom. A Sailor Senshi. As a living patron saint of Mercury, Anya, like the other Senshi, was granted the title of princess.
Serena envied the Senshi. Just watching Anya alone made Serena jealous of the other's innate beauty. When the four Senshi Guardians were arranged around Serena in their traditional positions, it made Serena feel woefully inadequate.
Like a rough piece of moonstone surrounded by polished jewels.
The Senshi were powerful. They wielded magic and skill in a manner that made them legendary throughout the Lunar Kingdom. A kingdom that had grown to encompass a hundred star systems.
A kingdom that I'm supposed to someday rule... The thought sent a chill up Serena's spine. She shook her head to clear it of such dark thoughts, and then straightened her long twin tails of blond hair that mirrored the hairstyle of her mother.
I shouldn't have to worry about that for a long time.
She glanced over the edge of the balcony again, looking for the familiar black tresses of another Guardian Senshi.
I have more immediate things to worry about right now.
"Do you think Bell is still mad at me?" Serena asked.
Anya sighed, then sat down on the nearby divan.
"Why would you think that?" She finally asked.
Serena's piercing sapphire eyes looked downcast as she bowed her head.
"She really yelled at me the other day. And she hasn't spoken to me since."
Anya leaned back on her hands and regarded the other girl.
"Well," she said, "you did burn a hole through her personal quarters and cut all her furniture in half. But I don't think that's why you haven't heard from her."
Tears welled up in Serena's eyes.
"But I swear I didn't know that lasgun was loaded!" Serena exclaimed.
The princess of Mercury shook her head. Serena still didn't get it. It wasn't the damage to her personal belongings that set the Mars Princess off. It was what could have happened to the Princess of the Moon. Part of the responsibility of the Guardian Senshi was to protect the Crown Princess. This was supposed to entail teaching her ways to defend herself. That was a little extra caveat that had been ordered by the Seneschal of the Moon herself.
When Serena had been born, Yumiko, the Moon Seneschal had sensed the powerful aura that the child gave off. The potential for becoming a very powerful Senshi. Yumiko had been the one to find and train the other eight Senshi, and they had achieved legendary status. So naturally she had been eager to train Serena to become a Senshi as well. The problem was that not even Yumiko knew which Senshi Serena would become. There were nine planets in the solar system. Each planet had its own Senshi with the exception of the Earth and Lunar Prime. The Moon Seneschal had doubted that Serena was Sailor Terra, so that left the Moon itself. Anya remembered Ceres half-jokingly suggesting that Serena must be Sailor Moon. Yumiko hadn't laughed at that. Quite the opposite. She disappeared into the Royal Archives for two days before going to the Queen with her findings.
Whichever Sailor Senshi that Serena would have been become was irrelevant however. The Great Council had passed a formal resolution with two thirds majority that denied the creation of any new Sailor Senshi. The Queen had no real choice but to agree to their resolution lest she lose political face. The Council really feared a Senshi as powerful as Serena would have been, being under direct control of the Queen. Anya had to grudingly agree with their reasoning, especially when Yumiko said that she sensed Serena had the potential ability to force a sun to destroy itself. The Moon Seneschal had winced noticably when she had mentioned that. Besides, the Sailor Senshi themselves had always been a sticking point to the Great Council. They wanted to have control of them, but the Queen kept that power tied to the Crystal Throne. So the council did other things, like passing their resolutions.
So Yumiko charged the four Inner Guardian Senshi with Serena's education. Not to make her a Senshi, but to teach her the fighting arts. Serena's inherent clumsiness made this extremely difficult and mentally taxing. What the Moon Seneschal wanted was to imbue the Moon Princess with at least some modicum of mental discipline. Anything to help the girl maintain control of herself if and when her latent powers began to surface. What the Guardian Senshi had gotten after trying to teach Serena for the last two standard years, was an easily excitable girl who tended to trip over her own feet.
The laws of probability seemed to go askew when it came to the Moon Princess. Artemis, the Queen's advisor, had postulated that it was because Serena's presence was strong enough to influence the universe around her. Anya's own observations and research seemed to support that hyphothesis. It was almost as if Chaos itself was out to get the girl.
Case in point:
Two days before, Serena found herself near the personal chambers of the Guardian Senshi. Somewhere along the line she had picked up a military grade fusion powered lasgun. The weapon fired focused beams of pure energy that could cut through anything. Serena herself couldn't even remember where she had gotten it. Just that she was holding it in her hands and playing with it (although she claimed otherwise), and the next thing she knew, the weapon fired. It startled her, and her first instinct was to throw it away. Unfortunately it was still firing at the time.
The lasgun spun through the air swinging its beam in a horizontal arc that would have neatly bisected the Moon Princess if she hadn't been tackled to the ground by Bellona. The Senshi of Mars disintegrated the lasgun with a Flaming Sniper before it even hit the ground and swept through their position. She then proceeded to give Serena the most verbal and colorful scolding of the young girl's life. That was where Anya and the accompanying Royal Guards found them. Bellona was furious and yelling, and the Crown Princess of the Moon Kingdom was sobbing.
Anya sighed again. The only real collateral damage was Bellona's chambers. The lasbeam had cut through the wall, her door, and swept through her furniture. It actually could have been worse, had Bellona been in her quarters at the time. But Anya knew that wasn't why Bellona was so angry. The Princess of Mars had been terrified of what might have happened if she hadn't gotten there in time.
Bellona loves you, Anya thought, watching Serena, Just like we all do, you silly girl.
"So are we finally pretty enough to come down?"
The Princess of Jupiter grinned her wide smile making her delicate lips part slightly as she entered the sitting room. She closed the door behind herself.
Serena blushed and walked back in from the balcony, nervously rubbing her gloved hands together.
Anya shook her head. "There's no need to tease, Hera."
Hera rolled her elegant shoulders in a graceful shrug. "Who's teasing?" she asked.
Serena looked away towards the door. Hera looked beautiful in her pale satin gown. It made Serena feel painfully plain in her own silver and gossamer gown.
I'm like the ugly little stepsister being protected by four winged angels.
The sitting room's door opened and closed again, this time admitting Ceres, the Princess of Venus. The blond haired and blue-eyed woman quickly descended on Serena.
"You look absolutely beautiful, Serena," Ceres said with a warm smile. She gently took Serena's hands in her own, "Everyone is waiting for you, you know."
Serena took a deep breath and glanced around the room. Still no Bellona.
She must hate me.
Serena tightened her resolve, forced a smile onto her face, and ignored the pain in her heart.
"Lets go then," she said.
"Nine hundred and ninety eight years," Selene said quietly, "and I still hate these state gatherings."
"I thought this kingdom was much older than that," the elegantly dressed brown eyed woman said from where she stood next to the throne.
"It is older. This will be the seven thousandth, nine hundred and ninety eighth year anniversary of the founding of the Sol System."
"Is that right?" Yumiko murmured. Her eyes studied the crowd of people as they danced passed the raised dais. Selene marveled for a moment at the figure Yumiko cut. Even in her elegant blue evening gown, the Moon Seneschal was constantly alert. Standing statue still, Yumiko's body still gave the impression of a coiled spring, always on the verge of exploding into action. On her forehead glowed a silver crescent moon and on the blue ribbon choker on her throat lay the Moon Sensechal's personal insignia: A rose superimposed over a crescent moon.
"Well," Selene said, letting her own arctic gaze drift out into the crowd, "today is important to me for another reason."
"The birth of Serena," Yumiko replied. From the corner of Selene's eye, she caught a brief glimpse of a smile drift across Yumiko's features before the Moon Seneschal's expression resumed it's cold and impersonal vigil.
"The birth of OUR daughter," Selene said softly to herself.
"Every year that passes for that child, I cherish deeply," Yumiko said quietly, "She WILL become Queen someday."
Selene nodded slightly. Memories of the days that followed Serena's birth intruded into her thoughts, reminding her of a dark mirror that hung in her bedchamber.
"...since you will not accept my presence, I will leave you with this gift instead. The era of the Moon Kingdom will soon come to an end. The child will never live to take her place upon the Crystal Throne, and YOU will be the last Queen Serenity of this Silver Millennium!"
Selene briefly closed her eyes and forced the ancient voice back into her memories. It wouldn't do to dwell on false prophesies. At least what she prayed was a false prophecy.
I will concentrate on the joy that surrounded her birth... not the darkness.
"Your Majesty," a male voice said from the base of the dais, interrupting Selene's ruminations. The tall white haired Mau in white robes bowed slightly, his whispy whiskers wavering with the motion. A gold crescent glowed upon his brow matching the polished golden pendant that hung on his chest. "The Elysion party is here."
"Excellent, Artemis," Selene said. She resumed her customary command voice and composed her features into her standard 'wisdom' face. It was a look she worked on for many years, simply because in dealing with boring matters-of-state, Selene found that if she looked wise and patient, people would be less likely to question her judgment. In private, Yumiko referred to this look as Selene's 'Queen' face. Selene wasn't sure if the Moon Seneschal was being sarcastic or not.
Behind Artemis stood three people. One of them was a tall and imposing man and the other was slightly shorter and obviously younger. The third was a red-haired woman with a gentle face and piercing golden eyes. The men wore stylish grey uniforms with shimmering golden highlights on the younger man's clothing. Gold hilted swords hung from their hips with the hilts showing some decent wear.
"My Queen," Artemis began, gesturing to the young man, "May I present to you: Prince Endymion of Elysion."
The prince stepped forward allowing the ambient light to shine more fully onto his face. Selene raised an elegant eyebrow. While not yet past eighteen standard years, the young Endymion already exhibited a distinct grace and beauty in his bearing. The storm grey eyes that peered from beneath the deep black cloud of neatly brushed hair were bright and intelligent as he looked up into the Queen's face. Behind him, Selene noticed the golden eyed woman seemed to be watching the young prince with a slight smile on her face.
"Your Majesty," Endymion said with a bow. His voice was rich and strong. "I bring you greetings from my father back on Earth."
"We are pleased to see you've grown up so well, young Endymion," Selene said with a warm smile, "We've heard good things about you. How is King Gaius faring these days?"
Endymion smiled brightly. "Not too badly, Highness. He was sorry that his health would not allow for him to make this trip. But Lord Helios is with him."
Now that is a killer smile, Selene thought with some amusement.
"Lord Kunzite," Yumiko said from next to the throne. Her voice was icy. "It's been awhile."
The other man stood behind the prince with his arms crossed. He was the tallest of the three and had long silver white hair that hung down to his shoulders. Cold blue-grey eyes locked with cold brown ones. Kunzite narrowed his eyes as the two warriors seemed to engage in a silent test of wills.
"Seneschal Yumiko. Indeed it has been awhile." Kunzite's voice was deep and it rumbled in his chest like a heavy wave crashing against a reef.
Selene could almost feel the waves of ice flowing off the Moon Seneschal. It was a mild surprise to the Queen, since the Moon Seneschal was famous for burying her emotions. Even with her own sensitive empathic abilities, Selene found Yumiko to be a hard nut to crack at times.
"I must assume you found my security detail to be sub par, since you are here personally escorting the young prince," Yumiko said.
"It's my prerogative to distrust any security not provided by myself when it comes to the safety of my prince," Kunzite replied.
Selene sighed inwardly. She knew that a sad and painful history existed between the Seneschal of the Moon and the leader of the Shitennou. It was something that Yumiko rarely, if ever, spoke of.
Endymion turned to face the taller man. "Peace, Kunzite. We are guests here. We should be showing more appreciation and respect." Endymion's tone indicated that this was not a request.
Selene arched her eyebrow again. Despite the boy's youth, he already had the commanding presence of a king.
Kunzite merely nodded. "As my prince commands."
Endymion turned back to the dais. "Please forgive his rudeness, your Majesty."
"It is quite alright, Prince Endymion," Selene said calmly, "However, we must also ask your forgiveness for the rudeness of our own Seneschal." She cast a quick sharp glare at Yumiko.
Yumiko clasped her hands in front of her and slightly tilted her head.
"My apologies, Lord Prince."
"No insult taken, Moon Seneschal," Endymion replied with a slight bow of his own.
"If I may be so bold," Artemis said, "I still would like to present one more person to her Royal Majesty." He gestured to the golden-eyed woman. "This is Councilor Beryl DuCharme."
"Ah," Selene said, "the new Councilor-Elect from Earth. We are pleased to finally make your aquaintance, Councilor."
The Councilor bowed. "I look forward to working with you, Majesty."
"We look forward to it as well. We expect great things from the youngest Council member," Selene said, "For now, we invite you all to join the celebration. Artemis has arranged for a Royal table upon the parapet for you to rest."
The Earth party bowed to the Queen and then left following Artemis.
"I really hate that man," Yumiko muttered.
Selene turned a hard eye to the Moon Seneschal.
"The least you could have done is kept quiet."
"I'm sorry, Selene," Yumiko replied, her face still expressionless, "but I don't really trust the Shitennou, and Kunzite..." The Seneschal let her voice taper off. Having nothing pleasant to say, she opted to not to say anything.
Selene sighed. Yumiko's face rarely ever changed expressions in public, making it extremely difficult to guess what the Moon Seneschal was thinking. But Selene had seen that face with a variety of expressions. Anger, sadness... Selene smiled wryly to herself, even passion. She knew what had happened between Kunzite and Yumiko, but she wondered idly why that anger and distrust had extended to encompass all four guardians of the Earth Prince. Selene glanced at Yumiko's face again. Perhaps they were guilty by association? Selene doubted that. Yumiko was never petty in her regard.
Artemis returned to take his place next to the throne. Selene's thoughts promptly shifted to wondering what kind of body the Mau had under his white clothes. Was it lean? Muscular? Was it covered in fine fur? Normally Artemis preferred to be in his smaller cat body. But for formal occassions, Selene insisted he change to his more humanoid form. She felt it was difficult enough to take the Mau seriously as an advisor when he was a talking cat. Besides, he was infinitely more pleasing to look at this way.
"Is the party comfortable, Artemis?" Selene asked.
Artemis nodded, a slight downturn of his elegant face bobbing in Selene's direction. "Yes Majesty. However Councilor Beryl has opted to join the rest of the Council members."
"She'll get tired of them soon enough," Selene said with a small smile.
"Ah, here comes Serena," Yumiko suddenly said, her face melting into one of her rare warm expressions. At least from that expression Selene could tell that Yumiko loved Serena like her own daughter. It also came from the little concealed feelings of affection that the Seneschal radiated. Selene just wished that the associated warm expression that Yumiko currently had would appear on her face more often. It had the effect of really showing just how beautiful the Seneschal of the Moon really was.
"The Princess Serena Serenity Marenitis!" The herald proclaimed. The dancing almost immediately came to a stop as did the music. From the far end of the chamber in the half-shell shaped orchestra pit, great horns played their bright music to announce the coming of Royalty. A thousand heads turned to gaze at the elegant Crown Princess of the Moon Kingdom.
Please, Serena thought to herself, Please don't let me trip on my way down.
As if it were an unwritten law, as in all things that Serena experienced in her life so far, whatever outcome she expressively wished for in any given situation generally would not be the outcome she would receive. Her right foot suddenly caught on the hem of her gown and Serena stumbled and started to pitch forward...
...then stopped. Upon each of her shoulders rested a warm and comforting hand. A third hand rested against her leg. The cumulative effect of all three hands was an instant stability that prevented the Crown Princess of the Moon Kingdom from tumbling her way unceremoniously down the wide crystal stairs.
"Don't worry, Serena," Ceres said softly into Serena's ear, her face smiling, "we'll always support you."
On Serena's other side, Hera winked at her then whispered, "We won't let you fall."
"Now don't cry, Serena," Anya said from in front, "It's bad form to see your mother in such a formal setting with wet cheeks."
Serena blinked back her tears. Why couldn't Bellona be there as well?
"Thank you," she whispered.
The music resumed in the background. The faces in the crowd were a mixture of awe and wonder as Serena and her three Guardians slowly finished descending the crystal stairs, her near fall almost invisible. A path opened up to the raised dais where the Queen sat upon a silver throne. Serena concentrated on the face of her mother. Queen Serenity's beauty seemed to shine like a star. Her silver-white tresses sparkled with moonstone ornaments just above the glowing gold moon crescent upon the Queen's brow. Serenity's eyes twinkled and a warm smile graced her features as Serena approached the dais.
On the right side of the queen stood the stunning Seneschal of the Moon. The brown haired and brown-eyed woman wore a simple yet elegant evening gown of dark blue that left her shoulders bare of anything except for the black tips of the elaborate winged tattoo on her back. Her silver moon crescent also glowed with its own soft light. On the left side stood the handsome white-haired advisor Artemis. The Mau wore simple white robes that were set off by the glowing golden crescent on his brow.
The Seneschal's face had lit up with an uncommon warmth as Serena and the three Senshi ascended the dais. Serena couldn't help but smile at the woman as she seated herself on her own silver chair next to the throne and the three Senshi took up their positions on the dais. Yumiko had been like a second mother. Sometimes more of a mother than Selene herself, which wasn't necessarily fair to the Queen. Selene tried to spend as much time as possible with Serena, but it was difficult with the heavy responsibilities she had. Yumiko would often have to go out of her way to arrange for the two of them to have time together.
"Good evening, Mother," Serena said with practiced ease. She could feel her mother's love flowing from the queen in warm pink waves. It never ceased to ease Serena's anxiety and make her feel warm.
"Good evening, Daughter," Selene responded.
"You look beautiful, little rabbit," Yumiko remarked. Her face had transformed back into its normal blank expression. Serena couldn't help but grin at the Seneschal's nickname for her. As far back as the moon princess could remember, Yumiko had always called her 'little rabbit'. Except when the older woman was displeased with her. The Moon Seneschal's emotions were normally hidden behind a mask of blank apathy that very rarely dropped. But Serena knew that if Yumiko called her by name, it was likely not to pay her any compliment.
Endymion couldn't take his eyes away from the four beauties that had descended the sweeping crystal stairs. Particularly the girl in the middle. The minute the herald had announced her name, Endymion knew which girl was the princess by the hairstyle that matched that of the Queen herself. Long sweeping tails of spun gold fluttered behind the stunning girl as she moved. The other three women shone like jewels in sunlight, but the princess glowed like a diamond. Even from that distance he could see her piercing blue eyes set like sapphires in her elegant face. Twin pools of deep placid blue that seemed to ensnare his very soul and hold it prisoner.
"Beautiful," Endymion whispered.
"What was that, my prince?"
Endymion turned his head slightly towards Kunzite, still not taking his eyes off the Princess Serena. "I said 'beautiful'."
Kunzite turned his eyes to follow where the prince was looking. He frowned slightly as his ice cold gaze took in the sight.
"I presume you are speaking of the Princess and her retinue," he said, "I suppose they are rather pleasing to look at."
Endymion stood up from their table. "I think I will ask her to dance."
Kunzite arched an eyebrow at that. The princess's brief stumble on the crystal stairs hadn't escaped his sharp eyes.
"You'd be asking for trouble with that one, my lord," Kunzite remarked, "I suspect your feet wouldn't last very long with that sort of abuse."
The prince stood silently for a moment before turning to address Kunzite again.
"Kunzite," Endymion said, "Is there a history between you and Seneschal Yumiko?"
The crystal flute in Kunzite's hand paused in its journey from the table to his mouth. He arched his brow again at the young prince.
"Why do you ask, lord prince?"
Endymion sat back down at the table and stared intently at the Shitennou leader.
"It just seemed pretty obvious that she doesn't like you," Endymion said quietly.
Kunzite chuckled, a deep throaty growl that emanated from within his chest. His mirth failed to reach his stormy eyes though.
"A lot of people don't like me, Highness," Kunzite replied with a dark smile, "She just happens to be one of many." He drained his flute and placed it down on the table before continuing. "It just so happens that I'm not too fond of her either."
Endymion was silent again, pondering.
"Would you tell me what happened between you?" Endymion finally asked.
Kunzite motioned to one of the waitstaff and retrieved a freshly filled crystal flute. He loosened his collar slightly before focusing back on the young prince.
"If you really must know," he said, "Many years before you were even born, that moon witch and I were married."
Endymion's eyes widened in surprise. "Married??"
"Is that so surprising?"
The young prince nodded his head. "Yes! What happened?"
Kunzite's face darkened and he drained his second flute with a scowl. "We had a falling out... over a difference of opinion."
"A difference of opinion? On what?"
Kunzite shook his head. "Please, Highness. There are some things I'd prefer not to speak about." He gestured towards the dais where the Moon Princess had finally seated herself. "If you wish to dance with the princess, I suggest you go and ask her. But take this bit of advice with you..."
The tall silver-haired man leaned towards his prince, a serious look in his storm-grey eyes.
"When the dance is over, forget about her."
"You make it sound like I intend to do more."
The Shittenou leader merely stared at the Elysion prince. His eyes seemed to briefly reflect a great depth of wisdom and pain before clouding over into his customary coldness.
"I can recognize the beginnings of love in your eyes, Endymion," Kunzite said simply, "I'm quite familiar with that look."
The young prince's face flushed red with the heat of his embarrassment.
"W-what are you talking about?" he stammered, "Love...?"
"Yes, 'love'. That errant little emotion that makes you lose all rational thought." Kunzite drained his crystal flute and put down on the table next to its brother. Then he called for another with a wave of his hand. Before long, he planned to have a whole family of crystal flutes gathered before him. "You are the crown prince of Elysion. You cannot allow anything to cloud your judgment."
Cloud my judgment... He glanced back at the princess on her distant throne.
Endymion normally maintained his self control with an iron fist. It wouldn't do to get embarrassed and flustered, especially in front of Kunzite. The man would just use it as an excuse to train Endymion harder in the art of war. However, what the Shittenou leader had been saying made some sort of strange sense in the young prince's mind.
Warmth. He had felt warmth in his heart when he gazed at the princess. Warmth and at the same time, anxiety.
Am I falling for a girl that I've never even met face to face? Is that even possible??
Endymion couldn't deny the attraction. He had to meet this princess. Dance with her. Look into those shimmering blue eyes and guess at the content of her soul.
When the dance is over, forget about her.
Kunzite's words echoed in Endymion's mind. I am a Prince of Elysion, above all other things. My first responsibility is to the Golden Kingdom on Earth.
Endymion stood up again. Kunzite looked up at his prince over his slowly growing forest of crystal flutes. Then the lights darkened and they both found their eyes drawn to the back of the hall.
"Ladies and Gentlemen of the court. Distinguished dignitaries of our member star systems. Please, a moment of your time."
The woman's voice was strong and feminine and it rang out clearly from the half-shell orchestra pit at the back of the great ballroom. The great crowd of people slowly stilled as their attention was riveted as one to the source of the voice.
A single spotlight emanated from one of the flowing blue crystals that adorned the gem-like ceiling of the ballroom and it focused down upon a woman's figure. She stood on a small platform that rose above the orchestra pit. Long ebony tresses cascaded down the back of her glimmering ruby gown as her smoldering black eyes seemed to caress every face in the crowd.
"Tonight we celebrate the birth of a kingdom," the woman said, "but it is more than that. It is also a celebration of our joint ideals. Shared concepts of beauty and learning. Ideas that have culminated into this one night. We stand here at the apex of a wonderous age. An age of peace and prosperity to all. We are more than a mere kingdom. We are the diverse systems and planets that add their many songs into this ultimate symphony of music. Tonight is an affirmation of that music. It is a celebration of us all."
Cheers and applause rose like a slowly building tidal wave until it crashed against the podium with its intensity. A small smile graced the beautiful woman's features and she held up her hands, waiting for the applause to die down.
"Here on Lunar Prime, we also have another reason to celebrate. Tonight marks the fifteenth anniversary of the birth of our crown princess. For that, we have prepared something special."
The woman took a deep breath and closed her eyes as soft music began to sound from the gathered musicians. Then she began to sing.
Her voice painted a vivid picture in the hearts and minds of those who listened. It sang of a beautiful young girl, precious and loved, who lived in a vast world of towering crystal spires and beautiful moonstone buildings. A clumsy girl with a gentle, compassionate spirit and a warm heart. It told of her birth, of shadowy events that threatened her but were thwarted by her mighty mother. A girl who would gaze out of her bedroom window in wonder at the glowing blue world that dominated her sky. Of her love for the simple things, like food, or playing. Most importantly, it sang of her unconditional love for those who surrounded her, and of their love for her. It was that love that the voice focused the most on, building to a crescendo before it trailed off, leaving afterimages of its splendor behind.
The applause that followed was deafening.
On the Royal dais, Serena was mercilessly rubbing her eyes with the hankerchief Anya had handed her. She had failed at keeping her cheeks dry in front of her mother.
"Oh Bell," Serena whispered as more tears escaped her ministrations.
The Senshi of Mars gracefully ascended the Royal dais to take her place by the princess. Behind her, the music from the orchestra had resumed and now many people had stepped out onto the silver and crystal tiled dance floor to waltz the evening away.
Bellona was half-way up the short stairs when Serena exploded forward from her silver chair and buried her face into Bellona's bosom.
"I'm so sorry, Bell!" Serena sobbed, "I'm so sorry!"
Bellona's face softened and she smiled as she wrapped her arms around the crying princess.
"It's ok, Serena," Bellona said as she guided the distressed girl back to her silver chair, "I was never mad at you. Now do sit back down, you're making a scene."
Indeed, several of the dancing couples had paused before the Royal dais to stare at the overly emotional outburst. A cold glare from the Moon Seneschal sent them quickly scurrying away.
"Always making the grand entrance, huh Bell?" Ceres whispered to the Mars princess as she assumed her place.
"Someone has to," Bellona replied.
"That was very beautiful, Bellona," Queen Serenity remarked. Bellona blushed hotly before tipping her head down towards the Queen.
"Thank you, Majesty. I wanted to perform something special for Serena's birthday."
"I'd say you've outdone yourself," Yumiko said, "which would explain why I haven't seen you at any morning drills for the past three days."
Bellona's mouth went dry as she stared at the Moon Seneschal.
Ah hell. Well, it wasn't like she didn't expect to pay the price. In this case, the price probably meant a week of 'back-to-basics' training as Yumiko would call it. Although the Mars Senshi figured that this had less to do with missing drills and more to do with leaving Serena upset for three days.
"Bright and early," Yumiko continued, "I'll expect you in the training hall." She glanced at Ceres and Hera who were trying to hide their smirks, and then at Anya who was straight-faced. "You three as well. It's time to go back to basics."
Anya sighed as Ceres' and Hera's faces fell. It was to be expected. The Moon Seneschal didn't believe in exclusively punishing only the guilty party in their group.
Selene regarded the interaction with some amusement. In a lot of ways, Yumiko was like a den mother to all the Sailor Senshi. She refused to let them become complacent, and she constantly drilled them. This was why the two remaining Outer Guardians and the four Inner Guardians were considered the strongest and most respected Sailor Senshi this side of the galaxy. At the same time, Selene could sense the buried anxiety in the Moon Seneschal whenever any of the Senshi were deployed anywhere, just as she could sense the feeling of pride and love coming off Yumiko now.
A feeling of mild nervousness and underlining determination suddenly assailed the Moon Queen's senses. She turned to gaze down at the young man who had appeared at the base of the dais. Endymion.
"Your Majesty," Endymion began. His grey eyes flitted towards the crown princess who had fallen silent and was now staring at him.
"Was there something you required, Lord Prince?" Artemis asked, stepping forward.
"I seek permission from the Queen to ask the Princess Serena to dance with me."
Serena's face grew hot as the blood rushed to her cheeks. She quickly glanced at her mother, her earlier distress forgotten.
Please say yes. Please say yes. Please say yes.
Bellona leaned towards Ceres and whispered.
"Who's this fellow?"
"I have no idea," Ceres replied with a light shrug.
"That is Prince Endymion of Elysion," Yumiko said in a soft voice. The four Senshi looked at the Moon Seneschal as the woman frowned slightly. Across the ballroom at one of the tables set for guest Royalty, a similar expression echoed on the face of Kunzite.
"We see no problem with asking," the Queen answered. She met Serena's pleading gaze with her own amused eyes. "But we make no guarantees on the answer."
Endymion made a polite leg and held out his hand.
"Would you care to dance, Princess Serena?"
Serena stood up. "I would love to dance!"
Bellona leaned forward and whispered into the Princess's ear.
"Remember, Serena, let him lead and try not to step on his feet!"
Serena turned and gave Bellona the beautiful smile that the Mars Princess loved.
"Thank you, Bell! I'll try to remember!"
Then she hurried down the steps and placed her hand into Endymion's. The prince led her out to the dance floor.
The music seemed to buoy Serena's spirits and she felt as if she were flying as she spun around the dance floor with that handsome young man. She was sure that this was what heaven felt like. Her heart seemed to beat a thousand times a minute and her face couldn't seem to burn much hotter. This man... there was something about his eyes that made her feel warm and safe.
"I'm sorry, sir," Serena began as they moved, "But I'm afraid I didn't catch your name."
The young man grinned and his stormy grey eyes bore down into Serena's very soul.
"Endymion," he said, "of Elysion."
Endymion. Serena thought. The name seemed to roll off the tongue. What a wonderful name.
Then Serena's old friend, causality, finally caught up to her. Endymion winced as Serena's foot landed on his own. Then it happened again.
"I'm sorry!" Serena said almost frantically, "I didn't mean to do that!"
She stepped on his foot again and he suddenly stopped their dance.
Oh please... Serena silently pleaded, please don't end it now.
Endymion smiled gently down at her. "Watch my feet, Princess," he said, "this is called the 'box-step'." He carefully guided her through the steps and showed her how to keep up. Pretty soon, they were flying again.
"Seeing how you are a freshman councilor," the Jupiter councilman was saying, "you probably want to establish yourself by allying with one of the senior members. Like myself, for example." He paused for a moment. "Perhaps we should continue to discuss this in my apartments."
Beryl simply smiled slightly while being careful to maintain her expression of rapt attention. She knew the Councilor really didn't care what her political stance was. or who she sided with. Nobody on the Great Council took Earth seriously, so there was no reason to expect them to take Earth's Council member any other way. This buffoon was really just trying to pick her up.
"I've studied your views, in light of the bills you've introduced before the Council in the past, Councilor. I also know about the current Intergalatic Agricultural Exchange bill that you've recently presented. I believe that's the one that would drastically undercut current food exports from Earth in favor of flora and fauna transplants to other Earth-class worlds, correct?"
The Councilor's mouth dropped open in surprise. Beryl went on.
"I'll take your silence as a 'yes'. Regardless, you probably already know that you won't have Earth's vote. Also, I've already filed for establishing a Council subcomittee to fully examine the merits of your bill. I believe the Queen has final say on that."
The Councilman of Jupiter's face hardened. He leaned forward into Beryl's face.
"You play a dangerous game, little girl," he hissed, "Don't expect a lengthy career in politics when making enemies like me!"
Beryl merely smiled, her golden eyes almost sparkling.
"Indeed, Councilor," she said calmly, "However, I intend to have a LONG career."
The older man glared at her for a moment longer, then turned and stormed away. Immediately his clique of younger Council members clustered around him. Beryl watched him go.
This is going to be very interesting. She mused. She turned to watch the spinning dancers as they rotated around the great ballroom.
Ah, Endymion, my young prince. I will prove myself on this battlefield. Then perhaps in a few years you will really see me.
Beryl blinked twice as she watched the Prince swing by, another woman in his arms. A woman with long golden hair in matching tails that seemed to circle around them as they moved. The two were laughing. Their eyes were locked on each other, and they wore matching expressions.
Beryl watched them as they disappeared back into the crowd, her previous little victory forgotten. A sliver of darknes formed in her heart.
The dark entity had forced its way from the grip of the sun's gravity with a silent roar. The heat slowly cooled from its misty form.
I AM FREE...
Memories of a distant battle floated through the consciousness of the dark entity. Powerful warriors. Senshi.
I WAS SEALED... BUT I'VE BROKEN FREE...
A silver crystal, shaped like a blooming lotus. Blinding white light.
NEED ENERGY... WEAK...
It sent its thoughts to walk the distant worlds that surrounded the bright star of its former prison. Life existed around many of those worlds. But only one world had it in abundance. The third planet closest to the sun seemed to glow with an aura of life that dwarfed its fellow planets.
Then something else caught its attention.
The oversized satellite that orbited the third planet. It too gleamed brightly with life. Not abundant life, but STRONG life forces. Familiar auras. Fury began to build in the darkness that coelesced in the entity's center.
Sailor Senshi. The warriors that imprisoned the entity so long ago. The auras were slightly different, but undeniably theirs. And one aura shone the brightest, like a miniature sun on the surface of that moon.
It needed to feed. Feed first on the lifeforces that inhabited the third planet. Then it would plan its revenge. Vengeance on the familiar auras it felt on the third planet's satellite. Its anger fueled the fire in its blackened soul. Soon only one thought dominated the entity's mind:
!!I REMEMBER YOU, BEARER OF THE SILVER CRYSTAL!!
In the empty darkness of space, moving on the power of its rage alone, an entity once known as Metallia began its long trek to the third planet.