Blood Moon- Part 9
As serious as some of the previous 'episodes' have been, this one is even more serious. I found it a bit dark to write, but it hadda be did, and, after all, the saga is getting near to its climax. I have a sinking feelings things are only going to get worse. Until they get better, that is! Don't worry, I do have a happy ending planned. Pleasing to everyone, no, but I think it's going to be happy. I'll like it anyway.
"Sailor Moon" is the property of Takeuchi Naoko.
"Pt 9- Flames to Fire"
Sailor Jupiter had expected to see Kunzite, and Minako's bedraggled appearance was nothing new, but she came to sudden halt as she caught sight of Jadeite.
"Whoa! Who's the hunk?!"
Minako giggled. Jadeite stared at the tall brunette in surprise. Kunzite groaned. Usagi quickly brushed the tears from her cheeks. Artemis took one look at Jadeite and spat out a curse so foul it seemed to darken the air about him.
"That would appear to be Jadeite," Luna commented, as she and Sailor Mercury joined the little group.
"Sailor Moon, you're okay!" Mercury threw her arms around Usagi's neck, almost causing her friend to break down again.
"H-hai," she gulped, squeezing the blue-haired senshi back tightly. "But you can call me by my name," she added, as Mercury pulled away. Her eyes were sparkling suspiciously, but she didn't cry. "Kunzite pulled it out of my head by accident a long time ago, and Jadeite knows it from that last time we fought, when we were dumb enough to go to meet his challenge before transforming."
"Fat lot of good it did me," Jadeite commented dryly, his arm wrapped around Minako's waist. "Before I could tell Beryl or put the knowledge to my own uses, she zapped me into that damned eternal sleep! She never did have much patience. Well, it was her loss."
"And their gain, Ares," Minako pointed out gently.
Jadeite grinned down at her crookedly. "Too true. But I didn't much care about that at the time."
Sailor Jupiter looked jealous. Kunzite looked a little ill.
"Cut out the lovey-dovey crap," he snapped at the two. "I can't take it. I'm beginning to regret freeing you, Jadeite."
"Usagi-chan, what did you mean?" Sailor Mercury asked, not having been distracted by the interactions of the others. "How could Kunzite 'pull' your true name 'out of your head', by accident?"
Usagi glanced guiltily at Kunzite. "Uh... we... um... that is...."
"I take full responsibility and full blame," Kunzite put in. "Usagi went into it with a pure heart."
"Into what?" asked Jupiter darkly.
"So you did use the Everblade!" Artemis accused in a grim voice.
Kunzite winced. "Yes," he answered so softly it was barely audible.
"The Everblade.... The Ever...." Luna was trying to remember.
Usagi moved away from Sailor Mercury and stood beside Kunzite, grasping his hand and lifting her chin defiantly. "We're both to blame," she declared. "I knew what I was doing as much as Kunzite did!" Which was true... almost... in a way.
"The Everbla-- WHAT?!?!" Luna screeched and spat, rising several inches off the floor, her back humping like a Halloween cat, her eyes blazing with red-hot fury. Sparks seemed to be shooting from her bristling whiskers, and her crescent moon flashed.
Usagi pulled closer to Kunzite, wrapping her arms around his chest, though whether for his protection or for her own, it wasn't clear. "Luna, calm--"
Luna was beyond hearing however. Usagi had never seen her so angry. She arched up from the floor, her claws extended, her tail bushed out to three times its true size, her ears laid back flat against her head. She growled, a rumble deep in her chest. She looked ready to jump up and scratch Kunzite's eyes out.
"Luna!" Usagi yelled, moving to stand before Kunzite, her arms flung wide in defense. "Luna, it's done! It's DONE and there's nothing else for it! JUST DEAL!!!"
Sense slowly came back into Luna's flaring eyes, and she blinked at Usagi, her moon sigil fading, though she didn't relax her tense body, or her frizze d tail. It was more the tone of Usagi's voice than the words themselves that had gotten through to her.
She gave her charge a look that was filled with too many emotions to read clearly. "Do you have any idea what you've done?" she hissed dangerously.
"No," answered Usagi flatly. "I don't. And I don't want to know. I need to get through this first. Luna, don't tell me now. I need to get through this with my ignorance intact. Otherwise I'll lose everything."
Everyone stared at her in shock, never before having heard her use such a serious, passionate tone. She didn't lower her gaze from Luna's, and eventually the cat had to look away from the intensity in those burning blue eyes. She lowered her head, seeming to age a hundred years in a second. "Oh, Princess Selene...."
"Don't call me that!"
Luna looked up in surprise as Usagi snapped at her. "What? But that's who you are!"
Usagi's face glowed with anger, and something else. "I am not! I am Tsukino Usagi! I am Tsukino Usagi, and I am tired of having everything I do predestined! I love Queen Selene for sending me here, but I'm still myself! I love you, and I love my friends, but for who you are now, not for who you were! I will not be ruled by the past! I have a future, if we survive here, and it is my own to shape!"
Luna looked a little hurt, but Usagi wasn't about to back down.
"This is your fault, you know," Artemis said to Kunzite, almost conversationally.
Kunzite placed a hand on Usagi's shoulder. "As far as I'm concerned, this is the one good thing I've managed to do," he replied soberly.
"This is all too heavy for me," Sailor Jupiter commented, breaking into the conversation. "So, what's with all the gloom and doom?"
"We're wasting time," Jadeite added. He was a little less than sympathetic over the travails of the others, but he could perhaps be forgiven that. Minako gave him a slightly exasperated look, then moved to stand beside Usagi.
"Usagi-chan is right," she said, backing her friend up. "What's done is done, and we've just got to move on. In case you've forgotten, there's an evil kingdom to bring down! Now we're all together, and so we may actually have a chance. Let's not waste our advantage by indulging in pointless squabbling."
"It doesn't look like we're all here," Jadeite commented, glancing around. "Where's Sailor Mars?"
"Prince Endymion took her," Sailor Mercury replied tightly.
"SHIT!!" Kunzite glared at the cats, his silver eyes flashing pale fire. He was almost as furious as Luna had just been. "Why didn't you tell us right away?" he shouted. "Why did you stand around here bitching at us? Goddammit to HELL!!!"
He grabbed Usagi's hand, dragging her past the startled cats and Sailor Jupiter and down the tunnel at the highest speed she could manage with her shorter legs.
"Wait! What's going on?" Jupiter called, as she and the others ran after them.
"Don't you realize?" Jadeite puffed, when Kunzite didn't answer.
"Prince Endymion took Sailor Mars to become the new body for Queen Metallia!" He cursed feverishly. "We may already be too late!!"
"No one ever told me I'd have to act as a damned High Priest," Prince Endymion muttered bitterly to himself.
"Shut up and do as I have instructed you!" Queen Metallia snapped.
Prince Endymion looked down at the naked girl lying before him on the altar. It had been a struggle to get her limp body out of the fuku. As far as he was concerned, it had been more than worth the effort, but what Metallia wanted him to do now....
He lowered the thick stone blade he was holding poised in both hands and looked over his shoulder at the pulsing red mass, shaking back his sweaty black hair. "My queen, are you sure...."
"I told you!" The trapped being was losing her patience. "I need an open path into my new body. Once I am housed within that sweet young flesh, it will take less than a thought to mend it! Now, get on with it!!"
Prince Endymion heaved a great sigh and lifted the blade once more. "All right."
Chanting the three strange words Queen Metallia had taught him, he swiftly brought the knife, suddenly sparking white-hot light, down, before he had a chance to reconsider. The sound of the sharp blade crunching through flesh and bone wasn't as satisfying as usual, and Endymion winced.
Then, quickly, before all the girl's life could spill from her body in a crimson froth, Endymion turned and uttered three more words, then smote the trapped queen with the bloody knife.
There was a loud explosion and the bone blade shattered in his hands. Power blew across him, flowing from the freed being to her new vessel, and Endymion lost consciousness under the onslaught.
Usagi knelt in the center of the hallway, hugging herself and weeping bitterly. Kunzite and Jadeite had staggered at the same moment she'd cried out, hit with a sudden wave of dizziness. Kunzite now knelt beside Usagi, trying to comfort her while keeping himself from falling over. Jadeite leaned against a wall, attempting to catch his breath. Minako, seeing that Usagi was in good hands, fussed over him. The other two girls were shaken, but not affected as strongly as their leader. The cats had reacted much the same way as the two kings, but were more quick to recover.
"No, no, no, no..." Usagi was moaning, rocking in despair while Kunzite strove to get her to come out of herself. "She's gone... she's gone...." She dissolved into gut-wrenching sobs as Kunzite drew her close to his chest.
"Mars..." Sailor Mercury breathed, her dark blue eyes wide and glazed. Sailor Jupiter wordless put her arms around the smaller girl's shoulders, and the two held each other. Mercury was too shocked to weep, and Jupiter never cried, but they lost themselves in a muted form of grieving for a short time.
"Queen Metallia's free," Jadeite croaked, stating the obvious, and pointing out what seemed to the others to be the least important aspect of this current crisis. "We're too late."
Prince Endymion blinked his eyes open, but it was too dark to see anything, except some screening fabric hanging low overhead. Who possessed the smooth, rich voice calling him back to the waking world? Whose were the soft hands stroking his brow?
"You have done well, my prince," the voice cooed, as the hands moved to caress the bare flesh of his shoulders.
Why were his shoulders bare?
"I knew you would not fail me."
Now there was a warm body pressed against his own beneath the blanket.
A body with most intriguing contours. He blinked, trying to recall what had brought him to this pass.
"I would reward you, if you think you're up to it."
It was a young girl's voice, though the tone was very mature. The body moving more closely against his own naked body was equally young, and as naked as he was. The small warm hands were--
Memories could wait! Experience was more immediate and far more interesting.
Usagi huddled against Kunzite, breathing in the familiar scent of him, feeling his hands stroking her back, strong and warm. His heart beat slow and steady beneath her cheek. It was comforting, but it couldn't fill the aching void inside her where Rei-chan had been. She didn't want to move. It hurt badly enough where she was now; there was no way she could make it apart from Kunzite. His presence and sympathy were all that was keeping her from falling apart completely. She clung to him tightly, hoping never to have to let go.
She knew her other friends, fellow senshi, were worried about her, trying to get her attention, but she couldn't bring herself to focus outward. Inside it was safe, inside it was only her and Kunzite. If she let go of that, she would have to face her grief, face her fear, face her friends.
"Usagi-chan, we need you...."
No, they didn't. She stubbornly clutched Kunzite's jacket in her fists. Minako-chan had Jadeite. Mercury and Jupiter had the cats and each other. She couldn't be strong. She couldn't be there for anyone else. She wasn't even here for herself. She was doing her best to lose herself within Kunzite, where it was less painful.
However, as soon as he realized what she was doing, he pushed her out, gently but firmly. She turned wounded, wet eyes up to his face.
"Usagi-chan, hiding isn't going to do anything. You can't run away from this."
His words hurt. They didn't hurt as much as his rebuff, but they hurt.
"We need you. We need you to help destroy Metallia."
These words galvanized her into action. She sat up, though not pulling out of his embrace.
"Destroy Metallia? We can't destroy Metallia now! She's got Rei- chan's body!"
"Usagi..." he whispered, sorrow filling his warm voice.
She sobbed again, burying her face in his chest, though she didn't have the strength to go on another crying jag. "Is all that's left to me revenge?" she asked bleakly.
"If that's all there is, then that is what you must use," he answered softly. Mercury and Jupiter, who were kneeling before the two, looked at him in surprise as he seemed to them to be speaking out of the blue. Luna, who crouched miserably in Mercury's lap, gazed at him with a speculative gleam in her red eyes. "Whatever it takes to get you going again. We need you, functioning and prepared, or your world is doomed. As awful as your loss, you can't fail all those other lives."
Usagi looked up again, her eyes glowing. "Yes..." she breathed, a fire rekindling in her heart. "You're right."
"May- Maybe you can use the ginzuishou to get Rei-chan back," Sailor Jupiter suggested hesitantly. She flinched as Usagi turned an intense, burning gaze upon her.
Usagi did not reply, only allowed Kunzite to draw her to her feet. She didn't think there was even a chance of that, but she didn't want to crush Mako-chan with a hopelessness as deep as her own.
"We must act quickly," she declared, her voice steely with determination.
The others looked at her in surprise and the beginnings of respect. Rei would have been proud.
Prince Endymion lay on his back, his hands clasped behind his head, blinking sleepily up at the tent roof and listening to the girl who was Queen Metallia barking orders to the youma out in the camp. He would have to rise and join her soon, but for the moment he was greatly in her favor, and could afford a little sloth.
His newly reconstituted ruler had proved most definitely and tangibly that she remembered how to work a physical body, no matter how long she'd been trapped in formlessness, and Endymion was still trying to recover his wind. Queen Metallia didn't seem to have any such weakness. But then, she had far more power to draw on than he did.
Finally he dragged himself out of the makeshift bed and into his armor. Combing his hand through his tangled black hair, he moved to the tent flap and stood there a moment, admiring the queen.
The young body suited her very well. She had donned a set of armor, conjured up from somewhere. It was formed of black leather with silver fittings, and it left more to the eye than the imagination. In fact, the only way it really resembled armor was that the few pieces there were were stiff and shellacked. She had caught her long, silken black hair back in a neat braid, and bore a slim onyx and ruby crown upon her smooth brow. Her hands were clad in black gloves that ran to her upper arms, and she had winging shoulder guards that matched the shin guards on her high black boots. Endymion grinned to himself. He could easily fall in love with this dark beauty. And the fact that she could eat him alive, or fry him with a thought only added to the thrill.
She turned, her brilliant crimson eyes blazing with mingled pride and fury. "Come, prince! We must prepare to deal with those fools who would dare to set themselves against us!"
"Yes, my queen!" He hurried forth, honored to be allowed to stand at her side.
"Well, here we are again," Usagi commented dryly to Kunzite as they crouched at the edge of the same familiar cliff, gazing downward. Now, however, the sea of youma warriors was even greater, and the blazing red light that could barely be seen behind their mass was that of firelight, not of the trapped queen.
"Yes," he agreed, sharing a small bitter smile with her. "We have lost much, but gained much."
Usagi flinched, but she couldn't disagree. There was, now that Metallia was freed, less chance left to them of destroying her than there had been when they had last been here, yet they now had swelled their numbers by more than double, which might give them a greater edge. Still, Usagi didn't consider that it had been worth it. Nothing could make up for the aching hole inside her where Rei- chan's fire had once burned. Nothing could balance that loss.
Kunzite felt her thoughts almost as if they were his own, and he glanced over, understanding and affection warming his silver eyes.
"Still, those are the cards we have been dealt, and we must play them as best we can," he told her gently.
She sighed heavily. "The same as we must play the results of Allandrey's Trust?."
He looked pained. "*o. That was not a card that was dealt us. That was a card I deliberately chose, in my stupidity."
"But we still must play it. No regrets, Kunzite. Remember?"
"You will hate me when this is over."
"I hate you already, as I hate myself. We both screwed up; you no more badly than I. And yet... I think more good may come from this than evil."
"Evil, no. Good, perhaps. Pain, definitely."
Usagi shrugged. "Look on the bright side. We may both be killed here."
"NO!" Kunzite grasped her shoulders in a grip so tight it bruised, and shook her slightly, burning his silver gaze into her wide blue eyes. "No! You -- not you, Usagi-chan -- you mustn't think like that! It is wrong! You are life and love! You are life and love! If you die, the sun will still rise, but he will lose his power! If you die, people will still live, but their lives will be empty! Do you understand me?"
"N-no..." she faltered, staring at him in shock. "I'm just... I'm just one girl...." "You're more than that, though you may not know it. You're--"
"Hey, you two," Jadeite hissed, beckoning. "Get back in here!"
They both turned, and his eyes widened as he felt the intensity radiating from them.
He scowled. "Well, then come on!"
They exchanged a look filled with promise, then meekly followed Jadeite back into the secret tunnel.
The strange group seated themselves on the floor of the tunnel, in a form roughly circular. There wasn't really room, but they managed to work it so that no one was left out. Minako sat before Jadeite, leaning back against his chest. They both looked weary and rather the worse for wear. Sailor Jupiter and Sailor Mercury as well looked tired, as they sat side by side, Luna in Mercury's lap, Artemis on Jupiter's shoulder. The black cat was still very upset by her earlier clash with Usagi, and the whole Everblade thing in general, and the white cat was very displeased at the reappearance of Jadeite in his charge's life. He wasn't going to be foolish enough to try coming between them, but he was making his disapproval clear. Too bad neither of the reunited lovers noticed. Sailor Jupiter, of course, did, but it wasn't any of her affair.
Usagi curled tightly up against Kunzite's side, her eyes burning with exhaustion and recent tears. But she was denying her weariness, and though her body was crying out for sleep, she would not give in to its urgings. Kunzite looked just as weary and drawn, but he was equally determined.
"So, now what?" asked Sailor Jupiter.
Everyone turned to look at Usagi.
Evidently she had lost a little of her earlier resolve, though she was certainly no longer the same girl who had naively stepped through Kunzite's portal close to forty eight hours ago. One look at the grim set of her chin, or the cold blue flames in her eyes would convince even the most oblivious of that. Still, it had all been too much, and she turned beseeching eyes to Kunzite.
"Now what?" she repeated, her voice breathy and trembling.
Kunzite, sensing she was on the verge of breaking down again, gave the matter some thought. She rested her head against his shoulder, glad to give over control, if only for a bit. She didn't even mind the shocked look Mercury gave her, or the horrified, scandalized expression Luna had on her furry face. However, when her heavy eyes began sliding closed of their own accord, she decided that as nice as 'warm' and 'safe' were, they were not for her just now. She lifted her head and rubbed her eyes miserably.
"Well, we don't have any army of our own to set against the youma," Kunzite was musing. "But we aren't exactly powerless. And the more of us there are, the better. That is, if we're willing to set aside our differences and work together." He gave both the cats a hard look as he said this. He and Usagi were already together, until death and beyond. Jadeite, who might otherwise have been hard to convince, was immersed in Minako, who was eager to get things finished. Sailor Jupiter was ready and looked willing, and Sailor Mercury seemed compliant. The only hold-outs there might be, would be one or both of the guardian guides.
However, neither one was stupid, and whatever their personal feelings, they recognized the truth of Kunzite's words. When he saw he had their grudging agreement, he continued.
"Jadeite, you know how to deal with the youma."
It was a statement, not a question, and Jadeite nodded briefly. "Hai."
"Then you will take Minako and Sailor Mercury and go begin that." He frowned in thought. Usagi smiled in approval. Good. That would keep Minako-chan away from Prince Endymion. She knew in her heart that if those two ever met again it would mean death for one of them, and that was not acceptable.
Suddenly Kunzite spoke into her mind, and she could sense the urgency of his question.
"Usagi-chan, how much are you willing to sacrifice?"
"Everything! But you're the one who told me I have to live through this."
"I know. But I have an idea about that.... If you're not afraid of...."
"Death? No. I'm not. And this isn't like when I said I was okay with killing Beryl and then freaked at the last moment. This time I mean it!"
He relaxed a little.
"Hey, what about me?" asked Jupiter brashly, when the king had been silent too long. "Don't I get to pound the youma too?"
Kunzite smiled wryly at her. "No way. I wouldn't let you within ten feet of that army! Besides, Jadeite isn't going to confront the youma directly. Our greatest chance is in stealth, as it has ever been. Usagi would never have won through and killed Queen Beryl if we had attempted a frontal assault."
"Stop scowling. You'll get your chance. But not until Jadeite has dispersed the greater part of the army."
"In the meantime, you, Usagi-chan, and I shall be setting out on a very important mission."
"You're going to try to find the Night Saber, aren't you?" Jadeite asked seriously.
Kunzite nodded sharply. Jadeite whistled and dragged a hand through his short, springy blonde hair. "Well, I sure hope you have more of an idea than I how to go about it. But then, I guess you probably do. Magical blades were always your hobby, weren't they?"
"What about the cats?" asked Sailor Mercury anxiously.
"Yes. You do know we're not entirely useless," Artemis commented dryly.
"I think you know what you have to do," Kunzite said, gazing soberly at the white cat.
Artemis's blue eyes widened, then he nodded briskly. "If you think there's time."
"There has to be."
"Right. Well, we'd better get to it then. Luna?"
What are you talking about?" Luna asked, curious in spite of herself.
"I'll tell you on the way." Artemis hopped down off Jupiter's shoulder. "Come on."
"Artemis, wait! Ooh! Impossible male!" Luna dashed after him as he disappeared down the tunnel.
"All right." Kunzite stood. "Are we ready?"
Jadeite stood as well, helping Minako to her feet. Mercury rose. Jupiter jumped up.
"I'm always ready!" she declared. ,P> "We've got the easy part," Jadeite told Kunzite, smiling slightly bitterly. "I wish you luck."
"I think we'll need it."
"All right. Let's go, sweetling." Jadeite tucked Minako's hand through his arm and they set off, Sailor Mercury trailing behind, looking a little lost, but still determined.
"Is it safe to warp?" Usagi asked Kunzite, for she knew some of what he was planning, through their bond, and so knew that he was intending to warp wherever it was they were going.
He shrugged. "No. But I think it'll be okay this once. Queen Metallia would be able to disrupt a warp, drawing us to her, or destroying us right out, but I think we'll be there by the time she senses us. And where we're going, she won't be able to do anything about us."
"How come?" asked Jupiter curiously.
"You'll see," Kunzite said, with a crooked grin. "Give me your hand, then."
He pulled Usagi close against his side, grasped Jupiter's proffered hand, then warped away.
"When I say I want a barricade of bodies, I mean I want a--"
Prince Endymion looked at Queen Metallia in concern as she broke off mid-rant. Her gleaming crimson eyes had clouded over, and she looked strangely distant.
"Quiet!" She raised a hand, still staring into space. Then she blinked and shook her head, scowling blackly. "Damnation!" she spat. "Too late!"
"What was it, my queen?" asked Endymion, sensing it was safe once again to speak.
"That damned traitorous worm just used the star-gates to change his position!"
"You mean... Kunzite warped somewhere?" Endymion hazarded. Queen Metallia had been locked away a long time, and sometimes he had a little difficulty understanding her outdated terms.
"That's what I just said!" she snapped, glaring at him. He didn't exactly cringe, as the youma crouched before them was doing, but he did lower his head a little. "However, he did it too fast, and I couldn't catch him."
"Do you know where he went?"
"Yes, but it will do me no good. He's gone to a realm where I may not follow." <> "The youma--"
"Any youma I sent after him would be worse than useless," she said scornfully, shrugging the idea off. "Even if a few youma were enough to take out a king of the Dark Kingdom -- which they are not -- they would be dead seconds after I sent them."
"But-- but where did he go?"
"To the Dream Tower." She sneered. "Fear not. He cannot remain long there. Either it will destroy him, or he will return. Either way he will be dealt with. If he dies there, so be it. If he returns, then it shall be my hand which strikes the blow!"
She admired her slim, gloved fingers for a moment, then used those same digits to fry the unfortunate youma she had been yelling at earlier.
"Find me one who will do the job right," she instructed Prince Endymion.
He twisted with his mind, calling a new youma to stand before them. The queen suddenly stiffened again, then snarled.
"Another warp. Someone just went to the old Moon Kingdom. I wonder what they hope to accomplish there."
"My queen, should we--"
"Don't bother!" she snapped. "None of this is of any importance! I can deal with anything! Whatever those fools are planning, it will avail them nothing in the end! I shall be triumphant!"
Prince Endymion stifled a heavy sigh as Queen Metallia turned her attention to the new youma. He wished he could be as confident, but he couldn't help but worry. As powerful as Metallia was, Sailor Moon had her own form of power. Purity and innocence were strong stuff, and he was desperately afraid Metallia was being overconfident.
: : Part 10: Swords and Solutions : :
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