2014-08-21 - To The Moon

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Title: To The Moon

Desperate for answers, the Sailor Senshi head to the Moon, where they trigger old memories so strong that some dreamers in Tokyo get subconsciously swept up along with it. The senshi emerge burdened with old griefs, but strengthened by new resolution.


Sailor Moon, Sailor Mercury, Sailor Venus, Sailor Mars, Sailor Jupiter, Michiru Kaioh, Haruka Tenoh, Erythrite, Lera Camry, Mai Tokiha, Anthy Himemiya
GM: Madoka Kaname


Hikawa Shrine, Yamanote High City - The Moon, Earth

OOC - IC Date:

09/03/2015 - 08/21/2014

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Luna paces back and forth across the low central table in Rei's house, so agitated that the tiny, perfect pink pearls of her paws actually make a sound, like the shushing of a kimono when one moves in it. Pat-pat-pat-pat-pat-pat. Turn. Pat-pat-pat-pat-pat-pat. Every time, she manages to avoid the snacks on the table without apparent effort or even notice, so her kitty gracefulness is not totally compromised.

Her tail whips to and fro like a banner, like a lashing snake. The tips of her whiskers twitch with the arhythmic dissonance of a Stravinsky conductor, guided by no Earthly sense.

She has been like this wherever she is -- on the street railing, or the kitchen floor, or Usagi's bedspread -- since Kunzite's defeat and Tuxedo Mask's abduction.

"Endymion!" she repeats for the hundredth time, spitting the word out like an expletive. "Tuxedo Mask, Endymion. Unbelievable. How could I have been so blind..."

On her way back across the table, she adds the other half of her strained mantra.

"...and Beryl!! Her power waxes, even though the Four Generals have been defeated, it's stronger than ever! Like before, but I just... can't... remember..."

In despair, she looks up through the window at the night sky.

The thought finally comes to her, the kind of thought that first requires a hundred hundred hundred pissed-off monkeys at the typewriters of the mind to pound every other conceivable combination away. It's electrifying -- all her hair stands on end, but not all at once, as the idea passes across her like a bushy black wave.

"The Moon! We should go to the Moon -- back to where it all began. The answers await us there, I'm sure of it!"

The golden crescent symbol on her forehead gleams from one end to the other, but not as brightly as the full moon outside, which hangs in the sky like a pearl, like a diadem crowning the night.

"Girls, let's go this very night!"

<Pose Tracker> Minako Aino [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Minako looks uncharacteristically worried -- and she is. Artemis had shown her the Magellan Palace one -- back in 7th grade. The floating palace orbiting her home planet had seemed so beautiful at the time. But she could hardly rouse the awe she felt back then now.

She regained some of her memories of that past life during her battle with Kaitou Ace, and she was not eager for any more answers. Those memories back then, they --

Then suddenly, Minako is pulled away from her thoughts by the sound of a familiar voice down below.

"Mina..." Artemis is looking up at her with a serious expression of concern.

Minako leans down to give Artemis an affectionate scritch behind the ears; he responds as any cat would -- leaning his head into her nails. It's only once she pulls her hand away that Artemis shows his embarrassment; despite being a cat himself, he wasn't fond of appearing cat-like.

"I'm ready," Minako says with a nod of the head. She looks out at the others, hoping that these first memories aren't as painful for them as they were for her.

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

It's hard to believe it. Tuxedo Mask was Endymion all along. The idea was so jarring and at the same time so right. And now he was in the hands of Queen Beryl. The idea made her head hurt just thinking about it. A head-splitting, glass behind the eyes, nausea inducing feeling of a migraine as memories came cascading back at the thought. It was just so painful.

And so she tried not to think about it. Instead Usagi was doing what Usagi does when an idea is too traumatic. She's denying it. Not letting herself think about it. Which is why right now she's seated on her rear in a pillow nearby the table, seeming oblivious to all of Luna's open ruminations over the situation, legs in front of her, an open manga volume resting on her knees.

It was one of Rei's undoubtedly. Every now and then she's snickering, hand over mouth, feet twitching from barely suppressed laughter and occasionally leaning over to let Makoto take a look at whatever on the page had tickled her funny bone. She'd thought of trying Minako once, thinking she'd be a kindred spirit in that, but the way she looked...

She manages to keep up this act of completely ignoring the gravity of this situation for a while, until... 'The Moon!' The manga volume gets thrown up into the air in startlement, before it lands, face down, rumpling pages. Startled, then slowly she gets this confused look on her face like she hadn't heard her right. "Come on Luna. The Moon?! How are we even going to get there? I mean, I know we can just jump into space now but how long would it take us to get there?"

She looks sidelong at Ami for answers. Surely she'd know! Before then looking straight back at her mentor. "And what if we missed!? Wouldn't we be in real trouble?" She waves a hand in a warding gesture, her expression giving way to terror. "I don't want to float in space forever!"

And yet Luna's intensity is unmistakable, the way the symbol on her forehead just gleams. The back drop of the full moon behind her. Usagi at least starts to believe that Luna knows a way. Would know /some/ way to get there. She didn't know what was more frightening, the idea of floating in space forever or that of going back to that place from her fragmented memories.

Taking a deep breath which sounds like a sigh, she looks at Minako and Artemis. If Minako Aino, one of her heroes wasn't afraid, then maybe she could try to be brave about this too. She looks to each of the others, one by one, not quite agreeing yet until she hears what they have to say, like she could just absorb their courage and passion and wisdom by just listening to them.

<Pose Tracker> Makoto Kino [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

After the events of that battle--everything that happened, what happened back on earth with Tuxedo Mask and above with Kunzite... It was comforting for Makoto to throw herself into a task, and so the snacks on the table are ery nearly extravagant. There are sweets and cookies and small sandwiches, and tea for everyone, all arranged just perfectly and orderly.

The fact that they are /so/ orderly makes pretty clear Makoto Kino's feelings about what's going on; despite still being sore from her defense of Usagi, she's kept herself in firm motion. Even now, she's standing, going to brew up more tea... But she stops, where she was walking, at a certain voice's words.


Makoto slowly turns around to look down at Luna, quieter by far than she ought to be. The Moon is something she knows, in her heart, is familiar, but...

Usagi looks to her, and when Makoto looks back at the girl who's sworn to protect above all, she knows what she has to do.

"I'm ready," Makoto says simply, and sets down her kettle. She walks back to the group the few steps away she'd taken. Whatever she fears, it isn't important now. She knows what she has to do. "We won't miss," she says firmly. "You won't float away, Usagi-chan. None of us will. ...We have to go."

<Pose Tracker> Ami Mizuno [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Tuxedo Mask, Prince Endymion? For Ami, that at least makes some sense -- but it's still hard to wrap her head around, and indeed, she's been unusually quiet even for her while sitting at the table at Rei's house. The direness of the whole situation has rapidly shot up, and she's not quite ready for the pressure just yet.

While usually she'd gravitate to Luna for a calm, level-headed voice in situations like this, the cat is buckling under the strain, too... which means instead she's stuck close to /Usagi/, simultaneously worried about her and in need of her /own/ support. She sneaks glances at the manga over her shoulder on occasion, and then --

--The moon!

Looking to Usagi, then to Luna, she offers a soft, "I think we'll be okay, Usagi," with a glance to Luna. With a nod to Makoto, she agrees, "We need to get there."

She then eats a cookie. Nomf.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Luna is not so petty as to give her tail one extra, final twitch at the sight of Artemis leaning into Minako's hand. Oh no. That would be wrong, very wrong indeed. Instead she pads over to Usagi, puts one paw on the girl's knee, and sticks her kitty head right into her face.

Are the claws coming out?!?

Her eyes are huge, and marvelously orange, like an unblinking field of poppies.

"We can do it," she says calmly, to everyone even though KITTY STARE is straight at the one who is first in her heart (other than Ami). "We have to use the Sailor Teleport. Empowered by the light of the full moon, and with you all transformed, holding hands, combining your strength, we can go straight there..."

She hops down and walks through the doorway towards the temple's courtyard, then glances over her shoulder, past her now straight-up tail, at the girls.

"...to Mare Serentatis."

<Pose Tracker> Minako Aino [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Minako nods, then reaches for the orange pen in her pocket. She lifts it skyward. "Venus Power, Make Up!"

A stream of stars curls around her, as it had done dozens upon dozens of times before. Apprehension is growing inside of her as the transformation continues; every second brings them closer to a past Minako would rather not remember.

You're the leader, she urges herself mid-transformation. Act like it!

This internal lecture (mostly) does the trick. When her transformation is complete, the worried Minako Aino has been replaced by a more confident Sailor Venus.

When the others have finally transformed, Sailor Venus reaches out for Usagi's hand, and offers her an encouraging smile.

"Don't worry," she says. "Everything will be fine. I promise."

<Pose Tracker> Makoto Kino [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

She can't say it--not now, not when it's so important that they all show strength--but Makoto feels better able to push aside her doubts seeing Minako act so quickly and boldly.

It's not like her, she knows, to hesitate. It's frustrating that she even has to /think/ about it.

"Jupiter Power, Make Up!"

Green light shines as crackling lightning strikes her green pen, held up high. Once again, she changes...

And the quiet Makoto of today is replaced by a stoic Sailor Jupiter.

She takes a careful extra breath. If she can encourage Usagi by being her usual self...

"Nothing to worry about," Jupiter adds confidently, as she reaches in turn for Minako's hand. "I'm not going to let something like that get in our way."

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

When Luna advances on her, Usagi completely overreacts, falling backwards onto her palms, thinking the claws are in fact coming out, her eyes terrified but unable to look away. The paw on her knee raises a tiny squeal of distress from her, wide orange kitty eyes next to hers. She's sweating a bit. And then.

She doesn't quite exhale in relief at Luna doesn't, but rather explains instead. But her breath is taken away by the calm resolution of the other girls. From Ami's calm assertion of the necessity. From Mako's assurance that they won't miss. From Minako's sheer dutiful intensity. "... Alright." She finally says to Luna's face, quiet, as she raises herself back up, sitting in a casual, impolite cross-legged way.

There's a look of pain, deep within her blue eyes, like all of the things she was trying so hard not to think about it were all coming back to her. But a moment later, she places a faint smile on her face like some sort of mask. "Everyone's so sure. The least I can do is stop complaining and be sure too." She thrusts a hand skyward.

"Moon Prism Power - Make Up!"

Pink polish adorns her nails, while ribbons and light transform her into something more, as she rises to her feet, and places one hand in Sailor Venus' other hand. For a moment, just the palms of their gloves touch, before her fingers curl around hers. They squeeze just a little extra hard, trying to ignore the little tremble in her own hand. Maybe it was from fear that if she let go, that she'd lose her again.

Her other hand takes the moon stick shifts the Moon Stick to take its place beneath her thumb, the silver crystal affixed to it seeming just a little more brilliant under the light of the full moon. She holds out her fingertips to Mars. Their mere confidence allowed her to fully - well mostly believe that this would work. And if it didn't? Well there are no other people she'd prefer to float along in eternity with.

<Pose Tracker> Ami Mizuno [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

It's that simple? They can just... teleport? That feels downright miraculous to Ami, but she's not going to question it in the least... and indeed it as everyone else starts to ready themselves to just go and do it, Ami is swept along by the tide of emotion.

Retrieving her transformation pen, Ami thrusts it to the sky, crying out, "Mercury Power, Make Up!" Amid a glow of blue, Ami changes once more... and in her place, of course, is the sailor-suited soldier, Sailor Mercury.

She moves over to take Makoto's hand, taking her own place among her friends. She stays quiet, but as she takes Sailor Jupiter's hand, she seems that much more ready to do this. She nods to Usagi -- no, Sailor Moon; a small, sharp gesture.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mars [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Rei smiles to Usagi and everybody else, and accepts the offered hand after she transforms. She does not think to be thankful about having functioning internet and avoiding a Boschian ouroborous of telecom bureaucracy. Why would she? That's not happening to her at all. Definitely not.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRfklQNZkqw

Outside, the torii casts a long shadow, backlit by the immense moon. It's never seemed bigger than tonight, and the light that it casts does more than empower... it seems to imbue everything with potential, creating idealization, self more than self.

The cobblestones of the temple seem soft between the girls' feet, as though they, too, are donating their strength straight through boots and high heels alike. There is no more appropriate place to conduct such a ritual -- this will, if only for an instant, link sacred ground with sacred ground.

As the girls link hands, the power of their hearts does not so much become one -- as it is always one -- as ignite, their inner strength becoming lambent green and blue and red and yellow and pink. The wind rises around them, making the many charms tied to the trees rustle and clatter. On the ground, it swirls up those few motes of dust that Grandpa missed because he stopped early to greet some young and lovely visitors. They spiral into the middle of the circle, making Artemis sneeze. Luna glares balefully at him, then returns to her original occupation, staring upwards.

"Focus on the Sea of Serenity! Wish yourselves there with all your hearts! And then shout..."

As the phrase is uttered for the first time in an Age, a hammer of power plunges down to suffuse them all, and the mighty magic rocks Hikawa Shrine, shattering the cobbles entirely in a perfect ring. The girls won't notice -- they aren't there anymore, they're soaring through a space that is all rainbow and no boundaries, a kaleidoscope of hearts and spirits and, despite the gravity of the moment, transcendent joy.

It is a welcoming feeling.

Welcome home, cry the cosmos. Welcome home.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Venus [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

"Sailor Teleport!"

Venus feels her feet lift off the ground. It happens so quickly that it feels like only a moment has passed since she became consciously aware she was no longer grounded and the second they were all shot into the darkness of space.

It's been a long time since she's been here -- 7th grade feels like ages ago, now. The awe she neglected to feel back on Earth at the prospect of leaving suddenly returns when she catches sight of the moon. Its face is marred and pocked, but it still brightly reflects the sun, like a pearl in the dark.

Venus' hands tighten slightly around Moon and Jupiter's; she can probably let go now -- they don't need to continue holding hands. Still, she can't bear to break apart. Not until they land on the moon's surface.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Jupiter [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

As Sailor Jupiter looks out at the gigantic moon, hanging onto the hands of Sailor Venus and Sailor Mercury, two feelings seep through her. She wonders, in the moment, as she goes, whether she'll ever return home again. ...But in the same moment...

She knows she would go anywhere with the girls beside her. /For/ the girls beside her. And that lets her misgivings slide away, in favor of the fervent wish that Luna instructs of each of them. Her eyes closed, she cannot see but can hear and /feel/ the rising power. The wind doesn't seem to speak to her; it seems instead in the moment that she /is/ the lightning, she is the crashing thunder, while at the same time being this girl linking hands with the others. And then...

"Sailor Teleport!"

It all takes her breath away. Sailor Jupiter is light, as she soars through the colorful sky, and feels her body lifted as surely as her heart. As her hands, too, tighten around Venus and Mercury's, she doesn't have to wonder anymore about home.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Moon [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

One hand in Mars'. Her fingers curl as if they belonged there, or at least she felt she belonged. She gives Mercury a firm look and a return nod, with a small smile. Her lip was quivering, but she hoped she didn't notice. The feeling within her heart as their hands join is like that of watching Rei at her fire as it flares to life. Like the connection between them simply felt stronger like this. As was fitting.

Mare Serenitatis had struck a distant chord within her, but it's like a melody from her childhood that she's long forgotten just as the pink light suffuses her. It's nowhere near as intense as the lump in her throat that rises when Luna tells them to focus on the Sea of Serenity. A homesick feeling, like when she'd listened to one of Makopi's songs. It makes her all the more eager to go.

And at the same time, pardoxically, it's enough to almost cause her to speak up and say 'No no no! I don't want to do this! I don't want to go back!' to break her hands away and break the link since to experience it likely cause her great suffering too. But she doesn't. Perhaps because since becoming Sailor Moon...

...she felt a little braver now.

She shuts her eyes tight, and instead of breaking it off, wishes that she be there with all of her heart, with all of her soul, and shouts as one with the others, "Sailor Teleport!" There's no sense of nostalgia from the power that comes over them, after all there had never been a Sailor Moon before.

It's more from the feeling of going home. For as painful as it is, it feels right. In the short space of time between leaving the shrine and arriving on the Moon's surface, fear and anxiety giving way to wonder and awe as eyes she'd shut tight finally open. It is the same awe that she felt thousands of years ago when she looked at heavenly blue from afar. The same feeling she felt when she leapt into space into the warm and welcoming kaleidoscope of light and stars.

For just a moment, she looks, truly happy, eyes watering just a little, and she's smiling. Whatever they experienced from here on out, it was surely worth it for this feeling. Her hands tighten fractionally upon Venus' and Mars' in that short space of time.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mercury [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

"Sailor Teleport!"

The sensation is dizzying, for an instant -- but not a bad kind of dizzying. It's warm and joyous -- and only moreso as she catches sight of the moon. Her grip on her friends' hands tightens, but it's not to them that she looks, for once, as they travel.

It's at the moon.

Ami doesn't let herself look starry-eyed and joyful often, especially not where other people can see; she's only begun really finding peace in showing her feelings in the last year.

Here, though... here she looks downright ecstatic as they travel to the moon. Her eyes widen a little, and seeing it, she can't stop herself from smiling. Even with its wounds and scars, the moon is a miraculous thing to look at as they travel toward it.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mars [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BkjA2MgsyFw

Closing her eyes, Rei feels the warmth of Usagi's hand against her touch, the gentle firm pressure of its squeeze. Clasping touch to touch, the wind rises, the skies above painted by the gods in brilliant splashes of orange and red. Little pebbled goosebumps blossom all along her forearms like fields of budding flowers, an excited pulse echoing in lockstep with the ebb and flow of the breath in her lungs.

Her dark irises open to the light as the words are spoken, her voice adding to the chorus. Her vision blurs and everything around her loses its glow, like a dimmer switch descending with the wires of the world. Her eyes, those twin orbs, come apart bit by bit, their constituent parts separating and spreading in a cloud of individual particles. Atom by atom Rei Hino is scattered into total disincorporation, and she can no longer distinguish between herself and her friends around her, from the winds or the dust or the ultraviolet rays of the sun.

For a span of time she's ill equipped to conceive, she becomes one with everything..or perhaps one with nothing, not even herself. But the invisible and immeasurable leylines of her spirit hold her together, a divine spiderweb that acts as her vessel into the stars and prevents her from being lost entirely.

She draws an intense and sudden breath as she snaps back into being, her heart racing and every nerve alight. Her mouth falls agape at the ruined palace before her, consumed with an astonishing and intense sense of familiarity and belonging without any of the intervening sense of regular history that makes such things seem normal. Like reuniting with a limb she never knew she lost, she's struck by its presence and made to realize how long it had been absent.

Rei swallows, dew glittering in the vitreous film of her gaze.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eiJKQjxFxnw

Although it was visible from a distance, the surface of the moon arrives as suddenly as the Earth was gone; there is no slow, luxurious flyover, there is no panoramic overview.

They are just there, abruptly, and with their very presence, they bring more life to this place than has been seen in thousands of years.

It's impossible to know if they shattered the ground on arrival, in a mirror to the mess Grandpa is now grumpily cleaning up in the Hikawa courtyard, because everything is shattered here.

There is the idea of a sea, a broad, bare space that might have once had water and twinkled with light. It is still spectacular, for, on the horizon, there is a pale, pale blue outline against the endless darkness of space, filled with a million million more stars than are visible from home.

Ami undoubtedly knows what it is: the New Earth, almost -- but not perfectly -- invisible on the Full Moon.

The present is more spectacular than these remnants of the past, but the ruins are still marvelous. Like a jigsaw puzzle missing crucial pieces, or a half-finished set of outlines yet to converge into a sketch, they indicate that which was:

A broken fountain crowned with a maidenly statue, who must have had a long gown but is otherwise lost to time.

A wall that might have once risen to a soulful balcony, now just a loose arrangement of white stones, worn smooth as an elder's molars not by the nonexistent wind, but just the inexorable imperfection that is entropy itself, one tiny particle at a time.

A path -- a central path, which requires careful picking through to avoid scattered pieces of ancient armor, none larger than an arrowhead. The only signs of life once here, are signs of war, and that might be the saddest thing of all.

Dreamlike in its stillness, nothing in the city stands taller than the tippy top of Sailor Moon's odango, and that very rarely indeed.

Luna and Artemis are very quiet, and unusually unreadable, white white white reflecting in their kitty eyes but showing little but shock, muted suffering.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Venus [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Venus relinquishes her grasp on her friends' hands only once they have touched ground. She turns, facing out towards the ruin. It's quiet here -- almost unnaturally so. She takes one step forward, and then another, the crunch of her orange slipper against ground the only sound permeating the silence.

Venus stops before she gets too far ahead of the others, her eyes narrowing slightly as she tries to recreate the image of the palace in her head; she remembers glimpses of the moon palace from the few memories she regained during that final battle with Kaitou Ace. But as much as she tries, there's no mentally reconstructing these ruins into the palace that once stood here.

Then suddenly, she turns to face the others behind her -- attempting to gauge the mood of the group.

"Everyone okay?" she asks with considerable more ease than she feels.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Jupiter [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

It's home. Sailor Jupiter turns, her brown ponytail bouncing behind her in the low gravity as she looks to the side, upward, all around; the stars, the surface...

Something blue.

...But as this sight takes her breath away, another sight forces her to draw another all too quickly: the sheer /ruin/ around her. Wreckage, on the ground, stones, a broad place that must once have been the sea...

Jupiter's eyes linger on the wall, and then on that broken fountain, and she feels something in her heart crack to match the broken maiden.

This is home... But it's broken, too.

Jupiter lets her green eyes scan onward, hesitant to let go her friends, towards the path. She looks ahead, to mark where they need to walk. She sees those scattered pieces of what she recognizes quickly as armor, the signs of death that are the main indicator there was ever life, and that crack in her heart only feels like it's deepened.

There's only forward to walk, and green heels crunch ruined rocks as she walks that forward path. The trouble shows in Jupiter's face, but she doesn't speak any of it. She instead keeps her eyes open, looking for a danger that surely died with everything else an age ago. Her eyes open, and one hand still hanging tightly onto Sailor Mercury's in turn, unwilling to let go at least one tangible thing.

"...It must have been so beautiful," she murmurs even though she'd intended to keep her silence. She couldn't, though, at Venus's words; the taller soldier looks toward her. She closes her mouth then, and looks away. "...I'll guard the back this time, Venus."

That's the only other answer she gives, for now.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mars [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4QEPTCamPo

Sailor Mars steps gingerly in a slow circle, taking everything in. Conventional human wisdom holds that the Moon is a place of lifeless desolation. Spiritual teachings across the world and all its histories have placed the glowing orb of white in a place of great religious significance. It's shocking for her to see that the truth lies in between.

Her words are soft, spoken to herself without concious thought. "Dead..all dead.."

She walks slowly, in a trance-like fugue, at times bending down to run her fingertips along a ruined artifact. Whatever terrible war had ravaged this place had left no trace of the corpses surely sown. On Earth, devastation is followed by revival. Forest fires nourish the soil. Species that die off, or are driven from a habitat are replaced by others that fill in the space. As prey flourish, predators thrive, and eventually suffer their own die offs as they annihalate the creatures that they fill their bellies with.

That is the cycle, a seemingly fundamental compact. Life gives way to death gives way to life in an endless cycle of repetition and renewal. But not here. She could not know how many agonizing years had passed here without a single cell dividing. Did any organic matter even exist here before the Senshi came? Whatever terrible calamity had sundered this place that feels so dear to her almost pales in comparison to the obscene and unnatural fact of its apparently total stagnation. It seemed in its silent way to defy everything she understood of existence. The Moon is not the bride of the Sun, not the patron of witches nor a planetary body of craters and stones. She understands now that the moon is a corpse that gave no life in its death. Not an unholy place..but monumentally desecrated.

Part of her wants to weep. Another aspect wishes she could cast this wronged and ruined monument into the sun, to put it out of its misery and return its particles to the natural cycle. She prays, placing ofuda upon the fragments of marble and madness all about.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Moon [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> On Air - BSSM OST - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgD7XpJZvzM

It all ends abruptly, with her feet touching something solid. In truth though, it was all beginning. Her eyes shut once, then blink rapidly open, her vision filled with the light of stars stretched out across the width and breadth of infinity. And despite the New Earth being nigh invisible, she picks it out with her eyes almost immediately.

Pale blue. Once heavenly. She doesn't recollect what it means like Ami would, but it causes this feeling of longing, once distant, to renew within her, to become closer and more poignant and magnificent at the same time.

She has to tear her eyes away with notable effort to look more at her immediate surrounds. Some of that wonder, remains, but it becomes cold as the sudden shock of seeing the rest squeezes all the warmth out of her. Just this chill within her that tells her the light and warmth she'd felt is a lie.

There's no bitterness over being the princess of a long lost, dead kingdom within her. There's only this hollow feeling of sadness. For the tragedy that happened here, for her loved ones lost, and not all reclaimed - yet this feeling of intense relief for the ones she did.

She blinks back tears again as she takes in all of the shattered monuments, her mind filling in the gaps where it can, overlaying it with beautiful ephemeral images where it can but mostly it can't. It's like waking up from a horrid nightmare, only for the visceral terror to still feel so acutely close, yet the actual contents of it to recede away like the tide, impossible to grasp again.

Until she does, when a sudden thought strikes her out of nowhere, 'I never did get to introduce him to mother and tell her properly.' It immediately strikes her as silly, but it causes her to lose the last remnants of her dignity and composure. Not because she felt the pain of losing him so acutely, but her. She never got to do all the things in her past life that she'd promised herself she'd do to make her proud. She never got to do anything, because she'd been such a coward!

A gloved hand is raised to her face, as she starts to sniffle, tears streaming down her face. She can't stop herself. She just can't. She felt so helpless. Why did she come here? What could she do here? Absolutely nothing. Except...

Sniffling, she moves the hand away from her face, and follows Venus down the path, her footsteps measured, and they seemed less graceless than they'd been before. She doesn't answer Venus' question. She was going to try to be strong for her and brave for everyone... Her voice breaks, but only once, "C-Come on... everyone..." She stops for a moment, steadies herself, thinks on encouragement she'd received. 'They're /all/ brave, and they're /all/ beautiful, and they /all/ cry a lot...' The tears don't still, but she looks calmer, "...let's go pay our respects."

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mercury [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Ami takes a moment to appreciate that barely-visible, pale blue dot before her; even as they stand on the moon, looking to the past... it's important to remember their home in this life, and what they're fighting for in the /future/, too. For an instant, her eyes sparkle with the moisture of near-tears...

... but the moment passes, and she's snapped back to attention by Sailor Venus's question. "I'm all right," she affirms, with a gentle squeeze of Jupiter's hand. She sweeps her gaze now across the moon itself -- across its beauty, and its desolation. Her eyes widen, and she notes, quietly, "... I'll stay with Jupiter."

Her heart sinks a little as she looks out across the death that swept the moon once. Her gaze lands on Sailor Mars, and she says, quietly, "... it won't end this way again." Trying to offer some tiny encouragement, at least, even as her own heart sinks.

With a nod to Sailor Moon, Mercury -- still gripping Makoto's hand tightly -- starts to make her way forward. Sailor Moon is right -- they should pay their respects.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpQQznyXl6k

It's all so recognizable, and so unrecognizable. It feels like empty apartments and broken hearts, sounds like a plane flying overhead and the lasting silence of a hospital room, smells like a single rose.

And at its heart, at a place that draws like a lodestone imperceptibly and inevitably, rises a staircase, cleaved in twain by the invisible sword of a giant.

But what lies at its top is not invisible: there, a pedastal, the same dead white as the rest of the bones of this place. Sunk in it, a sword thrust into stone so far before later legends that it was surely forgotten before history repeated itself, if anyone even lived to witness it at all.

It looks like a grave, that lonely blade, itself apparently wrought from stone as well -- heavier, darker. Even the slightest tinge of darkness is stark against the monochromatic bleakness of this place, and this hue is a heavy gray, stormclouds ready to burst.

"...the Holy Sword," whispers Artemis, speaking for the first time since they arrived. "Last wielded by the Captain of the Guard of the Royal Family."

Not just a grave, but death. This is no delicate and maidenly weapon; its form follows function. It is beautiful, in the curve of its hilt, the set of its crossbar graceful, but beautiful in the way that an explosion is beautiful, graceful in the way a tree trunk is tossed by the wind before it turns a person into pulp.

"It is your birthright," Luna addresses the girls with a strange urgency to her voice, as though she knows instinctively that this is what they've come for, that it holds the answers they seek. She leaves Sailor Moon and Mercury's company, where she had taken to occasionally nuzzling the edge of each of their matching red and blue boots with her side, with her cheek, and pads up the steps. But the mooncat swerves around the base of the pedastal, unwilling to defile it -- or perhaps herself. There is nothing pure about the Holy Sword.

Is it even ready to be reclaimed? The air is not expectant, crackling with anticipation.

The air is dead.

Everything is dead, here.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Jupiter [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Sailor Jupiter can't entirely keep her composure when she sees Sailor Moon start to cry, hears that sniffle. Despite her efforts to remain stoic, her eyes close again for just a moment, and tears have filled them when the blink ends. She looks through them anyway, looks forward...

Sailor Jupiter keeps walking, inclining her head only slowly. ...To pay their respects. Their respects for...

It all just feels so achingly familiar.

Still, she doesn't let go of Mercury's hand, grateful in the moment for the other girl's close presence, as, in her way, she simply can't hide her own feelings. Slowly, stepping past fragments, past broken walls, past broken dreams and hopes and lives, Sailor Jupiter steps in sight of that staircase, still behind most, still behind even as Luna steps forward again.

And she looks up at that sword. Sailor Mars's words come back to her.

She knows, in the moment, what has made her so uneasy. What has stopped her short, where nothing can keep her from protecting her friends.

Everything is dead, here. ...And once, long ago... She was among those dead.

She can only slowly turn her green eyes up to Luna up again at the pedestal.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mercury [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Giving Luna one last gentle scritch with her free hand before the cat retreats toward the sword, Sailor Mercury takes a deep breath and tries to keep herself steady -- for Jupiter's sake, if not for her own. When she takes a breath, it's a little ragged -- but she manages not to cry, to give Sailor Jupiter's hand another reassuring squeeze.

Her eyes rest upon the sword, and she studies it carefully... but she doesn't take another step forward. Like Luna, she isn't quite comfortable approaching it in earnest; she hangs back with Jupiter, shifting her weight from one foot to the other, trying to get steady and not /quite/ managing it.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Moon [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Sailor Moon's back is straight, her shoulders are back, there's something different about her that comes across in every foot step. Like she's trying to be a dignified Princess presiding over the funeral procession for a whole kingdom. Tears glitter and fall, and she makes no move to wipe them away. She feels no shame in them now. Just grief and regret.

She doesn't look anywhere but forward, despite what memories within memories try to show her of her surroundings, in the laughter of children on ice skating rinks and the sounds of ballroom music, in the floral scents of gardens, in the tastes of wondrous delicacies long forgotten that would cause her usual self to salivate from sheer bliss or just the air itself. Except she feels different today.

The feeling becomes more pronounced as she spies the lonely blade, thrust into stone. The atmosphere causes her to feel like she's suffocating, as she halts, listens to Artemis explain. Watches Luna nudge her boots and take her place, explaining. And when she tells them its their birthright, she ascends, almost regally, save for one small clumsy hitch in her step near the top which nearly topples her and tells everyone present that 'Yes this is definitely still Usagi.'

With a grimace, she looks back at them, and offers a wave as if to say 'I'm okay I'm okay!' with a self-conscious smile that belies how she actually feels. Before she places her hands near the hilt of the sword. And hesitates.

She looks down upon the sword for a while, her eyes seeing and unseeing, and suddenly she grimaces, feeling that sensation of cold metal in her gut as if it just happened seconds before. A choking sound comes from her throat, her arms stop hovering, and instead wrap around her abdomen. She sinks to her knees, sobbing and gasping. It wasn't even the same sword. It wasn't.

But she couldn't even bring herself to try. The nostalgic dread overwhelmed her. She looks down with eyes open, and just breathes, letting that feeling recede and then, softly, brokenly, "V-Venus-chan... I think..."

She looks up at all of them, and forces a small smile, "...t-that-that you should-should t-try." She felt like she was betraying her with a smile. Forcing her to act out of a sense of her own boundless sense of duty for the sake of her Princess. And yet she didn't feel strong enough right now to take up the sword, and wield it in the name of her own fallen kingdom.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Venus [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Venus follows behind Moon, stopping only briefly when Moon does, at the pedestal's base. Normally, she has so much to say, but now, she doesn't know what she could. Nothing in her past 15 years could have prepared her to have the right words in hand for a moment like this.

Instead, as Moon stammers out the last of her words, Venus gives Moon's shoulder a gentle squeeze and smiles back.

"All right!" she exclaims in an attempt to lighten the mood. The sword looks solidly stuck, its blade lodged tightly in the pedestal's narrow slit -- but even so, she's not going to let it stop her; she is a sailor guardian after all!

Venus cracks her fingers. "Leave it me to me!"

She steps up onto the pedestal and bends over, her hands tightening around the sword's pommel. She takes a deep breath. "Okay," Venus murmurs.

And with all of her strength, Venus tugs at the scabbard, trying to pull the stone sword free of its trappings. The blade slides out only too easily; Venus stumbles backwards with a yelp and nearly falls, but somehow, manages to keep her balance.

"I really did it?" Clearly, Venus is flabbergasted about how easy this was; she had expected it to be harder.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3hnNFlPhe0

As Venus draws the sword from the stone fully, it yields itself to her grip as though wrought for her hand -- which, of course, it was. The blade flashes white, then silver, blindingly silver, as though it is made of the same cosmic crystal as the Ginzuishou.

It is incredibly heavy, unwieldy, but that feeling vanishes the same way that everything else does, everything but the argent lines from an angel's pen, that sketch upwards in feathery arcs, completing broken pillars, shading in intricate windows, resolving the lines of the mosaic floor, with its nine stars mostly obscured by the skirts swirling to the music of the dance.

It lilts and chimes with unearthly beauty -- the perfect descriptor for a masquerade ball at the height of the Moon Kingdom. Men clad sleekly in darkness, women in light, they keep identities at arm's length, the masks as individual and marvelous as the sunrise, which is spectacular but never, ever the same.

The distant sun is actually a smidge more dim and pallid than usual, though just the tiniest bit. "Congratulations again, Princess Mercury," remarks an earnest young man with the feathery white hair of a local lad. "What a victory for your people, for your representative to win the grand festival! And truly a spectacular blessing she called upon your world, to at last bring respite from the cruel flames of the sun. When do you plan to begin farming on your surface?"

A red star -- not Mars' -- twinkles out the window, none too far from the Earth, which is now full rather than new, and utterly spectacular with its greens and blues. Even full of life, the Moon Kingdom is austere in its whiteness, possessed of a certain vacuum at its heart, an emptiness that demands to be filled.

Much as some are filling themselves at the table of hors d'oeuvres. "These fruits lately developed on Europa are truly spectacular, Princess Jupiter," murmurs a lady of the court. "And so white! A wondrous tribute to our Queen and Princess. Did you have a hand in their creation?" One of the little pale balls is not fruit after all; it uncurls and walks down the table to the tolerant titters of the crowd. Its thick, fluffy tail flicks lightly about as it pads across the room, avoiding being stepped on with effortless timing.

That must take work -- Princess Venus is being crowded by a number of suitors, all of them eager for her partnership on the dance floor. All of them also pretending that the Moon Kingdom isn't on the brink of war with the Earth, each trying to outdo the next with spectacular steps that walk a razor's edge. Most are ambassadors -- the one from Cephiro pleads, "Please, Princess Venus! Do me the honor of just one single song! The magnificence of such an honor would illuminate my heart for all of time!"

The hosts of honor have yet to be seen; the Queen, who refused to cancel the ball, seeing as it was to celebrate the Princess, whose special birthday it is. Boys and girls alike have been sighing over the romantic idea of her coming-of-age, which will take place at midnight tonight.

OOC: The flashback begins! After the initial round of poses we will go to the three pose rule, and clustering into smaller interacting social groups is encouraged for sanity's sake, much like you would at any ball scene. Immersion is also generally encouraged (rather than reference to your waking/modern selves), but if those who have patiently waited want to pose in from another of their character's dreams to establish the gimmick of their presence, that seems utterly reasonable.

<Pose Tracker> Erythrite [Juuban Public School (11)] has posed.

"Pardon me, Princess Venus...."

The voice is low, urbane, yet with a quiet hint of suppressed sullenness to it - a thing of grace, yet with something else behind it. A steadiness and a seriousness that sets the speaker apart from the gaggle of suitors who flock to the Princess of Venus, seeking her hand.

The man there is, simply, beautiful. Smooth, dark silk with trim of silver and subtle reddish purple, neatly cut, bedecks him, a half-cape in rich violet red caught from one shoulder with a clasp set with a gemstone that might be an almandine garnet. Smooth mahogany hair is parted from the middle to hang to either side of angular eyes of a steady, impossibly deep reddish-violet, that same tyrian colour as the gem clasp, imperially splendid against the sharp, pale cut of his features.

The young knight, Erythrite, has been something of an enigma since he stepped out into the floor of the ball. He has spoken to few; he has mostly kept to the sidelines, watching, those stark tyrian eyes steady with an alert anticipation of something that seems not to have happened. He waited - waited even longer than he had expected to. Longer than anyone should have expected to. He is not going to wait any longer. He forces himself to abandon the hope, though he knows that he cannot fully shake himself free of it. It has captured him like an angler's hook.

The unreadable lines of his face, striking and almost ethereally beautiful, betray little hint of emotion - only a mystery in those eyes even as he bows with a slow, adept grace, before rising to hold out a hand to the girl who will one day be Aino Minako, but to him is simply the blonde princess of the world of Venus. A princess tailed by so many suitors, with their fake smiles and their fawning.

Someone who should be utterly untouchable.

And therefore someone he is, of course, highly drawn to - though it is a destiny he could not possibly be aware of.

"...May I have this dance?" he asks. "Princess."

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Tonight, the stars shine down on the moon in resplendent glory. That crimson luminescence shines in victory, nestled among countless markers of worlds far more distant than the lovely Earth.

Among the guests, one glances repeatedly to those celestial lights when the people around him hold little interest - a glass of fine wine in one hand, he traces the patterns of the heavens along the window pane. The flow of such a social event is one that fits his attire - waist-length flowing brown hair and an smoothly dark violet suit. A faint smile adorns his domino-masked face as he regards the skies above the Moon Kingdom one last time - and then he turns to the ambassadors he had been speaking with.

"My apologies - for all that our gracious hosts have gathered emissaries of countless worlds here, I cannot help but think of those who could not attend." He bows gracefully to those before him. "You were speaking, I believe, of a grand composition of some sort?"

"The Legendary Score!" Among humans and cats and beings far stranger, a cello with warm eyes and a hovering bow is not so far out of place - notable, perhaps, but not without precedent. Its voice is musical in a literal sense - but its voice, while stern, is cheerful. "A grand piece of music, with a melody to ensure joy for the year. We hope to have ambassadors of these worlds come when it is next sung - might you be interested in attending, sir...?"

Rather than give a name, the long-haired man seems pensive; he turns from his companion to regard the crowd, or perhaps the glistening skylight. "Interesting. Does it guarantee joy, or predict that which...ah. My apologies, I believe something has come up - I hope we may continue this later."

Leaving the musical instrument behind him - a being who turns cheerfully to converse with a group of Lunar nobles - he glides across the dance floor. A waltz is in progress, but his steps are matched to the whirling pairs of dancers. Conjunctions and oppositions are swiftly navigated, whirling capes occluding his passage as he traverses the waltz itself.

In comparison to the dances he studies, this is mere child's play.

Among dwarfs and giants, humans and fairies, the long-haired man seeks one in particular. Cosmically speaking, there is one body in this system - apart from the blazing Sun itself - worthy of note, and its representative is on this floor.

"Guardian Jupiter, was it? Might I impose on your time?"

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Venus [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Venus is overwhelmed by the number of would-be suitors swarming around her -- though she's clearly enjoying the attention. Normally, she never has the chance to seek any sort of romance herself. The brunt of her time is dedicated to chasing after their princess, whose frequent unannounced excursions to Earth have left Venus with a headache.

Venus' eyes briefly flicker over to Serenity, before turning back towards the diplomat from Cephiro. She begins to open her mouth to supply an answer when suddenly an unfamiliar, dark-haired handsome man makes her approach.

Venus's mouth promptly shuts as she locks eyes with him. Without giving him an answer, she turns to the Cephiro ambassador.

"Sorry," she says apologetically. "But I'm going to dance with him!"

The ambassador visibly wilts; a few other suitors grumble and disperse, casting mean glares in Erythrite's direction as they depart.

And without so much as another word, she spins on heel, and grins up at Erythrite. She extends a hand out to him expectantly, waiting for him to take it and guide her onto the dance floor.

"I'm Princess Venus," she says. "But I'm sure you know that already." Clearly, Venus is angling to get a name from this handsome stranger.

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

One of the mask-wearing ballgoers here is a younger-looking man. What that means in the Age of the Silver Millennium, of course, is quite a different thing -- but in this time, Jadeite truly was young. The confident smirk on his face is one of those entirely affected expressions; something that masks what really lay in his heart. He is a good actor, though, and this isn't a role so hard for him to play.

And so, when he walks calmly across the ballroom floor, he looks like he should fit in. He idly checks the tails of the formal coat with a hand, before he keeps walking. He looks about, scanning over the room with cool grey eyes, before he spots one particular person.

He starts to walk up to Princess Venus. Jadeite opens his mouth, eyes screwing up, and then--

'...May I have this dance? Princess.'

Jadeite stops dead in his tracks, looks down at his feet, and sighs.

<Pose Tracker> Anthy Himemiya [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

There is a scent of roses on the air. The Moon of course has its own flora, but this has a fragrance that is more... alive. Like earth and rain and sun, blooming beautifully with a hint of nostalgia. Nostalgia for what, it's difficult to say. Perhaps this moment itself, for what it represents.

It precedes a young man--a boy, really--in a fine white outfit with golden shoulder guards from which matching tassels hang. A cyan gem set in gold hangs at his throat, and an abbreviated cap hangs from his shoulders. His skin is dusky brown; his hair, the pale lavender of early evening; his features, sharp and smooth and elegant. His eyes... are hidden behind a mask, white and feathered like a pair of dove's wings, so it's difficult to see their color, but their gentleness nonetheless shines through.

A regal bearing, and a kind smile... Everyone he meets, he greets with a kind word and a sincere compliment. He doesn't linger long in any one place, seeming more interested in seeing and speaking with everyone, particularly the girls, rather than to try to ingratiate himself with the Guardian Princesses of the lunar court, though he doesn't snub them either. He simply doesn't prize them more highly than any of the other gentlewomen present. It's almost as though he sees them all as princesses.

A young woman in a gown and mask accidentally knocks over a champagne flute, and his head snaps her way as she cries out. In an instant, he's at her side, deftly sweeping up the glass before it can shatter on the floor or, indeed, spill more than a few drops of golden liquid. Yet, despite this display, he doesn't stay longer than it takes to graciously accept her thanks before he moves on. It's questionable if he's yet had any drink, much less food, for himself.

He has not been announced, nor has he introduced himself to anyone yet. It is, however, inevitable before he passes by one of the Guardian Princesses--again, perhaps.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mercury [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

The blue-haired princess glances to the young man entreating her, and gives him a pleasant, practiced smile. "I have no doubt that it will take some time to get everything prepared... but not prohibitively so, I should think." She sighs contentedly; it's been a tremendous relief to have the chance for the planet Mercury to, at long last, become capable of farming.

Though she doesn't want to say it, she's not that excited to talk about the particulars of practical things at this event. For once, her desire is simply to be part of the party. For the moment, accordingly, she decides to do precisely that -- snagging a flute of champagne and moving slowly, subtly toward Princess Venus, who seems to have gained much attention in the absence of the Queen and the Princess.

Her attention shifts, though, when that woman cries out... and is saved, within a fraction of a second, by that beautiful, dusky-skinned man. Those eyes widen a little -- such heroism, even here...!

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Jupiter [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Everything ruined fades away for her, and Sailor Jupiter feels only a moment's fog before she looks around to see... Ah, where was she?

"Not directly," Princess Jupiter admits with a small smile. "I only had the good fortune to speak to the most wonderful gardener for a little while. I was as surprised as anyone when an idle idea was executed in so lovely a way! They were just what I'd hoped for when I was thinking of this."

As proud of these accomplishments as she would be had she done the whole thing heself, she smiles to the court lady... But pauses, briefly, to look to the new one asking her attention. While she does glance out to the sie, to someone she'd considered seeking out...

"...Certainly," Jupiter answers the long-haired man approaching her, though she tilts her head slightly. The brown-haired princess smiles warmly. "But you're not imposing at all."

<Pose Tracker> Michiru Kaioh [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

A cape, of course. Vermillion blue, it looked velvet to the touch - silver piping along the edges. It flowed and shifted where it moved, hiding the massive frame of the man beneath. But the cape was not just decorated with silver - but with feathers. Catching the light, and colored almost like peacock feathers, the cape caught the light in nearly every way possible. Silvery light green hair flows from the man's head, falling in a silky cascade that rivaled the luxurious look of the cape, eyes as if they were formed from gems peering out from behind a mask. A mask - with a pointed beak that dropped low over his mouth and chin, the plumage of the top drifting back over his head.

A high collar, slate-grey, and an almost military uniform looking shirt and pants beneath that, the man's strong frame complemented perfectly by the cut of the uniform - making already broad shoulders broader, and lending rigid lines to his form.

Kunzite steps into the room, and with a push of his cape with a white-gloved hand, sends feathers to spin away from himself, his eyes seeking over the people in the room.

A secret smile dances upon his lips. But admist the crowd of well-wishers, of royalty and servants, the man had eyes for just some. There was a purpose to the man's motions - a grace like a prowling panther. No - a lion - proud and predatory that the bird mask could not hide. It was seen in his gaze, locking upon the princesses of the planets. And in the way he steps forward towards one in particular...

Moon. Divide and conquer.

"Good evening," says he, his voice as imperious as his look.

"Quite an elegant ball, is it not? Truely a spectacle worthy of the Moon Princess."

Eyes do not flicker away from Usagi's face.

"Won't you tell me your name?"

The offer, spoken low - might have the gravity of a sun that would draw a moon into orbit - or threaten to pull it into its furnance, much to its destruction.

<Pose Tracker> Haruka Tenoh [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Those who attend enough white tie events begin to become acquainted with their less glamorous elements. At this moment and to wit: the lines.

Oh, it's nice to be addressed by your title by a footman at the door, bowed to by butlers, to move with stately grace and let the servants scurry. But it doesn't matter how rich you are, a crowded room is still a crowded room, and the fancier the party, the less freedom people have to move their bodies, not simply due to their clothing, but because of the intangible field of foppery about them. Ever seen the Queen of the Moon grimace and squeeze through a punch line? I thought not.

So it is that Zoisite is trapped, mentally stalking about like berserker awaiting the torturously slow rise of an enemy portcullis, but forced to remain physically still and calm until a pedestrian traffic jam clears. Hors d'oeuvres. Damn it.

Zoisite is certain treachery is afoot, behind slow-moving barrier of uncreative and unfashionable Moon-people. Just like some prissy, faux-innocent pineapple-tart from the Moon managed to manuever Endymion into preferring her to Beryl, surely there was a human hors d'oeuvres trying to pop herself into Kunzite-sama's mouth right this very second. Zoisite knew nail-biting was a filthy habit, but everyone has at least one. He stuck to a small corner of his thumbnail and a low, subtle teething, trying to appear bored while he gnawed hatred into his own cuticle.

Suddenly the hors d'oeuvres line parts, and Kunzite is there as if he'd been waiting to be unveiled by the human curtain. He's talking to a girl, but rather than surge forward in a fit of anger as might be expected, Zoisite is immediately transported by the manful authority in his broad, caped shoulders, the rugged sharpness of his jaw. Not recalling his recently departed stress in the slightest, he sails forward to nestle against his arm, turning with only a mild, sated curiosity to regard Usagi.

Zoisite's own masquerade mask features a design mimicking a tortoise's shell, with the head and hooked beak forming a noseguard. It's all in black, leaving Zoisite's own fox-orange hair to set the assemblage aflame. His vest glitters with a clear, ostentatious pattern of scales to match, and he wears a sufficient number of ruffles to cast a mischievous doubt on exactly how flat his lean chest is. His hips cant supply to the side as he suddenly recognizes Usagi, and he turns a beaming smile up to Kunzite.

"Oh, but what good are names at a masquerade, darling?" he entreats. "Here no one cares who your mother is." His smooth lips curl so pleasantly at Usagi. "You have to earn everything for yourself."

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Moon [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

A squeeze of support to her shoulder, turns her world into argent light. And when her vision clears, it was filled with the wonders of the Moon Kingdom's finest garden. Even the flowers glittered like jewels and glass, blossoms carefully cultivated by their most skillful gardeners reflecting silvery light into prismatic spectrums. And yet to the eyes of the Moon Kingdom's Princess, it did not compare to the jewel on the horizon. For all of its wonders, her eyes were fixated longingly on heavenly blue on the horizon.

It was very much the rose-colored glasses of youth, that allowed her to overlook the problems on the surface, and to selectively not listen to whispers of coming war. She was too enamored with what she felt she wanted. She gives it a dreamy look, her elbow propped upon the palace balcony overlooking the garden. This was an important night for her, the night of her coming of age, and her thoughts were just elsewhere... "Endymion..." She whispers softly, letting it roll off her tongue.

She didn't know if he'd be here, and while it made her heart ache, she'd still have a lovely time. All of her friends were here, the Princesses of the other kingdom. They were all as important to her as him. But without him too, it felt like she had a single piece of herself missing. And when she didn't feel whole, she couldn't help but spend her time dwelling on that fact.

Too much time, if one of her handmaids had anything to say. "... Princess, shouldn't you have already joined the party?" Shifting her head against her cheek, her other hand tapped her perfectly manicured nails against the balcony railing. "Well since I haven't, then I guess it means I'm not ready yet. Right?"

She could feel her sigh from here, "Everyone is expecting your presence tonight." Serenity jutted her chin up in the air, having a spoiled mien about her, "Then they won't mind waiting for me." Immediately afterwards she laid her chin down upon her hands, moping. She murmurs nearly inaudibly, "I wish he was here too." "What was that?" She turns around suddenly, standing up to her full height in her gown shimmering of finest silk flowing with moonstones and pearls and layers and ruffles waving her off with one hand, "None of your business!" And even added a childish raspberry with an audible 'pbbbt' and flecks of spittle.

"I'm ready /now/ anyhow!"

Without need for an announcement she descends a violet staircase, now wearing a mask that hid the mark of her heritage, ignoring any flustered sounds from the maid she'd left behind impulsively. One hand was upon her skirt, lifting it above the steps as she went down them whimsically quick, the other upon the bannister as she waved quickly to Venus, grinning impishly when she saw her with that impish young gentleman, then Mercury, and Jupiter as she spotted them too, showing little sense of propriety or dignity whatsoever. Jadeite isn't even noticed, of course.

As her feet finally touch the ballroom floor, she finally stops for a moment, before turning and... comes face to face with the tall, silvery haired gentleman behind the mask. "Oh! Good evening!" She puts her hands upon her cheeks, and looks away, seeming a little bashful at the prospect of such a handsome gentleman saying it was worthy of her, cheeks flushed, "Do you really think so? That it's worthy of-"

She almost said 'me', but then stops, and realizing it's a masquerade and she's supposed to have the proper aura of mystique, turns to face him again, "-of Princess Serenity?" She waves a hand at him coquettishly, one hand still pressed against her cheek, "Maybe we can just enjoy the night without names?"

After all, it was her coming of age, and her birthday. If Endymion wasn't going to be here, well at least she could enjoy herself! Right? There were worse fates than spending the night dancing with someone this handsome. There's another beautiful gentleman there too, with orange hair like flame nestled up against his arm. And she smiles just as coyly at him, before she looks towards Kunzite, "See? He gets it."

But her expression changes when she says 'Noone cares who your mother is.' There's something about that pleasant smile that makes her feel like she's being regarded as a small morsel for an earth shark's teeth. All of Princess Venus' lessons tell her only one thing, 'danger' but still she smiles at the second as if she senses nothing, "Well I don't know about that! Sometimes fate hands you a gift..." A beat, "...Or two." She was completely oblivious to a great many things she seemed, seeing only the first two vying for a place on her dance card. Danger sense be damned. She was in the heart of the Moon Kingdom, in her mother's seat of power, and this was her night. She fully intended to take advantage of it and have fun.

COMBAT: Sailor Moon transforms into Princess Serenity!

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1hzHolsgCM

<< It still isn't too late for you to accept my proposal, you know. >>

Queen Serenity's eyes lock directly on the white ball of fluff at her feet, just as she enters the room. Its message is for her mind alone, though the curiousity of its non-speech is no great stranger to the court. Nor is the creature; it has mingled occasionally with the upper crust of the Silver Millennium repeatedly in the last decade or so.

"Shame on you," the Queen replies with a tinkling laugh. "No business -- not tonight."

And then she sweeps past it, and into the ballroom proper, which promptly, if subtly, resettles itself around her like the planets around the sun. They're equally recognizable, mother and daughter, and though the event is in the latter's honor, the former's shadow is wider and deeper even than moonlit torii. Everyone knows both women are present; but where they are willing to play Princess Serenity's game of anonymity, no one fails to curtsey or bow upon the Queen's arrival, the motion passing across the room like a wave crashing upon the shore.


A matron smiles at Princess Jupiter's humility; a bright young man basks in Princess Mercury's contentment, her ease. The rescued young woman sets down her flute and, emboldened by her new sense of value, approaches the sulking Jadeite; the ambassador from Cephiro shuffles off to get more drinks with his buddies from Midchilda and Juraihelm and Queen Earth... and maybe hit on that handsome Leafe Knight, the one with the long, violet hair.

<Pose Tracker> Erythrite [Juuban Public School (11)] has posed.

He does not glance to his right, but Erythrite knows Jadeite is there. And he knows he just trumped him.

It is a glorious feeling. He takes a second to revel in the schadenfreude at the expense of the man whose station he covets.

The other suitors wilt away, repelled by the choice of the Princess of Venus. He reaches out, and takes her graceful hand in his. His touch is light, a gentle thing for a man, his fingers curling loosely around hers with the adept care of a man used to handling a paintbrush often. Those eyes find hers, holding her gaze for a moment. Her status is far greater than his; he does not appear cowed by it, whether through sheer confidence, or something else.

"Your name is spoken of fondly, Princess Venus," he says in a soft voice, taking a step onto the dance floor, guiding her.

"I am Erythrite... knight captain. And I am glad that you have done me the honour."

The music plays around him; he begins to move. Long painter's fingers slide into the spaces between hers. He does not move the way a warrior of his class should. Booted feet seem scarcely to touch the floor, his hand in the blonde princess's, eyes on hers as he leads through the slow, elegant steps of the dance with a grace that seems to come not from careful practice, but from some innate sense of rhythm. The grace is simply a part of him. It does not belong to a mere captain; he could pass for a man of twice his station.

The mystery in those eyes does not vanish. His face remains quietly calm, grave - though the princess of Venus may read something in them as he speaks. An obscure sort of longing.

"They say that to dance with the Princess of Venus is a wonder in and of itself," he says to her. His voice is low; the sort of quiet tone that is sure to conjure images of soft pink sparkles floating about him, and to leave those glaring suitors chewing their soup in the green fits of jealousy.

"I like wondrous things," he whispers. "I wonder what it must be like for you, Princess - if the moments so brief as another dance can become a memory you cherish."

<Pose Tracker> Anthy Himemiya [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

The ballroom is as crowded as ever, but the lavender-haired young man weaves through it with a natural grace. He glances this way and that, ever vigilant for any trouble. He sees Princess Venus spurn her many suitors to pick one for the dance, he sees Princess Jupiter turning to speak with a certain brunet, and he sees Princess Serenity (though he knows not that it is her) approached by two shark-like men...

Of course, being so attentive to everything around him means that he can miss what's right under his nose. A fatal flaw, perhaps. As he begins to furrow his brow at the congregation, he nearly bumps directly into someone--though at the last second he manages to sweep around.

"Oh, I'm terribly sorry!" he says, bowing to who turns out to be Princess Mercury. He straightens and, nodding briefly to the young man next to her, looks at the blue-haired young woman with concern. "Are you all right?"

The Queen's arrival interrupts this as well. However, while the lavender-haired young man does not fail to give her due respect in the form of a deep bow, he soon returns his attention on Mercury, to make sure nothing is unwell.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Venus [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Venus isn't familiar with the name -- so he's definitely not a knight-captain of Venus or the Moon. Maybe he was from Mars? Jupiter? In any case, it didn't really matter where he was from! This guy was totally dreamy!

"I bet you say that to all the women you dance with," Venus insists, trying her best to feign modesty. Truthfully, she's lapping it all up. Of course he should be happy to have the privilege of dancing with her! Of course it's a wonder! Why else would everyone be lining up to dance with her?

Still, Venus can't help but feel her heart race as he spins her. This guy was totally like the storybook knights in shining armor that she read about when she was a kid. A guy this smooth couldn't possibly exist for real!

The song ends, and Venus finds herself disappointed at the prospect of her dance partner departing to dance with another girl. "Ah--!" she begins, but before she can, Queen Serenity enters the room, and Venus bows.

The music starts up again -- another slow and beautiful piano piece accompanied by strings. As Queen Serenity melts into the crowd, Venus turns her attention back to Erythrite "So, another dance?" she asks, hopefully. Her blue eyes are shining brightly from behind the orange mask covering her face. "Not many people get a chance at /one/ dance with me, let alone two!"

<Pose Tracker> Michiru Kaioh [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

There was a moment there, where blue-grey eyes narrow and steel behind the feathers of the mask. Where the edges of his lips twist cruelly upwards to make his already predatory smile two steps more dangerous. The little catch in Serenity's voice, when she almost said 'me'.

"Of course," he says at the refusal, letting an almost sibiliant purr underscore the baritone of his voice. "That is the point of a ball like this - to enjoy ourselves without the burden of... reputation, hmm?" A pause then, and he seems to relax - feathers flattening on shoulders as he lets his shoulders slump - lifting his glass, filled with an indeterminate maroon liquid when... Zoisite attaches himself to his arm.

There lift the shoulders again, squaring up - presenting a more masculine profile - a deep breath swells his chest, and the smile comes more natural to his features again. But his eyes remain on the disguised Serenity.

"The turtle has a point, doesn't he?" Even if it was Serenity that spoke it first. "And royal blood - that only remains royal so long as people recognize it," he says, lifting his drink up to take a long drink from the same.

"So long as people follow blood instead of earned titles," he says, letting the glass fall down before him.

"Of course, you no doubt have other attendees you would wish to talk to - won't you get a drink with us?" he asks, glancing briefly towards the logjam of people that frustrated Zoisite just moments earlier.

There was an unusually high level of foppery in the way. Kunzite purses his lips.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

The long-haired man is not alone at this party, of course. Not merely in the sense of this being the social event of the year - or at least the month - but in being one of several from the same world present here. While they are not recipients - or arguably worthy - of his full attention, he does keep a note of where his fellows have arranged themselves.

Two seeking out the Princess of Venus - and the swift triumph of one over the other brings a small smile to his face. The others, greeting one of the most honoured of guests - if that manner of address and confrontation can be called a greeting. And lastly, the Prince of Earth...

Unknown to all who stand here, and he cannot spare the time to look further. Such matters will have to arrange themselves.

All these diversions, noted as Jupiter breaks off from her other conversation to greet him - and at her acceptance, he bows gracefully. "Wonderful. While we stand together but briefly, the proper moment can be precious indeed; I am honoured by your grace." He smiles before rising once more, and regards the dance floor briefly.... and finds it lacking. Instead, the man gestures to one of the many open doors to the palace's countless balconies. "There are visions of the celestial sphere that - even in light of an event of this grandeur - are not to be abandoned lightly."

The landscape of the night, illuminated by Earth-light, is a tapestry darker than the deepest violet the man wears - but as stars shine brightly against even that backdrop, he smiles to Jupiter from behind his mask. "I am ever a student of these heavens. The dances of those distant worlds - look at them! Behold the splendour, the promenade of the stars. How they weave, surpassing those footfalls of these mortals inside! This tapestry, in which is writ all the secrets of the world-"

Just within the wide-spread doors, a group passes loudly discussing Mercury's recent success - and quite rudely interrupting the man's speech. He glances to that crimson light that is not Mars, frowning in consternation before turning back to Jupiter. A sigh, as he tosses his hair to the side for a moment.

"...it is the grandest dance of all. Thousands upon thousands of celestial bodies in perfect harmony - everything in its place. And of course...The right body, in the right place, can lead that dance to disaster or glorious perfection." Turning to Jupiter, on this balcony, Nephrite smiles warmly.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mercury [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Princess Mercury gets caught -- not /quite/ staring, but not precisely not staring either. Accordingly, at the bump, she hastily steadies herself once again, and, after about a second of locking eyes with the lavender-haired young man, blushes furiously. "I -- I'm fine," she says -- and conveniently, the arrival of the queen draws attention off of her entirely.

For a moment, she stands transfixed, and the worries and cares of the moment melt away -- but it's only a moment, and accordingly, she turns right back to the unfamiliar young man...

... and promptl stammers out an, "I -- yes, really, I'm fine, ah... please excuse me," before revealing herself to perhaps not have /quite/ so much ease as she seemed like she did a moment ago.

Her retreat path pulls her inextricably toward Jupiter.

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Just wait, Jadeite thinks. Erythite can only do one dance, and then he can--

'So, another dance?'

One elegantly crafted eyebrow twitches in a way that cannot, possibly, be called graceful. The blonde-haired man turns around and throws his hands into the air with an overexaggerated shrug. With a sigh, he plucks a flute of champagne off a platter as a servant walks by.

"My word!" someone calls after. "Did you see that knave? He just plucked away the champagne glass before I could even partake it!"

Jadeite drinks the champagne in one gulp, then slips the glass onto a table. No one, he thinks, will be any the wiser. He decides to walk, instead, towards the young man that had been talking to Mercury. He glances once at her, as she passes, and then he looks towards the young man. Mysterious, this one.

He walks up, then he clears his throat. "So, by the look of you..." He looks him over, and only just keeps the sneer out of his voice. "...you do not come from this place."

<Pose Tracker> Anthy Himemiya [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

"As long as you're all right," the dark-skinned young man says gently, not moving to follow Princess Mercury when she all but scurries away. He watches her with concern, but he can follow her path and sees Princess Jupiter on the other end of it. Satisfied with this, he turns and continues on through the room. Queen Serenity, too, is now in his attentions. She may not be a Princess, but she was once. She is no less deserving of respect.

No matter what those of his cousin's court may think.

Speak of the devil--though the young man doesn't recognize him either with his mask, Jadeite approaches. The boy turns to him, and if he notices that sneer in his voice, he graciously pretends not to. "Nor do you, sir," he replies politely.

Less polite is how he continues to walk through the ballroom. It's at least not a fast walk; speed is difficult in a crowded place like this. Unwittingly, his orbit takes him not far from where Venus and Erythrite share a second dance.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Jupiter [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

The Princess of Jupiter smiles as she turns away from the woman to whom she was speaking but moments ago, and looks towards the masked, long-haired man before her as she awaits... Well, whatever it is that he was asking her for. She has a guess, of course; after all, it's a ball, it's exactly the right kind of occasion... She smiles, een, as he mentions the 'proper moment', how honored he is by her grace, as he puts it--

So his talk about philosophy frankly surprises the green-eyed girl. That, and the way he looks /back/ from the dance floor not saying anything at all. Her expression shifts very slightly to something a little less bright than moments ago.

...But she pauses in listening to him, for now, only to curtsy to her Queen.

But now, the heavens... Perhaps of politeness, Jupiter does look up at them gamely, though she finds she has very little to actually /say/ in return. They're pretty, but... surpassing the mortals here? Those are the very ones she was so delighted to watch to begin with. So first hurt, and now uncomfortable... It's easy to find a distraction.

Her ears thus perk up at the discussion of Mercury's success, though she remembers her manners quickly enough to smile once back at the man before her. "...Is that so?" she says, and laughs softly, though it is a little more awkward than mannerly.

Jupiter was always a little more rambunctious than perhaps her etiquette teacher would have desired.

She regards his warm smile after that whole speech and opens her mouth as if to speak--before she hears something quietly, and looks over to see a blue-haired girl quickly moving her way. She turns her head again, "Please, excuse me. I..." Good reason, "Should go." Maybe she skipped the reason.

Regardless, Princess Jupiter takes a step backward before changing course to be there in the Guardian Mercury's path.

<Pose Tracker> Erythrite [Juuban Public School (11)] has posed.

For a moment, a needle of pure frustration digs itself into Erythrite's soul. Of course she wouldn't recognize his name. Of course he could forget himself for a moment and use it freely without consequence. Because it's a name that carries no meaning beyond the boundaries of the Earth's gravity.

Not like the name Jadeite.

He covers the feeling. He can't show it. Instead, he lowers his eyelids a little; his voice remains low. "Only the ones who deserve it the most, Princess Venus. Only then would I say such things."

The dance winds on. The man's feet glide across the ballroom floor almost without sound. It ends too soon, even for him. A small pleasure, perhaps, despite the thoughts that trouble the back of his mind. The thoughts that Princess Venus does not have long, wavy hair of a sea-green so pale it borders on white, or eyes that shine like the ocean tide.

That she is not Gracia. That she wants to dance - and yet all the joy he can find in it is surface, for she is not Gracia of Luna.

Queen Serenity enters. He, too, bows, fluid, understated, yet perfectly elegant. He is not a man who wastes motion. The beauty of him is not something florid - it is that the simple things he does can seem magical, when he tries. A surface thing, perhaps; he conceals the feelings that needle his heart.

"Two?" he says with a slight raise of his eyebrow, fully aware Jadeite is waiting his turn.

"I couldn't possibly say no to such a thing, Princess."

Once again, he takes a slender hand an begins to lead with those heartstoppingly graceful steps. "Even if two moments are fleeting," he murmurs, his conversation soft, his eyes lidded ever so slightly behind the elegant lines of that ballroom mask. "The small touches of things that are wondrous always lead to longing after. A wish that it could last forever. Even if it never does."

He slides a heel smoothly, and turns, twirling the blonde Princess with a nimble ease.

Sparkles fly. They are surface things. Things that will only lead to longing, for him.

Like love, they are a lie.

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Jadeite's eyes narrow sharply. He glances over his shoulder and gives the young man a withering glance. If he was a plant, it might make him shrivel up. He, mercifully, isn't a plant. The young man lets out a soft 'huff.' Then he turns, adjusting the dark green mask on his head, and begins to walk back across the ballroom. He glances about, before he turns to spot Nephrite -- and Princess Jupiter moving away from him.

A true comrade in arms, perhaps, would go over and offer him a friendly distraction -- and discuss the stars and the planets above. But, Jadeite could never be bothered to stare at the night sky. It always bored him. No, Jadeite is cut of a different cloth.

He plucks another flute of champagne from a platter--

"Gh! That was the second glass he snatched away from me!"

--and strides right over to Nephrite, then puts a hand on his shoulder. "Ah, my boon companion!" he says. "How do you find the party?" Then he laughs and drinks his champagne, draining the flute in a single gulp. "At least one of us is having fun, eh?"

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Venus [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

"Tell me about it," the Princess of Venus complains as her hand slides back into his after their spin is complete. "I don't know what your job's like, but as head of the princess' guard, I'm never free of it."

And as if on queue, Venus' eyes search the dance floor for Princess Serenity. Where is she, anyway? Not getting into trouble, she hopes! She had better not have ditched the party to go to Earth. She could live without Endymion for one night.


Venus' eyes turn back to her dance partner as she tries to convince herself that Yes, Serenity Is Definitely Here, No Need to Worry.

"I'm not complaining, though," Venus says, after she finishes her complaints. "I just wish I had time to do stuff like this more often!"

<Pose Tracker> Haruka Tenoh [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

"A-ha-haha!" Zoisite's eyes lit up behind his shell-mask. "You have me blushing, miss. Oh yes. I'm red as an apple." The mask didn't go down far enough to keep that lie from being literally written on Zoisite's face, and he knew it. "To think that I and this handsome bird could be gifts from fate itself..." He slid a hand slowly up Kunzite's chest. Possessively, he spread his fingers wide atop his sternum.

"We are lucky, the three of us. We should all be grateful for the sacrifices that Princess Serenity has made for us. Were we born in her place, we would be so pampered that we would not even be able to tell the difference between a gift of fate and a hard-earned reward, because we would not have wanted for anything to begin with. But I can see that this... /handsome/ bird, is much like me, a noble of Earth rather than the silver miracle Moon. And you..." He tucked his head into Kunzite's shoulder to gaze fixedly at Usagi.

"Though you are clearly from the moon, no one could look at you and think you a princess. It's a blessing, really." He sighed dolorously, then turned doe eyes to Kunzite. "Is there anything you can say to make me feel better about the poor Moon Princess?" he asked. "Forced to grow up stunted and spoiled, and told she's wonderful so many times that she has no chance to become it? It's the saddest thing I can imagine."

<Pose Tracker> Anthy Himemiya [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

It's true that Jadeite's stare is truly scathing. The dusky-skinned boy's return gaze is puzzled rather than shamed, though. He spoke only the truth. Why did he get offended?

If he'd recognized the man behind the mask, quite frankly, he would have understood in an instant.

As he turns, before he might notice Princess Serenity again, he spies a young woman standing against the wall, glancing up nervously every so often at the dance floor before forlornly lowering her gaze. In a moment, he approaches her, offering a hand and a kind smile.

"May I have the honor of this dance, milady?" he wonders.

She startles, then smiles back in relieved delight and takes his hand. Together, they sweep onto the dance floor. Every turn is like the orbit of the Moon; every spin, the revolution of the Earth.

<Pose Tracker> Erythrite [Juuban Public School (11)] has posed.

"Not glorious," Erythrite concedes with a slight dip of his chin. "But we all accept those things, I think. At least, we learn to bear it."

He is vaguely aware of his immediate boss saying something immensely mean to the Moon Princess. He tries his level best to bury the schadenfreude. He mostly succeeds, by closing his eyes for a half-second. When he opens them again, it's to make contact with Princess Venus's again. It's easy for him to hold them; he's learned to think of something so intimate as simple, for he's not sure he's capable of associating it with love anymore.

"Surely," he says to his dance partner, "the hardship has its rewards. To walk under the stars of the silver moon miracle, in a place like this, where dreams can become real.

"Like a work of art," he murmurs. "Surely you don't mean to suggest that a place so silver as this is a place where anyone can be unhappy."

But of course it is, his mind fills in - his artist's conceit of the world. Everything has a darkness to it. The most beautiful things conceal the most ugliness.

The most wonderful things conceal the most anguish. Like love.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

The night air is crisp, and resplendent with stars. So it was, is, and shall be - the dance of the heavens decreeing the dance of those bound by gravity. For all of Nephrite's passion for the stars...it is one that Jupiter does not share to the same extent. And so she departs in haste, seeking out her next partner for the evening.

On some level, the man finds this a disappointment. What might have been...

But he had sought answers long ago, and this was one. To draw Jupiter from the dance floor, however briefly - to nudge the bodies of this world into a new choreography. The fate that awaits them all...

In one hand, he swirls his half-full glass of golden wine. He catches a glimpse of Serenity as Jupiter departs, and thinks of what is yet to come...prepares to enter the hall anew, and find the next focal point.

Up until Jadeite slaps a hand on his shoulder. Nephrite chuckles to himself at Jadeite's furious cheer - he knew what prize the man had sought tonight, and... "So it would seem - had you asked, I could have told you how your appeal to the Princess of Venus would have gone. Writ in the stars for all to see..." Nephrite smirks, and raises his glass in a mockery of a toast.

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Once again, an immaculately crafted eyebrow twitches behind Jadeite's mask. His fingers tense around the tiny bit of glass. It doesn't break, mercifully. Jadeite smiles slowly and too wide to be sincere, much less anything but angry.

"Oh, I don't know," he says. "Some people let the stars write their future. But men like me? They write their own." He pauses for effect, like it sounds impressive. It mostly comes across like a flat, awkward silence, before he continues. "You might want to try it some time."

As a server walks by, he grabs another champagne flute. He hears the voice cry out in the background: "That's the third time!"

Jadeite immediately sips from it, then looks down at his hands. He has two glasses of alcohol in his hands. The General of the Far East lets out a long, irritated sigh.

"Splendid. I look like a drunkard from Pallas," he mutters under his breath.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Venus [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

"No, no," Venus insists, looking up at Erythrite with wide-eyes. "It's not like I expect things to be perfect all the time."

Venus lets out a long sigh; clearly, Erythrite's never had to be the guard for the The Moon Kingdom Hide & Seek Champion for ten years running. For one second, it looks like Venus is on the verge of saying something, but in the end, she doesn't explain any further.

The song is nearing its end.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vD1yAEWpzeQ

"May I cut in?"

The voice interjects itself as beautifully and precisely as a single thrown rose, stopping a situation from spinning totally out of control before it even happens.

His smile is merely as bright as the moon, but the rest of him is vibrant in comparison; he glows with health, his dark hair rich and lustrous, his eyes bluer than the deepest sea. His tuxedo is black velvet that outdoes the sky, cufflinks like stars. And his mask is the simplest of all, merely a white frame of the eyes.

His supple, red-lined cloak creates a wall between Princess Serenity and her verbal assailants, while his hand -- strong, warm, wonderful -- is so daring as to take hers for himself.

But his glare over her shoulder towards Kunzite and Zoisite (who helped him sneak in) is merely quelling, not truly angry, for they are his brothers. They mean well -- they only want the best for him. They just don't understand how tough it is to be the Golden Prince.

No matter.

Within moments, they might as well be on another planet. Their dance steps are lighter than air, the muted roar of conversation fading as the music waxes into a new, grand melody.

Endymion leans in to murmur in Princess Serenity's ear. "Happy birthday, my love. You look radiant tonight."

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mercury [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

As Jupiter and Mercury make their mutual retreats, they find themselves drawn into each other's paths -- and before too long, very nearly crash into each other. The second near-miss in as many minutes -- is the Princess of Mercury truly off her game tonight?

She looks up to the tall, gorgeous woman in front of her, and smiles. "Ah -- Princess Jupiter... you look lovely this evening," she says, with a small nod.

She purses her lips for a moment, as if very carefully rehearsing what she's about to say in her head. Then, with a brow slightly furrowed, she asks: "How is it you've found yourself without a dance partner...?"

<Pose Tracker> Princess Serenity [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

That predatory smile. Yet she feels wholly safe here, surrounded by the other Princesses and her mother. Even if... she was having increasing difficulty spotting them now that she was on the ballroom floor, and not upon the staircase. She tries to stand on her tip toes and look over Kunzite's shoulder first, before her eyes smoothly back to meet his.

"Well of course people will keep recognizing it! Everyone loves m-" Another small hitch in her tone, "-Queen Serenity!" And so innocent too, to take such a fact for granted. It's obvious that she had none of her mother's ability to navigate a conversation gracefully. However, he then crosses a line with what she can only construe as vague slights towards her mother. And she's just not going to let that stand.

She shakes her head, her odango topped twintails, which had become fashionable in the Moon Kingdom after she'd started wearing them, bobbing like rabbit's ears, as she crosses her arms over her chest with a harumph, "Well..." She raises a single arm off the other almost dismissively, "...I personally think she's earned every one of them, and more! Anyone who says otherwise sounds like they're just envious!" And then, even more bluntly than before, "I'm not sure I like what you're implying at all!"

Which is when his companion starts digging in the knife. At first it's like she doesn't know it was there, but then she's wide eyed from shock, as if she just noticed it in the center of her chest. "What-?" She just looks at Zoisite, mouth gaping like a fish, like she's still uncomprehending of why she has no breath in her chest. "I don't-"

Once it had settled in what happened, her only response is seething anger, her fists clench at her side, she leans forward at him, immediately red-faced from anger, "Now that you've said your piece; you listen here you pretentious patrician - how dare you attend my party just to try to corner me like this! Maybe Endymion can stand your behavior in his court-" For a moment, it looks like that anger is about to boil over into action, she even raises a hand as if readying to strike him, "-but I won't have you acting like that in my mot-" 'May I cut in?'

His smile, reminds her not of the moon, but a more bright and heavenly color from afar. "Endymion!" She says as a fierce whisper, at least displaying enough restraint not to shout it aloud. Suddenly, the other two are forgotten, no matter how close she was to simmering over like some boiling pot. It sifts away as if much of the heat was absorbed to be replaced by warmth reserved for him. She would all but leap at him, into his embrace, propriety be damned, but his actions demanded a dance, and she followed.

She was not the most graceful dancer, no matter how much time she had for practice, but here, she felt like she was dancing on one of Earth's clouds, as the two swept across the dance floor. "You came." She whispers with affection, her blue eyes glittering with joy, as she says with mischievous affection, "You almost make me feel ashamed for doubting you." She leans her head in close. "Dashing as always, my Prince."

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Jupiter [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Jupiter only nearly runs into Mercury, despite the fact that she is still unsettled from a moment ago, and from something she can't really understand. ...She puts down the strange feeling she has to just simple disappointment. That would explain everything quite well.

...But she's away from the other Guardians, mostly. The only one nearby her right this moment is...

"Princess Mercury," Jupiter greets in return, smiling warmly despite moments ago. "You're too kind," the says at first. But then Mercury seems to want to say something, and so Jupiter simply listens, her green eyes giving full attention to her friend.

And the question...

"Ah... Well, I... I suppose there've been many people wanting to discuss business..." Her glance away itself is shy, and the wish lying beneath her words is clear. She extends her hand, just slightly.

When Princess Mercury takes it, they both find their way to the dance floor, the taller princess only a step behind, listening now only to music and her friend.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> http://ghibli-playlist.tumblr.com/post/80733819218/an-ohmu-stampede-joe-hisaishi-nausicaa-of-the

Queen Serenity

From across the room, the Queen watches her daughter whirl to and fro in the arms of a masked, suited man. Members of the court draw close to her, then flit away once they've received their nod or exchange of a few soft words. No one stays close for long, in the same way that a baker interacts with their oven but doesn't remain to have tea with it.

Like a cloud moving over the sun, her vivid blue gaze -- the only part of her with much color at all -- gradually becomes more and more distant. Her awareness is often spread amongst many places and concerns, and tonight, despite the momentous occasion, is apparently no different. Finally, with a regretful twist to her lips, her brows draw across her forehead like the curtains closing on the stage of her participation in the party, and she sweeps away.

Luna and Artemis turn to follow her, and the shake of her head is so minor that it's only expressed in the silvery tips of her twintails. "Stay with her, please," she murmurs, and then she is gone, off to attend to problems unknown.


Endymion only laughs, dark and throaty, at his Princess' words. Then he's silent for many long heartbeats as they whirl across the floor, letting the music carry him.

There's something subtly different about dancing with the Prince of Earth tonight, though, a tension in his muscles, a trembling in his fingertips. It is the greatest dance they've ever achieved, with transcendent highs and lows in time to the music's rise and fall, but it may just be because at least one of them knows that it's the last. Endymion's always filled with energy, but tonight it is tainted with desperation.

At last, after sipping at the intoxicating glass of the illusion that everything is normal for a few precious minutes, he reveals himself. Bending close to an odango is not unusual, but as his breath tickles Serenity's ear, it carries vastly different words than the usual sweet nothings.

"We're in terrible danger, Princess. The war between Earth and Moon is inevitable... Beryl has gone irredeemably mad, tainted by a power she cannot control, one that really controls /her/. And... I fear they may be making their move to--"


Long gone are the shining halls of the Golden Kingdom. They are not denied to her station, but she has denied herself their light, for she has long since learned that to settle for second place is a small death in a million tiny ways. The air is not as sweet; the wine not robust; the sunshine harsh as a scrub brush on her skin.

If she can't have it all, she won't have anything to do with it. There are better ways to spend her time than as one of many, not even first among equals.

And besides... ever since that night a month past, she has had such an active inner life that all other concerns have seemed irrelevant. What does she care for a sunburn, when the sun burns within her very soul?

It is -- Metallia is -- strong. Strength unknown to anyone on Earth, perhaps even anyone anywhere. It's amazing how a little power lets her get things done. Suddenly people have time for her, unable to escape her gaze or disobey a word that drips from her lips sharp and valuable as diamonds. They see things her way. They can feel what she feels, alone, abandoned, ignored for too long. Looked down on for too long.

How dare those silvery twits think themselves above the Earth?

How dare she?

The more she uses the power, the angrier she becomes. But behind the rage is an icy focus she's never known, eager to turn her energy into the weapon it deserves to be.

And today that weapon will finally strike, straight to the heart of the blight infecting this system, this galaxy... the cruel and brutal tyranny of the Silver Light will finally be brought to its knees.

She can't feel the cold anymore, either, not outside where the snow and ice howls, nor inside where her heart was broken. She can't feel anything but Metallia.

The sun rises over the horizon, and she rises with it.


A massive, sickly green flare explodes across the planet Earth, starting at the North Pole and spiraling outwards across everything. Then another dozen ignitions take place, tiny points of evil flame, and then hundreds.

An army of magic-propelled rockets, human and inhuman and humans twisted by a dark will until they've become inhuman, all soaring through space towards their target.


The first people to notice the light are on the edges of the party, near the balconies. There is much ooh-ing and ahh-ing and pointing at the display. A few truly silly -- or at least truly innocent -- courtiers wonder if this isn't a magical excess provided by the Queen in honor of her daughter's birthday.

But Kunzite summoning blades of magic into either hand provides something of a clue that not all is well. Their violet hue is more vivid than any other color present in the ballroom, an intrusion to the pastel palette of the Moon Kingdom's fashions, an unapologetic statement of invasion.

Though not quite as unapologetic, or as invasive, as him calmly using them to execute the first noble within arm's reach, straight through the back. It was the girl who almost spilled her champagne.

As she looks down at horror at the blade emerging beneath her collarbone, the glass falls once again from her hand and shatters on the floor with a tinkling crash.

If only alcohol were the only liquid pooling there.

And then the screams begin...

<Pose Tracker> Anthy Himemiya [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

As the young, dark-skinned man dances with the girl in hand, they sashay near a balcony, just in time to see the Earth light up. She oohs and aahs; he recognizes it for what it is, and his green eyes widen behind the mask.

"I must go. My people need me," he tells her urgently, dipping into a bow before turning and running for the balcony. He *leaps* off it, landing--theatrically, somewhat inexplicably--astride a white horse, which rears and neighs majestically before both of them rush for... what is he rushing for?

Whatever it is, just a moment after he has well and truly gone, the girl he saved is brutally murdered. There's something poetic about it, but mostly it is just cruel in its irony.

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

"Pardon me, sir," a greying gentleman in the Moon Kingdom's livery says. His hand reaches out, where it comes to rest on Jadeite's shoulder. The disguised General stops; there is a brief moment, from when the blade is in Kunzite's hand and not everyone has noticed, when he isn't aware. "But that was the third drink you stole from me. I think--"

Jadeite brushes his hand off his shoulder, then he turns and smiles. "You are, of course, quite right," he says. "And I am so, so very sorry about that. It was terribly rude of me. But..."

The blonde-haired General of the Far East holds his hand before him, fingers curled in a strange way, as if they are gripping something. A flicker of light, a shimmer of mist, and Jadeite is. The thin, double-edged sword appears in his hand, his fingers clutching the hilt of the blade. The sword appears, stabbing clean through the man's chest. His mouth opens, but nothing comes out but a wordless and strangled noise.

Jadeite brushes the mask from his face. It falls to the floor and cracks in half, revealing the cruel smirk that reaches his eyes. "...I am terribly rude, aren't I?"

<Pose Tracker> Erythrite [Juuban Public School (11)] has posed.

An order goes out. Erythrite, by now, has taken a step to the side, ostensibly respecting Princess Venus's right to pursue other suitors tonight.

"You'll have to forgive me, Princess," he says, lowering his head in a shallow bow. His left hand rises to his collarbone; he curls his fingers. And then, with a sudden snap, he swings his arm out to the left.

Light flares - a riot of colours. Rose, yellow, green, blue, orange, a cacophony of pastel hues. They are so bright that they verge on white in the eyes. The sound comes with it - the tearing sound of an explosion, the hideous groan of stone torn from stone, the rumble of a pillar smashing in upon itself.

The screams. Courtiers, at least six, hurled into the air, shrieking with pain. Others turning to flee from one source of violence - Kunzite's brutal blades - suddenly confronted with another in that shining light.

The glow pours from the item in Erythrite's left hand - a paintbrush, its shaft elaborately carved, bristles tipped in glowing pastel light from which a long, writhing coil of that same glowing rainbow material cascades. The energy ribbon dissipates after a few more seconds, coils of light cast out through a gash in the floor behind him, throwing dark shadows across the bodies of those he struck with it.

Throwing light across his face, devoid of ballroom masque now. Steady tyrian eyes do not flinch.

His other hand is holding something else he did not have before. A long-bladed, elegant sword, gold-plated along the hilt and set with a red-purple almandine garnet at the hilt and crosspiece each.

"Love is a lie," he says, his voice low and cold, his eyes burning with malice.

"I hate liars."

I hate her.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

As Jadeite storms off in a huff, Nephrite raises his glass of golden wine in a mocking toast to the man's romantic...endeavours. As he said, all was written in the stars for all the world to see - it is hardly Nephrite's fault that no one else paid them any attention. And so the man takes one more sip of his delectable beverage, smirking up to the heavens...

Ah. A triumphal sip, then. From his vantage point, he is among the first to see Metallia's light enveloping the Earth - truly glorious to behold, for those who do not understand. Around him, on the other balconies, fellow gawkers come to behold the glory of the heavens. They whisper among themselves, seeking to comprehend what sight this is before them.

Plebians. They witness, and do not understand. He murmurs to himself, confident smile fading into a furious scowl. "...the time has come, and none of you understand. Unworthy fools, polluting the heavens with your gaze...but I am merciful. Gaze upon the stars." He reaches up to them, extending his will and power.

Starlight shines. Terrible, baleful starlight shines down - a dozen arrows of cruelest white, searing from a starring sky into the eyes of those Nephrite has deemed unworthy.

"It is the last thing you will ever see." He turns from the skies above to these mortal fools below; swirling his glass of excellent wine in one hand, he gestures with the other. A beautiful light, to purify these unworthy fools.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Venus [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Venus' attention is on Erythrite for only a second. As soon as the gravity of the situation finally settles in, she moves into action. Her eyes scan the crowd, searching for some sign of her princess. When her eyes don't immediately catch sight of the princess' trademark twintails, she barrels past Erythrite and into the crowd.

It is chaos. Some, like her, are clearly searching for others, their eyes filled with worry and fear; others are simply attempting to make a hasty exit, pushing anyone aside who might be in their way. A small sobbing child is shaking a body on the ground, but Venus ignores all of it. She has only one mission:

To protect the princess.

<Pose Tracker> Ami Mizuno [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Princess Mercury takes Jupiter's hand, and the two begin to dance. The princess of the closest world to the sun, for a moment, feels an electric sensation down her spine, through her heart... and before she even has a chance to comprehend that feeling, it all begins to crash down. The screams start, and Princess Mercury -- ever observant -- sees that woman cut down immediately.

Her heart threatens to sink out of her body for a moment -- and then armors itself in ice.

"We have to protect the princess," she says, still clasping Princess Jupiter's hand, but without any of the warmth or playfulness that was there a moment ago. She gives that hand a quick pull forward before likewise starting to move through the crowd, desperate to see those twintails.

"Do you see her?" she asks, perhaps hoping that Jupiter's sheer height gives her a better vantage point. She then takes a moment to kneel down next to a body, while waiting for an answer. There's a pulse -- but one that's already too faint. Princess Mercury knows there's no saving this one, and all she can do is whisper, "I'm sorry."

<Pose Tracker> Haruka Tenoh [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

A ghost of the heat of Zoisite's hand still remains on Kunzite's breast as he begins spreading despair with the reap of his blades. Zoisite left him with a swirl of a finger around a button, and headed back towards the door, taking the opportunity not only to step directly on the train of a duchess who had barred his way in that damnable hors d'oeuvres line, but also to flip the tray of sweets with a casual swing of his hand.

When the carnage started, one of the first to react was a footman, hurrying out to call for help. Zoisite caught him by the shoulder and drove his hand into his stomach like a dagger, a sharp telekinetic field letting his fingers punch through flesh. "No," he said kindly, tossing the dying servant aside. "No one leaves."

By the stars, they were soft. Even sheep retained more survival instinct than these feeble Moon cretins. As they hurried towards him, Zoisite touched two gloved fingers to his lips, and behind him a swirling pattern of petals formed, firing off one by one into the approaching crowd. Far more bodies built up before him than he expected before the crowd seemed dissuaded, but by that point those behind were pushing, pushing, shoving their compatriots into death for fear of what was behind them.

"Won't any of you fight?" Zoisite pried a young couple apart, his hand on the throat of beau and belle alike, glancing between them? "No?" He dashed the boy to the ground, then the girl, finishing the latter with a burst of dark violet force from his palm when the impact fail to kill her. "Then you can hardly object to being killed." He fired small, bullet-like blasts of heat from his palm at a clump of partygoers who were trying to hurry past him, and when his slow pace brought him to them, he managed to retrieve a wine glass that one of them was carrying and lift it to his lips, letting a few escape as he drained it. "Ah. This will be a joyful place for us, Kunzite-sama..."

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Jupiter [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

For a moment, Princess Jupiter forgets about earlier, about the strange man, about pleasantries...

The screams start, and her heart freezes. Her fingers halt in place, her fet suddenly rooted, as she turns, and looks to the source. The source that quickly becomes--

That quickly becomes everywhere.

The ice creeps through the Princess of the largest planet in the system, with its many moons, at what precious things she had forgotten.

She's tugged forward only briefly, staring around for those twintails... Because she stops an instant later, even as Princess Mercury is kneeling down.

The ice shatters.

"We'll fight our way to her," Princess Jupiter declares, the trembling becoming a crackling as she pulls loose the green pen from her side, lifting it high into the air.


Thunder crashes down from the windows towards her, bursting around the soldier of protection as she becomes what she /must/ be, her formal dress transmuting through the storm to her battle attire, her hair suddenly back, her tiara flashing, her eyes burning brilliantly green.

Already so many have died. So many dead, in the /seconds/ that she could have been watching, could have been looking.

She lets the lightning keep crackling around her, and /hurls/ a thunderbolt like a spear towards Zoisite as he kills more and makes his cruel words heard.


Sailor Jupiter, guardian of the Princess and all those gathered here, hurls herself forward, dashing forward to leap towards Zoisite, fist outstretched.

<Pose Tracker> Princess Serenity [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Their dance at first is quite exhilirating. She seems oblivious to anything being wrong, so caught up in the simple joy of him being here when she'd previously thought that he wouldn't be. But as it continues, she notes the subtle tension in every turn, in every dip. Before long, she's looking into Endymion's eyes which are blue as the Earth she loves, asking the silent question of 'What's wrong?'

The answer comes in a head dipped near her ear. Eyes widening as if she were hearing about this danger for the first time. It wasn't that she hadn't taken stock of the rising tension between their two kingdoms before, she'd just had faith that Endymion would be able to quell it. Now the admission that it's spun out of his control was enough to cause her worry for the first time. "-Surely they wouldn't come here. Mother would never allow it." She says over the hum of energy in the distance, not even looking at the edges of party, though there is a hint of uncertainty in her own voice. Hadn't two nobles of the Earth Kingdom been brazen enough to-

-murder someone in front of her, here?

Serenity had never truly lost her sense of innocence in her few short years. She'd gone to the Earth Kingdom time and time again to visit the planet she admired, and later the Prince she loved, heedless of the danger. It's not until she hears the scream, and turns her head, to see a man who derided her earlier running through a noble she vaguely recognized, that she loses it.

She stares with eyes wide as that person gasps their last. The screams begin, like a chorus that's out of sync with each other. And in that moment, she realizes that no matter how safe she'd previously felt in her mother's palace, so close to the Crystal Tower, that she'd never feel safe again.

Not even with the other Senshi so close and in Endymion's arms, like she was right now pressed against him like her only liferaft in this sea of chaos and misery. She's left without the wits to even scream a great many people die in front of her in what had once been her sanctum, horrified by the number of ways people could perish in a massacre of void blades, rainbow hues, rose petals, and starlight. The spoiled, innocent heir of the Moon Kingdom had never been tested by such in her life. But to her credit, she doesn't faint away. She etches it all into her memory, like some painting from an artist macabre. These images of her coming of age would be one that would have stayed with her for the rest of her days. If only she had more than just this night left.

'Won't any of you fight?' It's a familiar mocking voice. The one who had cut so deeply into her earlier. And Princess Serenity's next feeling is that of... helplessness. She didn't have the eternal, nigh limitless power of the Queen, or her Senshi Guardians, nor even the skill at swordplay of her Prince. Some part of her deep down feels an oblige... no it went deeper than that, she loved her people. She wanted to protect them. But she didn't have the means at all.

Save one thing. The one thing she could do. It was both a selfish and selfless act. She wouldn't call out to the Senshi to focus their attentions on protecting her. Not to Princess Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, nor even Venus - whom she saw desperately looking for her even now. Not only would it draw further attention to her and Endymion. But it would mean that they'd feel obliged to protect her rather than to put a stop to this. She tears her eyes away only with great effort and whispers frantically to Endymion while tugging on his hand if he already hadn't started moving himself, "We have to get out of here!"

And she would run. She would run like the rabbit that she'd once encountered on Earth. And through blurred eyes that she wasn't certain were from the tears or the chaos itself she told herself that she would remember everyone who died here tonight. "I'm sorry everyone." She whispers, trying to turn away from the sounds of the Senshi locked in combat.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mars [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-X1-uqDYa7w

Throughout the night a miniscule splinter had wormed its way into Mars' mind. A drop of tar in a glass of water..a fragment of dust in her eye. She could feel its disruption but as she searched within herself the intrusive shrapnel of disquiet eluded her. In a way it felt as if something in the atmosphere had changed, some subtle shift in barometric pressure that can only be felt on an instinctive level..but there were no dark clouds to be seen, no other troubled souls to be sensed. So she did her best to ignore the niggling distraction.

As the Earth blew up, a wave of naseau roiled into her, the saliva in her mouth overproducing as she gags and coughs. Blinking rapidly and catching up with herself, she waits out the sudden urge to vomit, her skin feeling clammy as the attack passed. As she looked up, focusing on nothing in particular, she hears another strangled gag. Thinking somebody else felt a similar spell of sickness, she looks in time to see a man she knew well slide to the ground from a traitor's blade. Jadeite's back is to her as chaos detonates in the room.

Blinded by a sudden fury, she forgets her duty and sprints headlong for the blonde bastard after kicking off her heels. Slamming a knee into the small of his back, a wire-thin line of incineration sparks up between her hands, a garrote of fire that she loops over his head to yank against his neck. Hissing into his ear, she murmurs that he'll die with everybody else, that not even death would stop her from strangling every poisonous breath from his body.

Her hatred blazes a wall of fire in her thoughts, blocking, for the moment, all view of the truth of the situation. Hell is breaking out. As corpses fell around her, she could not know who still drew breath. Any moment a needle could pierce her heart from behind. The Princess may be dead, all of her friends could be cooling on the marble even now. She'll kill Jadeite if nothing else, and as many of his ilk as she manages before her heart stops.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VeNk_p9A2iY

Kunzite, leader and widely considered the greatest of the Four Heavenly Kings, looks upon the second stage of tonight's operation, upon Jadeite's blade and Nephrite's starlight and Zoisite's sorcery and Erythrite's artistry.

He looks upon the suffering of these Moon Kingdom fops at the hands of his brothers, and knows it to be good. A dark smile spreads across his lips, one that he shares especially with Zoisite when he's toasted. Softly, for his love's ears alone, he murmurs his agreement. Then he inhales, his muscled chest expanding.

At full battlefield roar, he states his intent:

"Quake in horror, House of Serenity, and know that your day of judgement has come at last! No longer shall we suffer your tyranny and disrespect! In the name of the True Queen of Earth and the Solar System, Queen Beryl, we shall wipe you out life, out of time, out of history itself, until even your memory dies out forever!"

Spinning his blood-drenched blades to send a crimson spray against the bone-white walls, the bone-white floor...

...Princess Serenity's bone-white dress.

Nothing is safe.

Nothing is sacred.

Is this the way the world ends?

He charges forward, his blades held out to either side, carving through another several nobles between him and the Silver Heir, his advance implacable, his eyes hungry. This separates him some from Zoisite, but it isn't a lack of care. Rather it's the total belief in his partner's ability to defend himself against a little tantrum from a princess with an excessive amount of static electricity.

Who will stand between him and his prey?

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

That last dance - that precious finale to an era of peace - cuts short as Endymion stumbles. It's like some phantom adversary had driven a fist into his gut, seconds before the first hint of sickly green shines from the Earth. Perhaps it was Serenity's reply - so innocent, so pure - that struck him so? The plight that befell the Earth, so close and yet so far away? Or both?

Whatever the cause, he straightens up at the first panicked scream, the first note of fear and anguish. He turns from Serenity's gaze, cape spread as if it alone would shield her from harm, and draws his sword. Casting his gaze about for his allies - catching the departure of a certain prince - he prepares to call his bodyguards to arms. If they're ready, perhaps this tragic tide can yet be turned-

That hope dies in his throat, a pained gasp audible to Serenity as he sees the state of those he called friend. Terrible enough to imagine them struck down in the first salvo - Jadeite, Nephrite, Kunzite, Zoisite, all guardians and tutors and friends - but this? To see them already doing battle...against the people of the moon?

He's lost. The sword in his hand sags as his am begins to fall slack as the Shitennou massacre the very party they had escorted him to. Their protest...were so weak, in hindsight. He'd noticed, of course, but he'd imagined that they had hoped to escort him here because...because...not this. Never this. Tears well from behind that domino mask, and he takes a breath to shout, to admonish. His kingdom is lost, his faith is lost, he has nothing but to challenge those he had called friend-

Like an anchor, like new call to arms, there is a gentle yet courageous tug on his hand. A quiet order, from the only one left he can hold dear. 'We have to get out of here.'

What justice dwells in his soul demands that he punish his friends for the evil they have wrought. But...Princess Serenity's bodyguards are on the move, intercepting his own corrupted bodyguards - and with a whispered apology to those noble girls, he turns away from the slaughter. One hand grips his sword more tightly -

The other grasps Serenity's hand, like it is the only lifeline left in the world. "Yes, Princess. Run - I swear that so long as I draw breath, no harm will befall you." From the slaughter his kingdom is wreaking, he runs - runs away, with the heir to the Moon.

<Pose Tracker> Erythrite [Juuban Public School (11)] has posed.

Erythrite whips his brush arm out again. Another coil of energy rips through the room, cast callously over his shoulder. More screams ring through the ballroom. A woman with pale seafoam hair and eyes like the ocean cries out as she rushes across the floor; the beam intersects her, and hurls her to the floor with a strangled shriek. Blood splatters as she skids for about six metres before lying still.

The Captain of Dark Crimson lowers his eyelids, not even looking back to see how many have fallen. The screams tell him all he needs to know.

"I can't stand it," he growls as he looks out across the battle-torn ballroom. "The sight of a place that appears so beautiful, yet to scratch the surface can hide such ugliness. All these people who love without thought for the consequences. None of you understand, do you?"

His eyes track after a flash of gold. Princess Venus fleeing for Beryl knows where.

"--That these feelings you cling to are only pain!" he roars, his voice afire as he lunges into the air, taking off after the captain of the Princess's guard. Deftly he twirls the paintbrush in his hand; shining pastel energy whirls from it. The light sings with a dark power, the sound cold and electric as he snaps his arm over his head and brings it down.

"No... /you couldn't!/" he accuses, as the energy whip bites through the ground again. Close enough to threaten.

<Pose Tracker> Anthy Himemiya [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Power surges, and people die. The Sailor Senshi begin their counterattack, and Nephrite beholds Sailor Jupiter as she leaps to attack Zoisite, chuckling unpleasantly. Someone he loves vs. someone he hates... Ah, who to cheer for? For that matter, which is which? But that's a non-question, really. He turns eyes towards Princess Mercury, kneeling down with the injured, and lifts the hand not holding a glass of wine.

"Fool," he murmurs as astrological magic coalesces in his palm. "Don't you know that Mercury is in retrograde right now?"

Power fires, searing directly towards Princess Mercury. Nephrite takes a long, savoring sip of his wine. It won't do to let such a fine drink go to waste. Even murder is no impediment, as the dozen or so civilians whom he'd assaulted bleed at his feet. Of course, in that moment where hubris takes the place of good sense, he is briefly open... Even with Jupiter transformed, he really just can't envision a scenario where the Moon's warriors can mount a sufficient counter-attack after such a brutal surprise attack. Still, it's a distraction of but a moment, when Mars assaults Jadeite--more's the pity to Jadeite, whom Nephrite had mocked all night for his desperation, but it does bring Nephrite's head back into the matter at hand. After that, if not attacked, he tosses the glass to one side to shatter prettily on the marble floor and advances on Mercury with sword in hand, bringing it up with full intent to run her through without mercy or ceremony.

She had the chance to dance with Princess Jupiter. How can she complain if that's the last happy memory she gets to have?

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Jadeite's mistake is that his back is to Sailor Mars. He doesn't spot her coming, and as a result, Mars slams into him bodily. He stumbles, then, and he gasps for breath until--


--the garrote is suddenly dragging around his throat, choking the life out of him. The hand that gripped a sword so confidently only a moment before spams and drops the blade to the ground with a terrible clatter. At first, Jadeite's hands come to his neck. Then, through the haze of oyxgen deprivation, he remembers his training. The man begins running backward while his face begins to redden, eyes bulging.

He tries to slam Princess Mars back into a table that had been filled with silver trays of delights and snacks. They're forgotten in the madness unfolding, much the same as the corpses beginning to drop to the floor. It is a desperate ploy, to try to knock the garrote and his assailant loose.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mercury [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

The blast moves toward the Princess -- and she ducks low, trying to head-slip beneath it and meet Nephrite immediately, with a hasty call of, "Mercury Power -- Make Up!" As he moves to close the distance, she does too; her gaze rests evenly on the Shitennou who has drawn her attention.

If they let themselves get ganged up upon, that's it -- the game is over before it even begins. They all have to handle at least one of Earth's generals, thus... and she's no exception. Raising her hands and then flaring them out around her, she surrounds herself with many whirling blades to meet Nephrite's one.

Stepping up, she attempts to introduce Nephrite to those same blades... though she misjudges the length of his, and though he doesn't quite run her through, he does get a nice shot in on her side. ... it's not fatal, she thinks -- and it's that thought that she hangs onto through the pain as she starts to move back again, following her bladed assault with a blast of mist. She spares Nephrite no words -- right now, he's an enemy. That's all the thought the situation affords her.

<Pose Tracker> Princess Serenity [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Tyranny? Did they really think of the royal family of the Moon as tyrants? The sheer /hatred/ in this statement gives her pause. From a man she'd never even met. How could someone hate her, hate her mother, hate their people, hate their existence so much that they'd move to this?

She's so shocked that she almost answers him, with some reflexive reply. Until her dress is painted red. For one moment she almost mistakes it for the painted hues of one of the assailants, but her mind knows better what that crimson rain truly is. The sheer horror of the moment, when her eyes open just a touch wider and her pupils dilate might be satisfying to her assailants, as lets out a shrill scream of terror and panic. Her only answer to the accusations of Kunzite.

Her hands tremble and shake, her breathing intensifiesand in that moment she might have fallen to her knees - but - Endymion's hand tightens around her, he whispers assurances of her safety, and she believes it. It's enough to steady her legs in the frenetic pace of her run so that Endymion doesn't truly have to drag her. One arm of hers is dedicated to hiking up her skirts enough to keep the pace manageable, her chest heaving with the effort. She tries not to think about the sticky feeling on her fingers from where the hand had touched the spatter.

But even as he leads her, she proves that she's not completely panicked by leading him as well, "The Crystal Tower! We have to make for the Crystal Tower! We'll be-" The word 'safe' never leaves her lips. It rolls up her throat, then she swallows it, changing her statement, "-Mother will be there I wager!"

She could put a stop to this before anyone else got hurt or... worse. No she wouldn't even think about it. She refused to think about anymore of her precious friends and loved ones dying. "She'll be able to stop this! I know it!"

<Pose Tracker> Haruka Tenoh [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Zoisite throws up an arm to defend himself from the unexpected bolt, the lightning impacting a tight parabola of elemental energy he summoned as a makeshift shield and ripping through it, causing that arm to clench in an uncontrollable spasm. Unfortunately, that hand is still holding the wine glass, which shattered instantly as his fingers clamped down around it, spraying his face with droplets of red. Zoisite sneers in annoyance, tossing the remaining shards off to the side and scuffing his gloves together to rid himself of the rest.

"Princess JUPITER!" he greets, his kneehigh riding boots scissoring as he switch-kicks the approaching senshi solidly in the stomach. A blow he expected to hurl her across the room, however, only stops her cold, and he grimaces in surprise. "Stars, you're built of brick." He spins a reverse heel kick down across her jaw, nearly cracking it. "That is not a compliment."

Zoisite's considerable grace has a sharpness to it; he's no ballet dancer. As he fights Jupiter, his motions are hard and linear, but with a floating agility to them that carries him out of reach of most reprisals. He even finds a safe moment to close his eyes in response to Kunzite's pronouncement. "You hear that, Princess?" he says. "This is where it all comes falling down. This is the turning point. The history books will all write of this night, of the uprising, of the end of a bloated and decadent tyranny." Some sort of mad strength possessed him, and though Jupiter's heavy blows were starting to land, he seemed unable to be dissuaded from the attack, and every blow she took cost her one in return. Her refusal to resort to defense, or pause for even a moment in her assault, made her predictable, and Zoisite was too cunning a foe to make such an error against. One of her punches ripped off his black tortoise mask, but the face it bared was grinning.

A gout of flame from his palm, noxiously violet, sprayed across the mighty princess's face, and in the moments she was deprived of vision, Zoisite ducked under her guard, drew back his forearm like a spear, and drove his palm directly against her stomach, to the left of her navel. "Long Live Beryl," he told her.

The burst of telekinetic force burst from Jupiter's lower back, its sizzling tip glittering in the copper-scented air a good five feet behind her.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Venus [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

As much as she searches, Venus can find no sign of the princess. Anger flares up beneath her chest -- anger at herself for not keeping a better eye on her. She had selfishly wanted one night to enjoy herself free of responsibilities as the head of her guard, and in her neglect, she might have cost Serenity her life.

She reaches for her transformation pen, but before she can raise it to the heavens, a sizzling sound races towards her; she turns, just in time to see Erythrite's whip tear through her dress.

Venus grits her teeth as her eyes catch sight of her attacker. "You...!" she somehow manages to get out.

Then, gripping her pen tightly in her hand, Venus shoots her hand skyward.

"Venus Planet Power, Make Up!"

Streams of orange stars encircle her as the long dress and red mask she had worn the ball vanish, replaced by the orange and blue sailor uniform she wore whenever she guarded the princess. She didn't have time to deal with this; she had to finish this as quickly as possible!

"Did you think that you could get away with this?!"

But as her eyes narrow on Erythrite, her eyes catch sight of what she had been seraching for all this time. Venus' eyes briefly widen as Kunzite advances on Serenity.

Venus' reaction is immediate; in one smooth gesture, she extends her hands forward, a spinning yellow heart forming in the open space between her palms. "Venus... Love-Me Chain Bind!"

The long chain of hearts spirals past Erythrite and barrels towards Kunzite. If she had to fight both of them at once, she would! She couldn't let Serenity come to harm.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mars [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-iZopf7POc

For all of her ferocity, all of her training as a guardian and a fighter, strangling somebody to death had never been a part of Sailor Mars' training or usual temperament. When Jadeite began madly dashing backwards, it took her by surprise, and although she performed much better than she might have had she kept her high heels on, she struggled to match his exact pace while keeping up the pressure around his throat. The balancing act between the two priorities split her focus, and when they both crashed into the table her distraction overcame her, and the firewire fizzled into nothingness.

Grunting in surprise and anger, she tries to squirm to the side but is caught beneath Jadeite's weight. Planting her hands into the back of her shoulders, she shoves off with palms and knees and rolls away, staining her dress with food and spilled drink but paying it no mind. A snarl chiseled into her face, she lifts her arms, pulling one hand back from the other. A blazing orange bow materializes in her hands, string already drawn back and pointing a scalding scarlet arrow at the shitennou's mussed up hair. She snaps it off, hoping to end this now with one angry shot.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Would that the beauty of this night could have lasted forever - but there is no beauty to be found in a slaughter such as this. This is a war - bitter anger turned to violence, its crimson hues defying all that is good and pure.

Every pained scream, every dying breath, every plea for mercy is like an arrow lanced at Endymion's back. That black and crimson cape, so suited to a dark and bloody night as this, billows as he flees from the battle.

He cannot guard his Princess from everything. The spray of blood - imued with that distinctive coppery scent - mars her beautiful dress, even as Kunzite declares challenge. He whirls, sword held at the ready for one of those who instructed him in its use, and he prepares to meet the man's charge - and then Venus's chain flies out in interception, sparing him that battle.

Jupiter landing heavy blows on Zoisite, Mars attempting to choke the life from Jadeite, Mercury warring against the stars with frigid ice, Venus battling Kunzite and Erythrite both with her chains...

Part of Endymion weeps to see his bodyguards embroiled in mortal combat such as this.

The rest of him is grateful to the Senshi for taking up this burden.

His hand - still warm from Serenity's grip - spreads wide to cloak the Princess behind his cape. One step back, then another - ever closer to the exit. If there's a chance for her to survive...and yet, his words are tinged with not hope but sorrow. "Everything Beryl has gone through to arrange this tragedy...I am sorry, Princess. I fear nothing can stop this now..."

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Endymion briefly catches Kunzite's eye even as he flees, and the General is disappointed. Surely he taught his Prince better than this. But once that brat is dead, the Golden King can ascend to his true potential at last, his eyes cleared, as they once were and can be again.

Then the Love-Me Chain wraps around his raised hand, and rather than be yanked away from Serenity, he walks, with horrible calm, awful gravitas, back towards the Captain of her guard. He banishes that magic blade, clenching a fist instead.

"Get away with... what?"

He smirks again but his eyes are cold as ice, as he moves in to flank -- Erythrite on her other side.

"With infiltrating your pitiful excuse for palace security?"

He lunges in with a series of blade thrusts, each one slow, deliberate. Quality rather than quantity, his swordplay is superb.

"With wiping out the royal line, over your dead body?"

Just as things are starting to feel predictable, with the back-and-forth cadence of his fencing, he yanks with the full strength of his fist on the now-shortened Chain between them, pulling Venus right into his face. Eye-to-eye.

Close enough to kiss.

But he doesn't, because his lips are reserved for one person only, and that person is within a few dozen yards, lighting fires on senshi as surely as he's lighting fires in Kunzite's heart.

Instead he slams forward with a massive headbutt, in a swirl of bleached white hair.

"Yeah. That's /exactly/ what I think."

<Pose Tracker> Erythrite [Juuban Public School (11)] has posed.

Touching down with a click of heels, Erythrite looks on with a scowl as Princess Venus prepares to unleash her power.

"What makes you think we can't?" he fires back at the blonde Senshi, before the Love-Me Chain flies. It slashes dangerously close to him - but the real target is someone of greater standing, the most senior of the Four Heavenly Kings. He's nevertheless forced back, the energy beam ripping through the cape he wore to the ball and tearing it from the clasp at his shoulder.

A surge of bitterness heaves through him. Even in battle, he's rejected - cast aside for someone of higher station and prestige.

"I won't have it," he hisses through his teeth. "I won't be rejected again. As of today, I, Erythrite, Captain of the Dark Crimson, will /take/ the respect I deserve. Even if it's by force!"

He prowls across the floor like a predator, moving with Kunzite to flank Venus. He looks on, for a moment, as the General reels her in with such skill. Makes a mental note. Try that on someone.

Then he attempts to sock the blonde Senshi one - and he twirls the sword in his right hand, before swinging the paintbrush in his left.

"With the power we have," he growls as a coil of light curls from the paintbrush, "/victory is our only option./"

The rainbow light winds and curls - and attempts to snag Princess Venus about the ankles, and follow up Kunzite's headbutt by trying to trip her to the ground with a burning tendril-like beam. A blatantly unfair double-team.

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

The bolt of flame comes at Jadeite. Struggling as he is to catch his breath, he isn't in a place where he can do aerial acrobatics. Quite to the contrary, the fire blast slams into his left cheek just as he begins to move. He lets out a pitched scream, crumpling downward, hand coming to his face. The fiery arrow did not kill, though, but rather wounded. The left side of his face is burnt black and some of his hair charred.

When he pulls away his hand, to look at the sticky mix of red and black on it, only the right eye can see it. His lips curl back into a snarl, and Jadeite looks up at Princess Mars with an equally hateful look.

"I thought," he says, trying to sneer. It comes out as a spat out, hateful snarl. "OF ASKING YOU TO DANCE, PRINCESS!"

He balls up his right hand, slamming it back into wall. The stone wall cracks -- and then three crystals of green gemstone poke out. They fire like missiles, shooting towards Princess Mars, the air whistling around them. Jadeite laughs, not from humor or even rage, but in response to the pain. "Well? Shall we, princess?"

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Jupiter [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Sailor Jupiter can spare no time for anything, now, but her lightning focus on the target responsible already for so much death. As she crashes back beyond her lightning bolt, already her hard charge is met with a solid blow; that's only where it begins.

She spits to the side as his kick impacts her jaw, head whipped that way. She has no words for him at his statement, however, instead, she looks right back up at him, and /swings/.

His agility means that her momentum carries her far, their battle mobile; a punch crashes through to burst a table, a kick completely demolishes a chair that was in their way.

And Kunzite's words ring through over all of it. Her anger, her desperation, are not enough to overpower him in the instant that she'd hoped.

"History will /never/ bow to you!" she shouts back. "This isn't /justice/--this isn't judgement! You're just a pack of--"

She can't see any of them. Mercury is somewhere behind her, the Princess gone--but her relentless assault continues.

Continues, until the flame blinds her an instant, and the scream of her eyes burning is cut off suddenly by the searing pain that passes completely through her; she chokes for an instant, stumbling backward as the air crackles around her. Blood begins to fill the hole that Zoisite's magic made. "You--"

Her fist curls at her side. "Not while I'm breathing," she chokes out at him, and rushes forward again.

This time, it's not desperation, it's not anger that moves her forward; she swings once, missing with a bone-crunching punch, but her eyes narrow; Zoisite hits her with another blast of his awful magic, and she swings almost blindly, eyes still seared and vision swimming thanks to that moment. But she bides her time. Next, she swings a brutal axe kick downward--and when he swings his hand to hrul his magical force at him, she aborts the kick, spinning to grip hold of his wrist and /slam/ her forearm straight where she feels it coming with a sickening crunch.

She follows with it, keeping hold, and his incredible speed can't break her iron grip. Her elbow crashes next, cracking ribs, her forcehead slamming forward in an effort to /shatter/ the beautiful man's face with all the might she can muster. "Haaaah!--"

It's not without cost; the movement casues the spot of blood from where she was impaled only to grow, and already she feels dizzy. Eyes closed, she swings her leg to sweep at the back of his. In Zoisite's desperation, his noxious magic sets violet, noxious flame to her hand, charring her skin, but still she keeps hold. She keeps hold with a punch, and then finally whirls, /grabbing/ him close and hurling her other arm around the dark general before her, gripping over his chest with all of her strength.

"You'll..." She grips tighter, tight enough to crack ribs. "You'll NEVER touch her!" Already, her own power crackles around her. Already, lightning slinks about her legs, roils over her battered arms. "Supreme...!" her lungs are ragged as she draws all the power she can muster, and squeezes her eyes shut, finally facing Mercury again in her turn.


A column of blinding, flashing, /brilliant/ lightning shatters the ceiling above them, crashing downward to shatter the very tiles beneath in a crashing storm of power.

There's no reason for Sailor Jupiter to hold her enemy's corpse as she stumbles backward, still smoking.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Venus [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Kunzite forces Venus backwards -- sending her stumbling backwards. Somehow, she manages to stay her footing, even as the force of his blow sends a hard ache coursing over her shoulder.

That is, until Erythrite sends a stream of rainbow light around her ankles, pulling her to the ground.

Venus lets out a cry of surprise as she falls to the ground, the remenants of Erythrite's attack still searing her ankles. She pushes herself upright and looks up at the two of them, her eyes writ with defiance.

"Respect?" she spits out. "After you attack civilians at a party? You deserve none of it!"

Her Love-Me Chain evaporates, as an orange heart forms in her outreached hand. It spins wildly, almost vibrating with light energy.

"Rolling Heart... Vibration!"

<Pose Tracker> Anthy Himemiya [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Mercury might have the advantage of many, many more blades, but Nephrite has the advantage of being a trained swordsman. He manages to keep all of them at bay, all with a smug smirk as that first strike scores true, trailing blood from its gleaming edge. The ice blades, he takes pleasure in shattering, one by one, thinking of each one as one more proof of dominance--of the superiority of the Earth over these smug alien fools. When Mercury shoots a blast of mist, he laughs out loud as he leaps over it.

"Am I supposed to be frightened of a few droplets of water?" he taunts her, blood and aqua splashing at his feet when he lands. That laugh dies, replaced by something far angrier and more murderous. "You /insult me/!" With a flash, he swings towards her right--but it's a feint, and he follows up with an uppercut with his left fist, which had dipped into his pocket and is now wrapped in steel knuckles, aimed to clock against her temples. It's not as deadly as being run through with a blade, but a strong enough strike against the weakest part of the skull... Well, Mercury is well-versed in medicine. She doesn't need to have it explained to her.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mercury [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

"You shouldn't be afraid of only a few droplets of water, no," comes Princess Mercury's reply as she weaves around his blows... but she isn't expecting the shot to the temple, and while a quick twitch to the side renders it not a /killing/ blow, it still hurts. She falls to the ground, a little punch-drunk; her vision swims...

... and then she sees where he's standing. He /did/ take the bait.

"... but even a ripple can become a wave..." Ice starts to creep up Nephrite's feet where he stands, catalyzed by that earlier 'missed' blast and spurred on by Mercury's water. Even as she staggers back to her feet, the ice continues to move up Nephrite's body, freezing him solid.

One last blade of ice from her earlier set snaps up to her hand, and she tosses it squarely for Nephrite's midsection with only the tiniest moment of hesitation. Assuming it stays on course, it'll pierce him clean through... and then shatter him.

Almost immediately, she's back to looking for Princess Jupiter. She has to be /somewhere/ in the melee still...

<Pose Tracker> Anthy Himemiya [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Nephrite sneers as Mercury staggers, then points his blade at her again. He fully intends on severing her head from her neck as she lies there--but before he completes the blow, he says, "Did you enjoy your dance with Jupiter, Princess? May you carry those pleasant memories to your grave."

'...but even a ripple can become a wave...' she murmurs as he raises his arms. His eyebrows furrow--and then he shoots a stare down as the liquid at his feet freezes him. Eyes and mouth widen in horror, and Nephrite only has time for a scream, a wrenching scream of both horror, shock, and pain, before it consumes him.

He is suspended that way for only moment, until Mercury runs his body through. Another moment later, and he cracks, shatters, and crumbles to pieces.

A pity Nephrite hadn't read his own fate in the stars tonight.

<Pose Tracker> Princess Serenity [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

In the cadence of their hurried footsteps, she almost doesn't sense it when Endymion slows to wrap her in his cloak. It's warm, just like his embrace. It would be comforting, if not for his words - she takes one look behind her back, in time to watch Venus get headbutted by Kunzite wrapped within her shining bonds of love, and she can't help but call out, "Venus!" A desperate cry of worry for her welfare, only accentuated as Erythrite double teams her.

She feels guilt for so many things. That she'd just called out her name and doomed her to look in her direction. That she'd relied on Endymion for protection rather than her and the Senshi in this time of crisis. But most of all just that she could not do a thing to help her. In one sweeping glance just beyond the cloaks fabric, she watches gouts of flame, ice blades glinting and a flash of Supreme Thunder across the ballroom. Her spirits soar a bit, as she thinks that they'll be able triumph throughout all of this when Nephrite and Zoisite fall, despite how the sight of more death makes her feel. And then she turns away again. Again. Feeling mostly her acute sense of helplessness.

Endymion's words continue to ring through her head, and deep down, she refuses to believe it, especially after seeing the first of the Shitennou fall. "You're wrong!" She blurts out, denying despair its due, "I have faith in the Sailor Senshi and the Queen! They'll definitely protect this kingdom! Then they'll put a stop to this on Earth! They'll protect your kingdom too!" She whispers more fiercely, "I know it! And then- and then-"

And then she's pulling at his hand, as if to lead him forward and deny allowing him despair either by hurrying towards the crystalline archway that will lead them through the breezeway to the Crystal Tower. Through watering eyes she talks about happier things, things to look forward to, things that will give her enough hope to survive all of this, "-We'll tell everyone! We'll make it public! We won't hide it- us anymore! Mother will have to approve then! Then- then our kingdoms will become allies and we'll put an end to any lingering hatreds together!" It's all so innocent, and the talk impractical, after such a battle, but it's something beautiful to hope for.

But it's there that hope denies her again, when that they come face to face with swirling violet energy. Serenity stops so abruptly she almost falls to her knees over the hem of her skirts, but manages to stay upright by using her Prince's hand for leverage. It ends any happier talk now that there's a real physical barrier barring her way, "How are we supposed to get past that!?" The gold crescent moon on her forehead glints with inner light, but it seems like an impassable barrier.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mars [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsdhcur-PN8

Sailor Mars feels a sense of elation bubble up in her breast when her arrow strikes true, but doesn't allow it to float to the surface. Even such a blow to the head isn't guaranteed to fell the Earthling cur. Sure enough, even as blood paints a curtain down his scalp, he lives and fights. Jadeite may not have dropped his sarcastic veneer, but any sense of self assurance has been singed away.

As his hand draws back, slamming into the wall, she struggles to scramble up to her feet, but quickly realizes that she'd only manage to stand in order to fall if she did. Frantically reaching behind her, she can feel a serving tray of polished metal, yanking it free of its hors d'oeuvres to brandish in front of her, barely deflecting a single crystalline razor as the other two thud into her flesh. Her seeping blood is camoflauged by the brilliant ruby red of her dress, but the wince on her face and the faltering of her limbs say it all.

She struggles to her feet, a limp in one leg where an emerald knife perforated her thigh. He'd hurt her in his death throes, but there's no question in her mind how this fight will turn out. Bracing herself against the table, she hoists her injured leg up high into the air, swinging it more from momentum than muscles as her bare foot bursts into white hot fire. She mutters savagely. "You're in no state for it.." Her heep drops, the impact makes a sickening thud, her strike falling with the explosive momentum of a falling meteor straight upon the crown of his head.

<Pose Tracker> Haruka Tenoh [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

The fight changes tenor, with the hole in Jupiter's side. No longer do they merely seek to kill. They need to kill. Killing is their mutual goal. He to finish this wounded beast, she to expend her strength before it fails.

His wrist, his ribs. By the time she headbutts him he has no vanity to make him mourn it, but headbutts her right back, savage with pain. He still has the advantage. She loses blood with every passing second.

But this girl is herculean, her blows cost so much to divert. Throwing himself back, he almost gets some distance, and that might have been enough. Time is on his side.

But her hand catches. And somehow he already knows.

Locked in her grip, Zoisite strains his arms outward with all his might, but he's being crushed, the blood pinched off in his biceps so his hands grow numb, his ribs bending until his lungs can scarcely move. "Already she is here," he wheezes at Jupiter. "And your palace crumbles, the silver shards guttering in the waiting dark..."

He lifts his eyes with a weak, soft smile, meeting Kunzite's gaze.

"Those who love have naught for death to steal..."

Heaven splits and night will not wait.

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Jadeite snarls, holding his hand out again. His fingers curl, ready to grab a hilt. Mist swirls and light gleams, as he prepares again summon his sword. He isn't able to do it in time. He growls, lowly, while she comes charging in. He tries to swing an arm up, to catch her leg.

He doesn't.

The foot slams down, smashing into his cranium with flame and force. Jadeite's eyes meet her just a moment before it hits. They are widened with confusion and terror, shining blue. He was the youngest of the Shitennou, after all; the hot shot, the cocky young newcomer, and the one with a chip on his shoulder. But it ends, then, and he is driven into the floor.

There is a sickening crunch when her foot finishes connecting. Something cracks and caves in, like a melon being dropped. Something smoulders. Then his sword appears.

It lands next to his hand in a clatter. His fingers twitch once -- and then Jadeite falls still.

<Pose Tracker> Erythrite [Juuban Public School (11)] has posed.

It's not a fair fight. At some level, Erythrite wonders if he should be bothered by that. He dismisses the thought. All that matters is leaving this kingdom broken. Exposing the ugliness beneath it.

Princess Venus blasts away. The rolling power of that heart slams across the Captain; he lets out a growl as the spinning light rocks him, hurling him back, back - ever backwards. The power ripples around him, searing through him like burning. "Ghh," he manages through clenched teeth, his arms crossing over his body in vain; it does no good. His body /itself/ seems to ripple; dark power sloughs off him like water sloughing off a slick surface.

He throws his head back with a howl as he's hurled bodily from his feet, hurtling through a marble pillar with a loud crash. He hits the floor roughly on his shoulder and neck and goes skidding for several metres before he flops down in a heap.

The tyrian-eyed man coughs as he struggles to his feet. Only his will to live, fiery like the depths of Hell, drives him on. His hand finds something soft. A body. He looks down -

Into a pair of eyes like the ocean.

His heart skips a beat - and his eyes go wide. His breath catches in his throat.

He KNOWS that face. Those eyes that gazed into his, that day on Earth, across the dance floor. That pale hair, seafoam and white.

The eyes that spurned him. No, Erythrite - we can never be together.

The hand, resting bloody beneath his now, that was all he ever wanted to hold. Arms torn by the familiar burns and sensations of his own magic - HIS OWN! - that he will never feel around him.

"Gracia," he wails, his voice weak, broken. Laced with a pain he can barely explain.

He slouches backwards. His hand slips away from hers. All he sees is the remains of her as he hits the ground. He does not see for long. "Gracia," he croaks again, before falling still.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Thunder roars. Ice shatters. And two more pieces of Endymion's heart die - though his suffering pales before that of Kunzite. His comrades - former comrades - are dead or in anguish...and still, all he can think of is Serenity's safety.

What a disappointment Endymion must be to Kunzite.

The Prince of Earth is soft - however much he might understand the world's cruelty better than his love, he is soft at heart. Princess Serenity spoke of the world's beauty, and he was entranced - wishing for the world to be as wonderful as she dreamed. But-

Accusing words sting at his back. These enemies of the Moon infiltrated the party - with his knowledge of the palace, with his assistance. Blood is on his hands tonight.

The Princess, blessed heart filled with forgiveness and hope, still reaches out to those hands.

"I believe in them too - your mother, your friends. If it were just the -" Endymion's breath hitches, thinking of two fallen. "- if it were only my former comrades, Princess, I have no doubt that your guardians would be enough. But even if they..."

Behind his mask, his eyes shut in sorrow.

"...I told you earlier of the power Beryl has unleashed - if nothing else, your mother must know. Only she has any chance to put an end to this." It feels hopeless. Everything he saw of the Earth - every bit of despair filling his heart as Beryl's power spreads - it seems absolutely hopeless. And yet - and yet, he wants to believe. Every fibre of his being, every mote of the light that is his love for the Moon Princess - all of it drives him to wish her words to be true. Believe that all of this can work out.

His hope is a fragile thing, but it isn't entirely dead yet.

The hand that Serenity has taken rips hers in return. And then...and then. "...it's a beautiful dream, my Princess. I will stand with you, and the two of us can proclaim our love for eternity...but first we must survive this crisis. The future lies beyond today, and we..."

...are trapped. Endymion stops just as abruptly, sword clattering to marble tiles as he reaches out to stabilize the princess. Shimmering violet light, preventing any escape....they were so close. They could have made it, if not for...

He lets go. Stooping to pick up his fallen blade, Endymion lets out a desperate yell as he charges the barrier - striking again and again, technique abandoned in favour of raw need. This wall condemns them to die with the Moon Kingdom, their love lost to eternity - never! Somehow, some way, they have to get through... "...we have to!"

Futile, or perhaps...?

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Kunzite takes Erythrite's role in the battle for granted. He can expect no commendations, no praise. In its way, the man's willingness to allow this lesser soldier to participate by his side is already the highest compliment of all -- taking skill for granted isn't something the General does lightly.

And so he moves fluidly in and out with the other man, making room for the entrance of the sword, the beam, the punch. Supplementing with his own swords and punches -- and a brutal jackbooted kick while Venus is down, just as she begins to talk about respect.

"Your respect means nothing to me, girl," he intones. "I already have the respect of the only person..."





A soft smile, a lovely verse.

Then a death that is not beautiful at all.

It all happens much faster than he can react to, faster than he can prevent. Trust, trust, he trusted Zoisite to stand alone and Beryl to empower him to do so, and now this. The life they could have had after the war, wasted with a wave of a moonwoman's hand.

Distraction will be his doom, as he has chided Endymion so very many times.


The orange explosion engulfs him entirely. The last anyone sees of his expression is a stunned stillness--

--until he slowly emerges, every inch of his white cloak (and white hair) smoking, and now his chiseled features are carved with grief, with fury.

(He doesn't notice that Erythrite has not fared as well, taking his death as he took his life: as a footnote.)

"DARK!" he screams, summoning his shadow of Beryl's strength to him for the first time, his promised bequeathment now used upon bereavement. "BLADE!"

The horrible energy comes crackling through him, builds between his palms, then multiplies.


A wave of blades composed of purest human hatred pour as one towards the back of Sailor Jupiter.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Jupiter [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Despair sinks into Princess Jupiter's heart, sinking like the blood still draining from her back, from her side. It's not because of her battle; her battle, she can win, she /must/ win. She knows what she has done, what she has to do, when she catches hold of Zoisite's wrist, when she sacrifices her hand to keep him held. But his words...

Zoisite's words sink deep through her. They sink, sink, anchored, like rolling down into the core of her storming. The castle is crumbling. She can see no one. ...She can't see anything, any longer. Already, her vision is dark.

As Zoisite's lifeless body falls to the ground before her, Sailor Jupiter is barely standing. Burned, bloodied, she can only choke down her own breath, eyes still closed where it hurts to open them. She has to keep going. There are still more, still screams everywhere...

The death she brought him was ugly. Ugly, like what he's done. Ugly, like the horrible visions it's almost a mercy she cannot see. No longer does Jupiter hear the wind. ...She ignored it already. If she had only listened...

There is more battle behind her, and Sailor Jupiter begins to gather herself to rejoin it, swaying already on her feet. She feels a horrible darkness gathering, something that blots out all things behind her. In that instant, she freezes.

It's quiet. For all the shouting, for all the crackling, the moment itself is nearly silent. A wave of blackened, horrifying magical power, of pure hatred, rings towards Sailor Jupiter's back.

For an instant, she doesn't feel anything. But then she looks down, slowly forcing her eyes open, to see the blades all around her. Some went to her sides. Two are embedded in the wall before her.

...One has come through her heart. Many more, through her arms, her shoulders. Darkness envelops the soldier of protection as she stands, looking down with nothing in her expression, nothing there. The only thing she hears is the words that repeat within her mind, that sink, etched into her heart.

"Those..." She coughs, and it brings with it blood, though she stands. "Those with... love..."

"H-have... naught.. to..." The pain creeps into Princess Jupiter's voice, and her knees crack against the tiles as she falls to the ground, and then forward, her arms useless at her side, her last words still caught in her throat.

Love strikes Sailor Jupiter down, and death steals everything from her.

<Pose Tracker> Princess Serenity [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

It is a beautiful dream. And it's what she'd prefer to focus on, not the crisis at hand. Not the carnage, not the death. Not the destruction. Not the denial of the dream. She doesn't want to see any of the Shitennou die even if she hears their death throes - some more poetic than others.

She watches her Prince bash against the barrier, time and time again. Each ringing blow like that of a bell sounding the death knell of her kingdom. Something in her heart falls, as her desperation rises. What he'd said about Beryl, and the power she'd amassed. "We'll survive! We'll survive this! Our love-"

'Those who love have naught for death to steal...' The words ring through her skull as keenly as each strike. "-will survive this! And so will-" 'DARK! BLADE! STORM!!!' She'd been about to say the Sailor Senshi. Her friends. She loved them all as much as she did Endymion, even if it was in a different way.

The blades of hatred deny that. She looks. Jupiter. The Princess with whom she confided all of her secrets. With whom she'd shared so many heartfelt conversations on romance and beauty and many things besides. The Princess who stood so tall and so brave, a towering bastion against any threat to the Moon Kingdom. She watches her fall.

Her scream pierces the broken night, her grief as sharp as the hatred in his blades. She falls to her knees, if Endymion's grasp doesn't arrest her, and blubbers like a small child caught in the throes of grief, denying the evidence before her eyes, "Nononono, not Jupituh! We have to go back! We huhhave to go back! We have to huhelp her! We have to save her! She can't be- she can't be-"

And yet, she knows she is. It finally settles into her, just what she was going to lose here tonight. And she keens again, like a mourner at an Earth funeral. The crescent moon on her forehead reacts, shining with shimmering pink inner light at her desperation, her grief, her terror. She seems entirely unaware of it even happening, as it radiates forth from her, touching the violet barrier with gentle light. Yet the barrier reacts as if it has been sliced by a blade, dispelling just a small portion of the darkness, parting it.

Yet, even now she doesn't see an out, she's lunging back at the ballroom against Endymion's grip, telling him desperately, "-I h-have to get to her! I have to! I cuhcan't let her be alone! She nuhnuhnever even got to-" The words, 'find love' is what she might have said but instead she devolves entirely into broken sobbing. It seemed like tonight might have been the night for her. But now- now, as she watches Sailor Jupiter's lifeless body, all she can think about is all the things they'll never get to share together anymore. And that thought is so terrible that it steals any semblance of her beautiful hopeful dream away from her.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mercury [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Princess Mercury's eyes at long last find Jupiter -- with blades already streaking toward her. She opens her mouth to cry out, but no sound comes; she can see, the instant her eyes find her, that no amount of crying and screaming will stop the blades or let her get out of the way.

One knee buckles a little as she watches Jupiter fall away from the blade. Her fists clench -- and even though she knows she has to move, she's rooted to the ground. All she can do is stand there; as the death toll rises, it feels like her body is already starting to give up.

Eventually, she starts to move -- slowly, firmly, toward where Jupiter stood. She wants to join Serenity in crying out -- but all she can do now is keep moving, even as the hope in her heart starts to crack.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Endymion strives with all his strength, all his desperation - tiring muscles fueled by his Princess's hope. Their love endured the schism between two worlds, grew through stolen moments and fleeting glimpses - it can survive this. It will survive this! For a moment, his mask veils an expression of joy-

His sword rings against the barrier - futile, again - and Kunzite's grief rings out. Endymion whirls around, cape billowing as he prepares to put himself between his former guardian and his true love - but mercifully, she is not the subject of his wrath.

The miracle ends there; Jupiter, slayer of Zoisite, is the one being Kunzite now hates more than any other.

(He notes, fleetingly, the deaths of Erythrite and Jadeite as well - however much his heart wishes to break at the fall of two more comrades, he cannot grieve here.)

Jupiter falls - Serenity grieves - and Endymion's free arm comes around in an instant to wrap around her chest, hug her close, hold her from her desperate lunge to her fallen friend. "You can't!"

Tears in his own voice, a shadow of the grief Serenity is expressing. "She stayed to protect you, Princess - if you rush back there to die, then it will all be-" He chokes off the last word, holds her closer as a beautiful dream shatters.

Would that she never had to see this - any of this. Would that the war between Earth and Moon could have been staved off for eternity.

But as Serenity's hopes shatter, so too does a fragment of that terrible barrier - a glimmer of light in this darkest hour. Endymion turns from the ballroom - turns again from the slaughter, turns from Kunzite's murderous grief and Jupiter's last breaths - and drags his weeping princess through the rift in that barrier. "We must weep later, my love - we have much to grieve, but if we do not reach your mother..."

Then all those deaths will be meaningless.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Venus [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Erythrite falls and Venus scrambles to her feet, just as Kunzite emerges from the residual smoke. She expects him to lash out at her, but he doesn't -- instead direction his attention elsewhere, as she had with Erythrite only a few moments before.

Before she can do anything to stop it, dark blades race towards Jupiter, piercing through her muscular back. Venus' eyes widen with horror as Jupiter's body slumps to the ground to join the many others there already.


It takes a moment for the shock to settle in; Venus had been quick to action, but now she had a hard time moving forward. It's not until she hears the distant sound of their princess' voice that she's able to snap free of it.

The sword. She had to get to it.

Venus races towards it -- the sword bestowed to them to protect the princess; its use had only been ornamental until now. In fact, it was sheathed now -- in a raised platform in the center of the ballroom.

Venus reaches for the sword and pulls it smoothly from the platform. The sword begins to glow with a warm yellow energy as her hands tighten around the grip.

"Kunzite!" she shouts out at him.

Her eyes are burning with tears now, but she doesn't let them fall. Not yet. Not while she still has something to do. The sword glows brighter than it did before -- and once she is sure she has captured Kunzite's attention, Venus focuses the gathering magic to the tip of the sword --

-- until a tremendous heart-shaped energy bursts forth from it and spirals towards the leader of the shintennou.

<Pose Tracker> Princess Serenity [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Serenity hears it, even if he doesn't say it. '-meaningless'. Something within her grows cold. It's a wonder that each tear doesn't crystallize into tiny droplets of frost, as her choked shuddering sobs begin to still. He still has to drag her for the first few steps.

But then her feet stomp down with all the petulance of a child, as if she was going to throw a tantrum right there about the idea of Endymion defying her here. Only, she doesn't. A hand hikes up her skirts again and she starts running forward, mechanically, her legs moving like an automaton. There's something hollow in her eyes too, like a part of her just died, and she knows it now.

But she refuses to stay still and refuses to go back, a small amount of steel in her voice as she hisses out brokenly, "I will nuh-not let her death be /meaningless/!"

And some small part of her. Some very small part, now wanted to watch her mother punish them in the name of the moon for taking her friend away. Her hand clenches more tightly against Endymion's, "Not that! If Jupiter doesn't get to find love and do all the things she wanted then Beryl won't get what she wants either!"

It's a small petty defiance, childish in her own way. But mostly... she just feels grief and emptiness as their footsteps sound through crystalline halls.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mars [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjWGdHoltV4

As the focus of Sailor Mars' immediate rage crumples dead to the floor beneath her feet, time seems to separate away from her in opposite directions, a dull haze fogging her brain as her senses slough away from the scene. She coughs, clapping her hand to her face and regarding the blood in her palm with a dispassionate detachment. Blinking slowly, she looks up, feeling drugged.

Corpses litter the room, bloodstains blossoming along the ground like wildflowers. Sailor Jupiter drops before her with an agonizing slowness, and she steps up as though in a trance. Wide eyed and pale cheeked, she moves towards her murdered friend and comrade even while turning to see the Princess..safe and sound even now. Staring at Serenity with ghostly shock, the rictus of bewilderment cracks for a moment, a smile slipping through the facade of her pain.

Colors desaturate from her vision. An idle strand of thought leads her to ponder if Jadeite's final stand had poisoned her. She realizes, after the fact, that she's running, her bare feet slipping and almost tripping upon tiles slicked with ichor and viscera, blood and guts. In the corner of her vision she sees Venus running to the same point she is..dashing to stab the dark skinned demon that slaughtered a woman closer to her than a sister. Her spirit seems to detach from her body, separated strip by strip and connected by terribly tenuous gossamer strands.

She feels the tears stain her face before realizing that she's crying. Stars burst across her vision and it seemed, for a moment, that she lost and regained consciousness several times in erratic succession. Her bleeding leg aches and shrieks out cries that she does not heed. Curving around to come at Kunzite from behind, she dashes towards him, crashing into his back and enveloping the tree trunk of a man in a grapple, exerting all her remaining strength to pin him in place. Her fire sparks all around her, little wisps of flame that die as soon as they emit their light before her entire body immolates. She can't feel anything but an astonishing fatigue as her nerves go numb.

He won't escape Venus' lunge. That seems like a worthy trade for the dwindling candle of her life. She can't tell if she's dead yet or just dying as her eyes give way to darkness and her ears give way to a tinnitus that consumes her hearing before fading with the rest of her.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4J4ldPt7Zrs

Kunzite barely sees it coming and certainly doesn't care. He doesn't want to die, not without fulfilling the wish of his Queen, but he has no reason left to live, either.

Faced with this conundrum, his loyalty to the former, supernaturally heightened by that same toxic power still flickering in Jupiter's corpse, overrules his wishes related to the latter, and he desperately tries to leap out of the way --

-- only to be engulfed by Mars and her flame.

Now his choice is removed, so he can embrace what remains.

Thus when Venus' heart encompasses him, he spreads his arms wide and meets his death with both eyes open, screaming incomprehensibly. There is no poetry left in him to give, only the gibbering void of loss.

And then he, too, is gone.

Kunzite's death engenders a small silence, for now there is no one left to scream. Princess Serenity yet lives, but she is the only native to escape the bloodbath, and the surviving senshi stand within a pit of noble -- and ignoble -- corpses.

But the Moon Kingdom is much larger than this room, and as they emerge from these cracked pillars and smashed glass, they are treated to a far greater serving of carnage.

It is impossible to take it all in at once, in the same way that the mind cannot really process ten million deaths, but can process ten. Let us examine a few threads of this tapestry of massacre in the same way.

The ice rink, previously filled with partygoers upon this national holiday, is slick with blood, not an inch unstained. A few people must have tried to flee, cutting razor paths, but no fleetness on the rink could rescue them from what they met at the edge.

A moon maiden -- perhaps even a moon mother -- fallen, arms spread, in front of the baby that must have been butchered after she fell in his defense. They are on the steps to the palace.

The shattered sanctuary of Queen Serenity's favorite garden, a place of crystals and white lilies, all of it ground beneath the heels of marching soldiers. They wear the boots and cloaks of the Golden Kingdom, but their eyes burn with black energy, energy that coarses out of them with each breath to wither any living thing nearby.

An artist murdered even as she painted her subject, a beautiful mooncat, who leapt to her defense and was strangled for their trouble, then thrown into the sky, where they drift upwards, beginning to freeze as their scant weight escapes the proximate magical protection and is exposed to space.

Ethereal monsters crawling across a raised bridge, an arc suspended in the starry sky, in such thickness of sticky shadow that it comes crashing down beneath the weight of their hatred.

Lovers slaughtered upon balconies.

Guardians tossed aside like trash in the streets.

An army of evil so dense that it is now impossible to tell the Sea of Serenity from the dark side of the Moon.

And at its head...

<Pose Tracker> Haruka Tenoh [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

"You see me," Beryl whispers.

The palace is getting quiet. Blood on white marble. A hand at the end of a crooked arm, draped over the edge of a fountain. A feathery white flower stamped with the overlapping shape of many boots.

"My heralds precede me, but their horn sounds not for you. You know me by my works."

A bedroom door that's scrawled a crimson arc across the floor, something caught beneath it. Water boiling low in a pot, almost evaporated. A rack of spears, eight present, two absent. A violin on the floor next to a burning puddle of oil, almost close enough for the lacquer to catch.

"Finally, Serenity." Her voice prickles with slow rapture. "You know the very shape and meaning of me."

Placing its brawn-thick shoulder against the mast, a youma--broad as a horse is long--groans with its labors, and with a dozen earthlings heaving at the ropes, a great banner swings into place behind Beryl. Its canvas unfurls with a spray of pale moondust, which rapidly disappears into the slow floating sparks that rise from below. High above the burning ruins and sullen legions , its violet surface bears an emblem of twin crowns, the lacy silver atop the crenelated gold, and above them the yellow sun, its rays like the wavy blade of a kris. Before this crest, Beryl.

Queen of queens.

"I saw a silver ladder in the sky," Beryl recounts. Her crimson hair wafts lazily against the breeze, lifted not by the heated air but by sheer puissance of Metallia, shackled in her flesh. "It beckoned me to heaven." Her palm spreads, rises into the air, five red nails held wide. "I grasped this ladder tight," she closes her hand, and a howling bolt of volcanic red savaged the base of a palace tower steadily, until the tower buckles at its foot and pitches forward, crumpling into its own moat. "...and dragged that heaven down." Her poisoned eyes fall to the breezeway leading from the palace to the Crystal Tower, to the tiny figures moving there, paired white and black.


Marble ruptures before the young royals in a hell-scream of red, stone splitting in agony. Beryl's foot touches a nearby tower, the white stars twinkling behind her, Mars a firefly behind her ear. She regards Endymion with an odd hollow expression for a moment. She knew what it felt like to be denied him, knew it keenly and intimately, every room in that mansion her own now. She wondered, now, if she had ever considered what it would be like to have him.

"Endymion," she says, glaring her disgust at the tiny princess at his side for a moment. "Tonight you /become/. I will rest the twin crowns upon your brow. The earth, the moon, the stars; with one throat they will call you King." She extends her hand. "If only you call me... Queen."

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

The Moon is not dead.

But it is dying.

Endymion loves Princess Serenity with all his heart and soul, and that love is a source of strength. Strength to push him forward to strive against an impassible barrier; strength to stand up anew when his closest friends turn against those he would call allies; strength to hold out a brilliant hope in this dark hour. She spoke, time and time again, of her hope - her fervent belief that this disaster would pass - and Endymion tried to believe in that hope.

If it had only been his comrades taking up arms against the Moon, she might have even been correct.

But now, monsters tear down crystal palaces. Now, soldiers of the Earth slaughter man and woman and child alike without a glimmer of mercy. Now, a kingdom falls - a kingdom is slaughtered, utterly consumed by evil.

Endymion had hope, through Princess Serenity. But he also had fear that this greater disaster was at work - for all that his wildest nightmares could not come close to grasping the monument of blood that Beryl has wrought this night.

Crossing a breezeway, Endymion and Serenity are witness to the fall of a kingdom. Endymion, driven as he may be, cannot help but slow his steps in horror at what stands before him - and he turns, abruptly, to spread his cape over the Princess as marble shatters into razor-sharp fragments. That hope - that hope that they can reach the Queen in time, that Princess Serenity's mother can set everything right...

As Prince Endymion turns to face the fiery-haired woman who would be queen, that hope dwindles to next to nothing.

"...tonight, the alliance between two worlds is forever sundered. One kingdom has fallen to support the dreams of another...and I, the prince of the Golden Kingdom, am to reap glory from your victory?" Endymion's hand, so tightly clutching Princess Serenity's...lets go. He steps, for the first time in terrible and bloody minutes, away from the Princess - takes a step towards Beryl.

And then, he takes a second step to the side - putting himself between Beryl and Serenity as he raises his sword to point directly at the conductor of this bloody orchestra. "...then I refuse it, and refuse you - Beryl." No honorific, no title - simply the name of a madwoman. "I refuse the crowns that you would offer me - all the gold and jewels you could offer pale before the noble purity of the woman I love. Of Princess Serenity."

He has two hands - the second reaches to his heart. And to his breast pocket, where a rose is pinned beside his pocketwatch. Not much of a weapon, but in this desperate hour... "Take your armies - liberate the people of /my/ kingdom that you have corrupted, and begone from our sight! The darkness that drives you to conquest...our love will surpass it, this I vow!"

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mercury [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

The armies of darkness encroach on the moon, and Beryl approaches... but -- even as the team starts to crumble -- Mercury still stands, and as long as she does, she refuses to let these armies so encroach. She dares not approach Beryl directly; /that/ will take a miracle.

But she does dare buy time for that miracle to come to pass, and so, she must now leave her friends and go forward into that army. In a flash of light, she summons blades to whirl around her again; in the next moment, she lets loose with a blast of bubbles that render the battlefield hers, rather than Beryl's army's.

She leaps away from Jupiter's corpse, moving with grim purpose toward and onto that raised bridge, and starts the hard work that lies behind any miracle.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Venus [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

The beam of light from Venus' attack fades away, and Venus watches as Kunzite's body collapses to the ground. What she didn't expect was to see Mars standing behind him -- and when Venus watches Mars' body crumble beneath her weight, it's all Venus can do to contain her horror.


Protecting the princess was Venus' sole duty -- but it wasn't something she could do alone. It wasn't something she wanted to do alone. Jupiter, Mercury, Mars -- they had all fought alongside her all this time. She had already lost Jupiter; she couldn't lose Mars too.

Venus staggers towards Mars, dropping to her knees only when she's within arm's length of her. The sword lands with a heavy clank next to her, as Venus uses both hands to shake at Mars' prone form.


<Pose Tracker> Princess Serenity [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

As they move from Crystalline hallway out into the cool air of the dome. A strange scent strikes her nostrils. While she should be looking forward, she instead looks to the side, out onto a greater glimpse of the Moon Kingdom from this corridor. While she can only see a small slice of it, it's enough as she looks up, and sees things floating above the dome. Picking out the small shapes as they briefly eclipse the light of the stars, like asteroids.

She knows they're not asteroids.

Her gaze moves down lower, to pan out to a wider view from what used to be a perfect vantage point in her childhood of her favorite skating rink with small shapes along the edges that she knew must be children. It steals her breath as surely as if the dome had faded. Previously she'd thought it was simply the party that had been invaded, that it had not spread to the rest of the kingdom and its people. Now she knew there was no kingdom left.

The sheer muteness of this place strikes her. It reminds her of her mother's stories of what the moon had been like before they came here. In their history which- she vaguely wonders if it will become prehistory. And she knows then that soon there would be nothing left for her to be an heir /to/.

It was a denial not just of the impossibility of her dream, but that it could have possibly existed in the first place, stealing it right out of her thoughts. This is what the hatred of Earth had done to her loved ones, her people. A hatred whose existence she'd previously denied. After all, if the Golden Prince loved her so, then how could his people? She shuts her eyes tightly, she keeps up the pace, head bowed, the sound of strangled sobs rising from her throat.

And a question kept ringing through her head.

What do I have to live for?

Right now the only answer was on the slim hope that the other Senshi had survived. That her Prince was still right here with her, the evidence in the warmth of his grip. That her mother could stop this. But the crumbling sound of stonework disintegrating as a Palace tower collapses upon itself drowns the thought out of her head. '...Endymion.'

Serenity looks up again, her tearstrewn eyes, hollow with sheer grief, gives way to terror as if mesmerized by the sheer disgust and hatred that exists in this Queen's eyes. And she realizes at that moment, that she's so small, so beneath this woman's notice. Like some timid moon bunny, she withers beneath her gaze, takes a step backwards. Her foot catches on tileway, and she slides down to her rear with only the smallest yelp, her hand sliding out of his as she falls, further dirtying her dress.

And the offer, the offer- she looks away from Beryl, only with great effort, at Endymion. She may have doubted earlier that he'd be able to make her coming age party. She has no doubt what he will say to her offer. Her prince was far too noble, to be susceptible to such a dark offer?

His words, give her the courage to stand, drawing herself upright, slowly, the mere effort almost too much for her under the weight of her grief. And yet after a moment, she addresses her too a little brokenly, but with a measure of courage, "Why?! Why would you do this to our kingdom? What did we do to earn such hatred!? The two of us would have united our two kingdoms under the bonds of love!"

She holds her arms out, palms out, thrusting them down to her side like a child where they become clenched fists, "Why do you hate him so much!? You're offering him a crown, but you're tearing down everything he's strived for on Earth! Everything the Silver Millenium and the Golden Kingdom might have accomplished together!"

Her shoulders slump, her fists unclench "Why?" Her words become quieter, "Why did all these people have to die?" Tears glimmer as they spatter on the ground, "Why did Jupiter have to die?" And Mars, yet she didn't know it, having moved too far away from the battle. "It's not fair. It's not fair that they had to die for your hatred."

She can't say anything else to Beryl, she feels too small beneath that hatred, she can't profess the the true depths of her love for Endymion to her. But she can to him. She takes one step forward, then another, and places herself against his back, leaning her head and whispering softly. "Endymion, my shining Prince. Remember the first time we laid eyes on each other? How far we've come." It had not been love at first sight after all, at least for her. But it soon blossomed into it. "I love you."

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mars [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90dxSgx7RbY

Mars may have been sinking down into the thick bogs of a dark marsh, but it would seem that she hadn't fallen too far for a net to find her. Like a tired woman ready for a sleep that refuses to come, she's so surprised that her eyes open that seeing Venus at the opposite end of her gaze seems almost to be expected. Parting her lips wordlessly, she licks them as she blinks, and realizes that there's still some life left in her. She'd expected to catch the tip of the same blade that her comrade would finish off Kunzite with, not at all anticipating that it would be the sword's sorcery, rather than steel, that would strike the final blow. Her voice cracks as she speaks.


She tries to stand, and winces, remembering her injured leg and the venom seeping into it from a toxic-green shard of malevolence. With shaky hands she shoves Kunzite's heavy body off of her like a fallen log. Gritting her teeth together, she reaches her fingertips into her wound, ignoring the pain to rip the wretched invader free, and plucks its companion from her belly in the same way. Pushing herself up from the ground on wavering arms, she finds her feet with no shortage of awkwardness, looping an arm around Venus' shoulders for support.

The delirium of her duel and debilitation recede, and she remembers that she is the Soldier of War, and that even if the battle's lost she still has a duty that will not abide her dereliction. Climbing to her feet, she slaps herself on either cheek with a shivering palm, and smiles weakly to Venus. "Th-thank you.." In the corner of her vision she catches Jupiter's glassy, lifeless eyes gazing up to the ceiling, and an awful shudder seizes her spine like a wolf whipping its prey back and forth in its jaws.

A woman's voice can be heard, full of malevolence. Mars jerks her head towards it. "Come on..we have to..we have to find the Princess..I don't know what we can do..but we need to be near her when we do it."

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=scUyXaWMyAk

There are many battles being fought as the Moon approaches midnight, and their size is in no way indicative of their importance.

Some are between two or three people; some between thousands.

But the most important battles are all waged within a single heart. It is at a time that seems to bequeath the fewest choices, that choices matter most of all.

The choice to hope.

The choice to stand.

The choice to fight.

The path to the side of Serenity (and Endymion) is no longer petal-strewn or even merely empty. To rejoin their princess, the soldiers of Love and Passion will have to make their own path, through youma so large that they eclipse the Earth in the sky, and so small that they swarm in the hundreds, none larger than a hairpin, all with evilly barbed darts. Humans stand between them, too, the citizens of Earth roused to Beryl's beautiful, terrible banner.

Mercury is already further afield, having spotted a threat that, unanswered, might bring everything to an early end before anything can be done. The enshadowed arc across the Kingdom defines, across its expanse, its life in the simple logistical necessity of air to breathe. If it is wholly destroyed, one mooncat's frozen fate will be that of all that still live, within twenty-one heartbeats' time.

They surge to meet her as she greets them with bubbles and blades, wave after wave after wave of shadow and fang and blood-red, rose-red eyes. They are spiders and sharks, unexpected noises and cruel surprises, bumps in the night in a place that is never day.

They tear at her body with fiery claws and gaping, acidic maws. They attack her spirit with colder weapons, with the emptiness within them that demands to be filled by consumption.

But although comprise a thousand shades of despair, and she is only one, it is not they who are the inexorable tide and she the bursting dam.

<Pose Tracker> Beryl [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Beryl is past even the instinct of fear when faced with a blade. She regards Endymion's sword with no particular interest in it as a weapon, only an awareness of the message it conveys. Her dark lip draws down in a venomous sneer.

"Innocence." She is looking at Princess Serenity. "The kindest word ever coined for the dull stupidity of a farm animal. I wondered what she might place on her side of the scales, that it so overbalances my intellect, my ambition, my curiosity, and all the gifts I have won for you from a country angels fear to tread. Your reply?" Beryl's gaze was peeling Princess Serenity. "/Nothing/. A fugitive and cloistered purity. The void where any semblance of value would have gone... thence you poured your heart. But is it still there, little moon maiden? Do you still feel /pure/?"

She finally let her eyes slither off of the despicable little princess and turns, her profile pale against the chasm of space, to look up at Mars, home of the fiercest of the senshi. It seems a ruddy star at this distance, but its rich soil and clear lakes supports a beautiful kingdom, one which has not known the ravaging nails of war since ages long past. "Perhaps such magnificent purity can sop even a moonful of blood without a blotch... but that it can stain, of this I am sanguine."

Far away through an airless void, the Martian fields begin to tremble. Something beneath them, no, something /between/ that has been there all along, begins to awaken, as Beryl's call reaches out to one that is queen even over her. The famous lakes of Mars begin to boil within only seconds, the mountains tear at themselves as if wild with pain. Fissures split the skin of the planet, belching poison into the atmosphere, which itself is beginning to hiss away. Many of the inhabitants die quickly, but there are some who will survive long enough to see the plants wither, the planet's greenery wilt, leaving only red soil quickly dessicating down to dust.

With the dying planet behind her, Beryl turns back to Endymion and Serenity with a look of blissful satisfaction. "Ah," she admires, drinking in the expression on Serenity's face. "An ideal emotion. That is how I wish you to feel as you die. Endeavor to cling to it even through the pain, would you?" Beryl rolled her wrist out flat as if slinging a marble, and a rapier-thin lance of energy lanced down directly at Princess Serenity.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Venus [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

%tRelief floods over Venus as Mars finally responds, and leans on her for support. Her shoulder is still aching from the blow she took from Kunzite earlier and the ache grows with the extra weight. Still, Venus finds it easy to ignore when there is so much to worry about.

The two make their way towards the sound of Beryl's voice. They're not moving as fast as they could normally -- and their progress is delayed by ambushing packs of soldiers and youma. The magic that had come to her so easily earlier in the night becomes harder and harder to The enemy's forces seem endless -- and with each attack, Venus finds her strength slowly ebbing away. Still, Venus continues forward, propelled forward by her sense of duty and her desire to see her companions survive.

She hasn't seen Mercury since the ball began, and she finds herself hoping, desperately, that somehow she managed to get away. Perhaps she was at the princess' side right now.

"Mars," she says, marching forward, Mars still leaning on her for support. "We need to kill her. It's the only way to protect the princess."

Venus looks at Mars. "If something happens to me, promise me you won't stop, no matter what."

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Venus [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Relief floods over Venus as Mars finally responds, and leans on her for support. Her shoulder is still aching from the blow she took from Kunzite earlier and the ache grows with the extra weight. Still, Venus finds it easy to ignore when there is so much to worry about.

The two make their way towards the sound of Beryl's voice. They're not moving as fast as they could normally -- and their progress is delayed by ambushing packs of soldiers and youma. The magic that had come to her so easily earlier in the night becomes harder and harder to The enemy's forces seem endless -- and with each attack, Venus finds her strength slowly ebbing away. Still, Venus continues forward, propelled forward by her sense of duty and her desire to see her companions survive.

She hasn't seen Mercury since the ball began, and she finds herself hoping, desperately, that somehow she managed to get away. Perhaps she was at the princess' side right now.

"Mars," she says, marching forward, Mars still leaning on her for support. "We need to kill her. It's the only way to protect the princess."

Venus looks at Mars. "If something happens to me, promise me you won't stop, no matter what."

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mercury [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Even though Mercury knows she's one against a thousand... a true warrior is a match for precisely that. Even as those claws bite into her, even as they tear and scrape and wound, Mercury continues to fight. It's a beautiful dance, in its way -- one carried out by someone who knows she can't leave anything undone.

The blades of ice, previously whirling at her waist, lance out and return, some splintering as they're parried, but others finding their mark inside the hearts of youma. With a twirl and a spread of her arms to either side, she calls forth more -- and then with a forward thrust of her arms, she sends more flying from the bridge with a bitter-cold blast of icy, fresh water.

A youma's weapon finds its mark in her shoulder; rather than remove it -- something she knows will consign her to a quick death -- she simply spins back from it, issuing forth another ice-cold blast. Once she has space, she removes the blade... and then freezes the wound. It hurts -- but it'll hold.

She continues her backpedal, swinging her arms forward and pouring a massive fresh-water wave forth. It takes everything she has to summon the ice, the slush, the water, the wind -- but it's a rain to wash the world clean. Everything that stood on the bridge is swept away...

...but one final assailant, having hung on to the side rather than advanced through the wave, slips through. Its bladed claws strike true, cracking the ice the Princess had placed over her wound as she recovers from the exertion. It is, of course, punished for its transgression with what is, in comparison, a limp blast of mist... and at last, the fighting ceases.

For a moment, the only sound left is the breathing of Princess Mercury, ragged and weak. That youma's crack in the ice over her wound begins to spread, though, and with her magic spent, it can't be fixed.

he ice shatters, and a moment after, that breathing ceases too, with a dull thud.

The bridge is still.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xO_w9Gt_skg

He has support at his back. That's what strikes Endymion most of all - that Serenity's heart is in alignment with his. That she too mourns the death of what could have been a grand alliance, a marriage between the system's two greatest kingdoms. That there is terrible tragedy here, of thousands - or millions of lives lost. She presses herself to his back, and he leans back in return. Leans back - before half-turning, putting an arm around Princess Serenity.

For a moment, as a kingdom dies, as a madwoman spits hatred for all that the Moon represents - he has eyes only for his princess. "I remember - that day, and a hundred others...how far indeed. Serenity, my radiant Princess - I love you."

That glorious moment comes to an end as the screams of death and hatred surrounding them rise up in symphony - but the tragedy seems muted for this moment. Endymion turns back to Beryl. "To your intellect, she offers hope. To your ambition, she offers kindness. To your curiousity, she offers wonder - and rather than seek to win prizes, she would witness the wonders of the worlds by my side." The arm around Serenity's side holds her a touch closer. "Even amid this tragedy beyond compare that you have wrought, Beryl - the woman I love has faith that all of us can find happiness. How can this not be admirable - a belief in a shining future?"

Endymion looks up to Beryl, seeking a reply - drawing on Serenity's radiant optimism to bear hope that she might yet see reason - and sees the conqueror's move to slay just in time. The arm around Serenity pulls sharply, throwing her back behind him -

And Prince Endymion, heir to the Golden Kingdom of Earth, steps into the death meant for another.

Rose petals scatter on lunar winds as brass and glass crack - flower and pocketwatch taking the first bite of Beryl's hatred. It's far from enough to dull those fangs, however - but just enough that Endymion's body can claim the rest, leaving none as remainder for the Princess behind him. Another splatter of blood to further mar her once-pristine white dress, but no more.

He turns from Beryl, turns to Serenity as blood streams from the corner of his mouth. A mouth that manages a final warm smile. "...my Serenity. I will always..."

With these words, so falls Prince Endymion.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mars [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mo3StFtLIlM

Closing her eyes and focusing in condensed meditation even as she walks, Sailor Mars displaces her magical energies outside of her, conjuring up a serpentine dragon of fire and fury to free her need to concentrate. The crackling sounds of snapping flames comprise its vicious snarls as it slashes, devours, and charges through the unholy monstrosities that seek to bar their path forward. At this moment that label seemed as appropriate for the soldiers of Earth as any other creature.

She nods to Venus, her resolve unshaken. Just before she speaks, she doubles over as though stabbed in the stomach. The crimson jewel signet ring upon her finger bursts like a bomb and screams like a stabbed pig. Mars' eyes roll to the back of her head for a moment as a psychic hurrican tosses her mind about like a loose twig. Blood mixes with spittle and descends down her chin from a slack jaw, and her breath takes on an audible wheeze.

She had no inkling of how, but knew that her home had just suffered obscenely, perhaps fatally. Her vision left her, replaced by a sickly green film as though she'd sharply pressed her eyeballs past closed lids. It returned sporadically, but without consistency. Her capacity for grief and rage had already been taxed near its limit, and it's all she can do to channel that which threatened her sanity into the task at hand. The salamander at her side triples in size, and grows white hot, snapping and snarling at nothing at all.

Her voice is a strained whisper, like a snakeskin rustling through dead leaves. "I'll kill her..I won't even leave bones left..I'll kill every Earthborn demonlover I see..I'll disintegrate them.." Bowing her head down for a moment, she violently shakes it up, like she's trying to snap her own neck without hands. Her face is a rictus, her teeth bared in an animal snarl. "I won't stop. No matter what. You promise the same."

<Pose Tracker> Princess Serenity [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Serenity has never felt so small before. Never felt so insignificant. Beryl denies that her existence has any value whatsoever. To Beryl's question, she doesn't answer it, but in her heart she knows the answer is 'no'. She doesn't feel pure at all. She feels like she's shivering out of her skin, beneath the sheer magnificence of this woman's merest look. She didn't even have what Endymion thought he saw within her. She looks up at Beryl, her eyes just as hollow, empty as if the innocence were leeched from her by her mere words, much less her actions.

She sees Beryl turn to the distant red star. She knows then what she's implying. "No." It's a soft whisper that becomes more frantic, "No - please! Please don't!" She couldn't bear the thought of one of her best friend's kingdoms suffering too. And even if she can't see it from here, she knows it somewhere, Mars has suffered greatly, "How could you - How could you!?" But she already knew from the state of the Moon Kingdom, exactly what Beryl was capable of.

Its then that she feels his arm around her. Despite all the sorrow she feels, just the mere sound of the words, 'I love you.' make her wonder for a moment if perhaps, even through all of this, that their love - might in fact be capable of surviving all. Beryl no longer has her attention, as she listens to Endymion speak of her value, something beyond the purity she feels she doesn't have. Indeed, feels like she /never/ had.

She leans her head against him, she basks in that feeling of love as she presses against him.




She doesn't see the killing blow coming, instead she just feels the sensation of falling, falling backwards as she's flung behind him. Her ignorance of the truth of the moment is enough that her impact is marked by her a dull yelp, rather than a shriek of grief. No.

Stunned by her fall, she sees rose petals scatter. She hears glass shatter. She feels an Earthful of blood stain her dress. It's only when he hits the ground that she realizes what has happened. She doesn't get up, she crawls over to him on all fours like the animal Beryl implied her of being, sobbing as clasps a single one of his once strong hands within her own. She listens to his final words, with only incoherent sobs wracking her, and feels the warmth recede from his hands. Then raises her head, and screams aloud out of grief, and nothing else like she was sounding the death knell of the Golden Kingdom and Moon Kingdom both.

If Beryl had struck again, right there, she'd have received no resistance, for all Serenity could do was cling to the pain of love, and love lost in the space of several breaths.

She asks the question again.

What did she have to live for?

It's hard to tell how long it takes the thought to still her sobs even a little, and while she's still wracked with grief, she looks back down at him through shimmering eyes. He looks so peaceful, she calms a little - then more, in fact, she's never felt so calm, so certain of her course. She whispers, her words not for Beryl, but for the spirits of her friends and her Golden Prince, "I'm so sorry my love. The brave thing to do would be to keep moving forward without you, wouldn't it?"

The fingertips of her other hand move to the blade that had clattered to the ground, she fingers it. She cuts the tip of her finger on the edge of the blade and doesn't care, the momentary spike is nothing compared to what she feels, "Maybe you saw kindness, hope, and wonder in me - but all I see is a selfish, clumsy crybaby. The same as I was the day we met, but also different now. You were the last missing piece of what I wanted in my life. I learned so much from my time with you. But with every lesson, I moved further and further away from learning how to live without you."

She works the hilt into one hand, the sword is heavy, she has to sacrifice holding his hand to lift it steadily, a thing she absolutely doesn't want to do. It feels so cold. Colder than him. When she lifts it before her eyes, it looks like a blurred surrealist version of a sword, before her tears. Not real. And yet very real. "I know this will render all of your deaths meaningless. Everyone..." She turns it over with her hands, almost dropping it in the gesture, before steadying it. "...please forgive me my selfishness. I hope wherever you are that we can all be together again."

There's nothing romantic about her sliding the sword within her chest. Only breathless gasping, as she sits there on her knees upright for a few moments, her gown sopping up most of her blood at first, before it spills all over the ground. Of her last thoughts, the first are of the Queen, if she's alive. How she'd turned out to be such a disappointment to her. That she'd raised a girl that didn't have the courage to carry the weight of such an important legacy. Then her friends and Endymion. She imagined through the haze of pain how long it'll take her pleading with their ghosts for forgiveness for failing them so completely by doing this. It might take her a few millenia, but she didn't care.

She'd learn the patience of eternity when it came to earning back their love.

And then she falls to the ground, beside Endymion, soundless other than the clatter of metal, her golden hair strewn everywhere, before it too mingles with the pooling blood and is stained crimson. As her final gesture, she puts her fingertips against those of his hand. She moves to curl them around them, but before she can, the life flees Princess Serenity.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Venus [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

"I promise."

Only a few hour sago, Venus had been putting on makeup and straightening her hair for a night of dancing and partying. Now, she was standing on a battlefield, one hand tightly supporting her fellow soldier, the other grasping a sword.

Never had she imagined that this was how this night was going to end -- with bloodshed and with ruin. Her expectations of the evening were so divorced from the reality that a part of her was still battling denial.

And then it finally comes into view -- Serenity and Beryl. Already, there's a body slumped on the ground -- a figure she can't make out from this distance, but hopes isn't Mercury.

Serenity lifts the sword, and Venus' heart surges with hope -- hope that the princess can hold her own against Beryl until she and Mars reach her side.

But Serenity never directs the blade at Beryl.

Instead, she points it at herself.

Nothing in her years upon years alive could have ever prepared her for this. Ever since the day she was born, Venus knew her destiny; her parents had told her as much when she was a child.

Protect the moon princess.

But now --


Her shout comes out a fraction of a second too late. By the time the name leaves her lips, Serenity has fallen. Venus relinquishes her grasp on Mars; her now-free hand shoots to the grip of her blade, now directed at Beryl. Venus' blue eyes are piercing -- filled with rage.


<Pose Tracker> Beryl [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Beryl regards Endymion coldly as he lies atop his lady love's lap. He's succeeded, if nothing else, in insulting her. It's hard for her to imagine a worse humiliation than knowing that she desired a man who would throw his life away for /that/. Somehow, however, she is unable to taunt them, to breach the soft moment they share, or the grief he leaves in his wake. Perhaps devils, too, have a country they fear to tread.

Her fangs begin to show, however, as Princess Serenity begins to orbit her own demise. Now this, this is a delight. She just purrs atop the warmth of her own cruelty as the skinny little princess arranges and executes her own demise. In the silence afterwards, she soaks in her own victory, briefly able to ignore her sense of unease at the ambiguous end to her quest for Endymion.

Her attention is briefly diverted by Princess Mercury's doomed sally from the gates. Alone, she puts waste to an army that had suffered few losses conquering a whole city earlier today, but it is unseemly to trifle over loose change like that when one bears the power of Metallia.

"Even now you have warriors in your service," she remarks to Serenity's limp body. "Should any of the other three remain alive, I should like to wring more despair from them." There is a terrible whimsy in her eyes as she performs for her deceased audience. One of the few kindnesses of today would be that the citizens of Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter would never know that their deaths, and those of everyone they have ever known, were the result of a brief, sadistic fancy.

Beryl works from the inside out. Mercury, the smallest and most scholarly kingdom, is also the most vulnerable. Its atmosphere is nothing but a bridal veil resting lightly across its brow, its weak gravity barely retaining it. All Beryl has to do is lift the veil. As one might expect from Mercurians, many residents survive via hastily retrieved breathing devices or retreat within sealed areas, but the air was an afterthought: without the atmosphere the temperature suddenly matches that of the surrounding space. Where it is currently night on Mercury, the learned populace freeze to death rapidly. Where it is day, they roast amidst their own books. Where it is dusk or dawn, they are permitted the dubious mercy of waiting.

The fine arts academies on Venus, each built on the highest hill of their respective settlement in honor of the primacy of beauty in Venusian philosophy, are given the honor of the first death. A yellow gas rich with poison is descending, the final curtain for this idyllic stage, and the artists in residence die gasping. It seems, at first, that Venus may remain a silent memorial to itself, the buildings and sculptures intact in the now-sterile air, the strongest of them to last for millenia untold. But after a moment, the paint on the academy easels begins to flake and fall to the ground. Little will be spared the corrosion as the poison curtain slumps into the valleys.

The largest of the planets is also the most lush. Jupiter's forests are famous for their beauty, the strong spines of their massive trunks representing the unbreakable spirit of its people. A strong planet deserves a strong punishment, and Jupiter's begins with its capital, the city being singled out by a dense storm, which shatters windows and drags roof tiles to the sky. As the capital suffers, the ground beneath it begins to bulge and buckle, hissing vents of gas escaping, the unbreathable clouds too vast to have ever been stored within. They feed into the storm above, which continues to grow and spread. As though Metallia were stabbing the great kingdom in the same vein over and over, the storm continues to torture the capital, the gasses spreading across its entire surface, too dense to leak into space on their own. This process will continue for months, and even when it is spent, that same hateful storm will gnaw at the memory of a city, a livid red blister on the surface of an unfathomably large sphere of vapors. Perhaps Beryl seeks to mock the planet for its own size.

Yet it is not her power that authors this destruction, merely her direction of another's. Beryl turns back to the bodies of Endymion and Serenity with no sign of exertion and several of satisfaction. "Endymion," she sighs. "Perhaps you still deserve a state burial in your own kingdom. But /you/," Beryl's voice seethes pettily as she takes a step towards the crumpled princess, reaching her hand out. "You, I will pay the honor of devising some /particularly/ ignoble disposal..."

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mars [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> http://kiwi6.com/file/mthp9eubqp

Serenity falls, and Mars knows in that moment that they're too late. She can feel Mercury flicker out nearby, her waters gone still and evaporating into nothingness. She's failed everything, in every way. Her people, her princess, her companions and charges and everybody she's ever known. She's failed the existence that she knows. Everything, piece by unrelenting piece, has been reduced to ashen oblivion.

She's calmer than she ever would have guessed. Instead of surrendering to despair, the death of all that she's ever loved burns everything in her life superfluous to a single final purpose. She's going to slaughter that woman. She's already dead..but she'll complete the cycle. Oblivion's blaze will not stop short of its all encompassing potential. Mars will see to that. If nature still lives through the day, then all of their remnants will fuel whatever will come of their passing. It isn't for her to know.

Hugging Venus weakly, she plants a fleeting kiss on her friend's cheek, and smiles with as much love and kindness as she has left to her. "I'm so lucky to have known you. I'm so lucky to be near you at the end."

The alabaster drake that embodies her spirit of vengeance tears forward, combusting precious oxygen in its wake as it shrieks with all of her rage. Seizing upon the red-haired witch with psychotic fury and savage strength, its snake-like form coils around her, every point of its constricting contact bursting into steel-melting flames. The hard-coded survival instinct inherent to Mars and any other living thing has been overridden. Her spirit manifests in its fullest capacity with no thought of seeing another sun-cycle. She's accepted death and she'll make the most of it.

The raven-haired princess of a freshly-butchered world sprints forward with all that her legs have left to give; she has nowhere else to walk. Her nervous system dutifully flares up with pain. She shunts it aside with impatience. Her fiery familiar wraps itself around Beryl's neck and tightens like a python, strangling with a searing fury. When Mars reaches her she's carried by pure adrenaline. Reaching her hands up, twin fists clasped together, she creates a conduit for her soul itself into a dagger-like shape. Driving the blade down, she carves her planet's sigil into Beryl's chest; A wide and looping bow, a slash of an arrow with piercing head and feathered notches, sliding through a heartlike sphere emanating in a line capped by a ninety degree corner.

Her muscles shudder and give way, and she nearly collapses onto the frame of her hated foe. She doesn't snarl, doesn't growl, doesn't grimace or hiss or curse. Her face is an impassive mask as her eyes bore holes with diamond-tipped drillbits. And she murmurs in Beryl's ear. "I give you the harvest of death that you've sown. Collect on your wage and die in agony."

And the last of her soul poured out onto the fiend, staining the ground and giving way to its imminent evaporation. Mars had died and its princess has died with it.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Venus [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Everyone is dead.

This realization settles in the pit of Venus' stomach, grounding her where she stands. She can still feel where Mars' lips touched her cheek moments before and she knows that it's the last time she'll feel the warmth of her friend's touch once more.

She's all that's left.

Venus' hands tighten around the grip of the sword. She couldn't let herself succumb to despair. She was the last one left. No matter what, she had to make sure that Serenity was avenged -- that the planets and princesses of Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, and Venus had the justice they deserved before this all came to an end.

Venus suddenly starts moving. She races forward, faster than Venus thought she was capable of, sword directed at its approaching target: Queen Beryl herself.

She had to see this through, no matter what.

<Pose Tracker> Beryl [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Beryl nearly has her avaricious claws around one of Serenity's long golden tails when she heard the scream. It's the shriek of flame swallowing air, but it may as well be from a living creature of myth, for the rage in that sound cannot be mere illusion. Beryl turns, her twisted visage not entirely distinct from a personification of rage itself, for while she does not fear the flame, she is already irritated by enough divergences from her well-refined mental script for this night.

The phoenix locks around her body, shielding it from view with its own white-hot glow before exploding, the flames sluicing up into the air before dissipating slowly. Beryl stands, tall and viperous, the air around her still resembling an industrial oven, but of no particular inconvenience to her now. "Sailor Mars," she greets, her irritation starting to give way to cruelty. "I am gratified that you, in particular, survived this long; your spiritualistic pretensions will only garner you a more vivid experience of your home's agony."

The flame wraps Beryl's neck tight, and though she manages to get one hand partly beneath it, the heat is considerably beyond what she expected from Sailor Mars. Her eyes narrow as she switches from outright dismissive to mere total confidence, and she rips the coil violently from herself.

The distraction played its role, however, and Mars is upon her. The mark she carves, the mark of War, burns lantern-bright for a few moments as Beryl staggers back. The heat of that sigil feels as though it were written in metal from the core of the Earth, and the air around Beryl wobbles and twists under its influence. Then it goes off like a bomb, swallowing both Beryl and Mars for a moment.

Beryl can feel that Mars is spent, and does not attempt to free herself of the enemy warrior. The place on Beryl's chest that bore the rune has some ashy blotches in the vague shape of said mark, but the skin beneath is unbroken. The Silver Millenium has known no such flame as that authored by the dying Mars, perhaps, but Metallia is far older, and knows much of suffering that the universe has forgotten. The dark queen's crimson lips curl at Mars's threat.

"Your princess died before you," Beryl whispers back, the relish in her voice extravagant and keen. It is the worst insult she can imagine for a Sailor Senshi.

Beryl permits Mars to fall to the ground. Mars's raw destructive power had always been the envy of those who valued such things, and though she tells herself she should have expected it, Mars's success at drawing metaphorical blood from her invincible form is disturbing. Lifting her palm, Beryl lets her arm jerk under the impact of a slim, powerful blast of energy. To finish the job, she thinks. If she had left it at that, she might have noticed Venus. Instead, she fires again, and once more. From Venus's rapidly approaching vantage, she can see the arrogant umbrage in Beryl's broad shoulders, and the sad, puppet-like jerks she is causing Mars's limp, gloved arm. By the time Beryl lifts her head at the footsteps, it is too late for her to do anything but make eye contact.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Venus [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Venus' eyes flash to Beryl's just a second before her blade strikes the redhead's chest. The sword finds its target easily, but Venus has to press her weight forward to push the blade clean through her body.

She's exhausted. The generals, the army of enemies, the deaths of her friends -- all of it had ripped at her, leaving her hollow and tired. But Venus was struck with a sudden surge of energy the moment she watched Beryl desecrate Mars' body.

Simply killing Beryl was no longer enough.

With a jerk of the wrist, Venus twists the sword where it's lodged inside of her body.

"I won't forgive you...!" It's becoming more and more difficult for Venus to contain her rage. "Your death won't be enough! For all you've done -- for all of it -- I'll give up all my dreams to see that yours end in ruin! No matter what it takes!"

<Pose Tracker> Beryl [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

It feels painfully unfair. Not that she came so far, sacrificing innocence so long ago that she can't remember what it feels like, squinting in the noxious dark for power no one else would touch. Not that achieved glory, only to die onstage accepting the applause. Not that she will die alone while that noisome, chirpy little princess dies by the side of a man who loved her. What seems unfair, right now, is that she lost the moment. She turned, she met Venus's furious blue eyes, and then the sword was just already through her, had already /been/ through her. She skipped a step and her emotions grope for it fruitlessly. She knows she will die and she knows she will die with that piece still missing.

She stares, long clawed fingers splayed wide but somehow unwilling to approach the weapon that is ending her, mouth not gaping but simply parted vacantly. Then Venus twists, and the pain makes her screech, her lips peeling from scarlet-tinged fangs as she clutches Venus's forearms weakly. She looks down at the sword, and in recognizing it, understands what she had previously simply known. She cannot survive this. Yet something is prickling in Venus's palms, even through the gloves; what malificent power animates Beryl this night cannot be killed cleanly.

"Eaya-/hah/," she manages a brief, convulsive laugh. "Hah! Hah hah ghakh-HAH!" Her livid eyes find Venus's again. "Look--aroundyou," she breathes, the words tripping and bumping. Her lips are gleeful but her eyes hold something different.

What is around them? A bone-white palace, silent save for the dripping. A smouldering, butchered paradise. Four planet-queendoms more dead than alive and all the more fortunate the further they are to the former. Three lonesome outriders, a frail husk around a solar system already beginning to rot. And the endless stars, perhaps already beginning to teem with beings who had hidden from the Silver Millennium. Beryl can imagine the very firmament beginning to squirm, the black between the stars revealed as nothing but the glistening carapaces of a trillion trillion roaches.

Corruption is suddenly spilling from Beryl's transfixion and through the blade that dared lance Metallia from her vessel. The enchanted metal begins to bubble with it, pockmarks sizzling on its surface as the weapon of legend strives against the foreign influence and succeeds only in maintaining its own form. Venus is no greater impediment to the sudden unseelie rush of poison malice. She may be less.

Beryl's lips move weakly, her own body no longer strong enough to withstand Metallia either. "Ever," she confides, and her last thoughts will be given to the irony of Venus's threat. "Were my dreams..." Her hands slip from Venus's forearms. "...of... ruin."

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Venus [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

The corruption begins to take hold of Venus' arms, searing away her white gloves and pocking her white skin. She only barely manages to pull the sword out of Beryl's form before she drops it to the ground -- then drops to her knees.

Tears are stinging at her eyes now. Frustration, pain, sadness all come burbling to the surface. As certain as Beryl's death was to her moments before, Venus' death is certain to her now as the corruption makes its way to her shoulders.

She lets out a shout of pain, then falls forward, holding her body up only by the ebbing strength of her own arms. She looks over at Mars' body, wishing that she was there. If she were able to hold her hand one last time, it might make this easier but --

-- she doesn't want to risk corrupting Mars' body. Not when Beryl had already done so much damage already. Mars deserved better.

Venus slumps forward, the tears dribbling down her cheeks and onto the ground. And then, Sailor Venus is no more.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> http://ghibli-playlist.tumblr.com/post/104928520037/despair-joe-hisaishi-the-tale-of-the-princess

You are in pain.

You -- you who are dreaming, whether the waking dream upon the surface of the Moon, or the sleeping dream in beds across Tokyo and across time -- you dreamed of death, of hearts bursting and breath departing, but not of what comes after.

Instead you find yourself transported somewhere... else.

This is a place untainted by blood or dark energy or evil intention, the sacred sanctuary of the sacred heart of the galaxy.

It is pale, but not the white of sterility. Translucence, transcendence, rainbows refracting in silverine, crystalline facets...

This is not death, indeed. This is the opposite. You are the opposite, and in your hand you hold a conduit to the fires of creation.

It burns your hand with an old curse, as you draw it from your heart and place it upon the wand that is a symbol of your station, yet another expression of the Royal Family of the Moon. You knew this would happen someday, that your end would come in its wielding, the next time you took it up and expressed its full power through the conduit of your soul. It was ordained, and you knew fear, fear of the end of eternity.

Fear for your legacy. How does a miracle worker wreak her last miracle? What dare she choose, knowing she will never again make a wish?

You are in pain because for too long you chose nothing, you abdicated choice with prayers that inaction would be enough, that the inexorability of your power would ward off those last few opponents who had not already been defeated by your hand.

And now, because you did nothing, because you -- you personally, you and only you -- might have been able to prevent this catastrophe not just with a miracle that is too little and much too late, but with philosophy, with a million crystal clear choices too small to have noticed at the time but in the scathing light of hindsight, blatant, obvious, from relaxing diplomatic restrictions to encouraging those in your shadow to rise to stand in the sun on their own, or even simply compromising to end a party early and send your greatest warriors to protect their homelands --

-- You might have done, but you didn't. And now virtually everyone and everything you've ever loved is dead.

And you love everyone and everything /individually/, you've embodied compassion for so long that you've long since forgotten how to do otherwise, to be anything else. The people of the Moon, of the Earth, of Mars and all the other worlds within your purview, each loss is felt personally, because you are uniquely capable of comprehending ten million deaths, ten billion, individually and collectively.

How is it that your heart can pound in your throat as you run down the spiral steps of the tower, when you know that your heart has shattered into as many pieces as there are deaths on your hands, on your head, and all of them murdered in the last hour alone?

You burst onto the breezeway, your hair instantly tugged upwards by the maelstrom raging around your holy palace, and discover a rare truth that you had not already known in thousands of years of existence:

Coming upon your daughter's corpse hurts more than ten billion other deaths combined. You have never embraced the calculus of utilitarianism -- perhaps to your peril -- but as the clock strikes midnight on the Moon Kingdom but never for your sweet child's coming of age, you wish that you did. It would be less terrible.

Would it be, though, really? Can anything really make holding your dead princess in your arms any easier?

Wrenching your gaze away from her face and the grief you see there in a rictus mirror of your own, you stare up at the sky, directly at the distant and baleful sun, and discover a second truth, that the answer is 'yes'.

Because another power writhes up there, eager to consummate its victory, to guarantee that this slaughter is forever, that the ending is not a wildfire that cleanses the ground, but a toxic waste that can never renew.

And having something to fix -- though you will never be able to set aright what has happened today, never ever make up for your failure -- you still find the agency comforting, the opposition a familiar refuge in a heartscape blasted beyond recognition.

You cannot balance these scales... and your lasting belief that you had to do so alone is what led to your downfall.

But others might succeed where you have failed, if only they had the chance. If only they had time.

You are in pain because you know you will never be able to join them. There are loopholes and revolving doors, there are friendships and loves that span lifetimes, but yours is the price that must be paid on the altar of second chances.

You will pay it gladly and you would do it again, and though you feel regret, you balance it against belief in what will come after, what flowers will grow in the soil your fallen trunk creates, your shadow lifted as surely as the malevolent one floating above.

Metallia's nigh-omnipotence blasts you back a step as she glares down at you, freed from the corporeal bonds of Beryl's body to express herself without the boundaries, the restrictions of flesh.

But you have its advantages -- you have a heart.

And you have a miracle, a wishmaker.

You know all too well how dangerous wishes are -- it's why you rejected a recent proposal to spread them more widely, to harvest their abeyance.

A wish is how all of this started, at least superficially, weakening the bars of Metallia's solar cage in the name of making life better for a few million people.

You feel satisfaction in the knowledge that the last wish of your ancient heart will also be how it ends. As wishes go, it is raw and unformed, uncalculated, even thoughtless, the sort of wish that stories caution girls against making. History might remember you as a myth and claim your wish was made out of brilliant insight, sublime compassion, but in your final moments, your truth is desperation.

Your truth is need.

Your truth is despair.

You raise your miracle high, and feel the intoxicant of infinite potential flow through you for the final time.

Above your wand, above your palms, it unfolds from a sphere into a many-petaled blossom, a form it has never before taken, never been molded into by exposure to this astonishing level of pain, and, you pray, will never be taken again.

You must protect your daughter, and the worlds that you failed.

"Never again shall darkness touch these shores."

The sound of your own voice breaking the deathly silence on the Moon is a more terrible battle cry than any scream.

It is so simple, there's a dreadful clarity in your heart now, adamant-firm resolution, as Metallia disappears because you have simply wished her away. What a straightforward solution. It sears your heart with cauterizing satisfaction. No more darkness. The unsavable will be safe at last.

Thousands, millions of motes of light stream past you as they, too, are banished beyond the reach of Earth; red and black and silver, and every other color too, because darkness comes in every hue, even the pretty ones.

The Earth needs time to heal, and its people need more than that. The fear in the eyes of the dead haunts you, from the mother defending her child from monsters to Beryl herself, hateful Beryl, who without genuine belief in magic, concrete awareness of it, might have remained miserable and brokenhearted, but at least not possessed. Even at her worst, would she have wanted any of this without the flames of her heart fanned by a vastly greater evil?

You doubt it. And you think, both forwardly and with unblinking cynicism, that given the way that an Age of Magic failed to last, was destroyed from within, that the future ought to be built on a stronger foundation.

"Never again shall wonders blight the innocent."

Let them sleep sweetly, truly blissful in ignorance. Let them dream of magic but make miracles in better ways, the harder miracles to enact, the ones that require no artifacts or contracts or legacies, but kindness and forgiveness, friendship and trust.

You burn with strong faith in humanity, that they embody a greatness far beyond any crystal, and will ascend above any Millennium, if they're only allowed to try.

You just won't let them try magic anymore.

And let those miracles, wrought by open hands and open hearts, be protected from that which no amount of wishing will ever be able to prevent forever. Let the future be brighter than this present could have ever been, ignited lambent and glorious by the hearts of everyone who dares to love, who dares to hope, and who dares to fight for both.

"Never again shall hope shine alone!"

Imbued with the dying embers of your very soul, you feel this wish pass from your heart into reality, a new fundamental constant writ into existence, and you know that it was the best you had. It isn't a perfect solution, but you don't care. If you've learned anything from the lightning-fast destruction of your civilization, it is that there will always be darkness.

Now, there will also always be light to oppose it. The battle may be eternal, wrought inevitable through your words, but at least it will be fought fairly.

You are in pain, as the Ginzuishou razes your existence into literal rather than figurative light, uses you as the crucible upon which the future will be forged.

You close your eyes and cast your hands to the sky. You feel rather than see the Moon Rod and Ginzuishou fade from view, feel motes of moonlight rise from the corpses around you until there is nothing left on this or any world but rubble.

And the few survivors on the other planets, and the countless masses of Earth, are already twisted and tainted beyond redemption, suited only to serve darkness, to fight amongst themselves for scraps of malevolent affection and pathetic power. You breathe a sigh of relief as they collectively breathe their last, freed from that fate worse than death to be reborn once again as truly human, and know that you, too, only have a few heartbeats remaining before the end.

Tears pour down your face. "Let her go where she is most needed," you whisper, not an oath sworn on the Ginzuishou but a mother's prayer for her daughter, more puissant than anything shaped by your lips before.

"And please... let them all find happiness."

The pain finally stops, the gift of any ending.

Everything fades away... leaving dreamers to their dreams, and five young women standing amidst the ruins of the Moon.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Moon [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

From pain to numbness to darkness slipping into an eager void. Her consciousness jolts back to feeling pain again so abruptly. An age unto an age from now, a daughter will wonder how she could possibly live up to this legacy. Seeing it from this perspective, watching and feeling from the perspective someone who can comprehend the deaths of people as numerous as the stars and feel so much for each of them... it certainly feels like she never could.

It's often said that parents should never outlive their children. While she won't for long, it is still terrible to see it through her eyes. An additional pang of guilt that resonates with her old soul. Had she known her mother's grief, would she have tried to cling to survival for just a few more moments? She realizes that her answer would still be a selfish no.

For Princess Serenity had never truly had to deal with the bottomless black chasm of grief. She'd never had to understand despair. Never had to face cruelty in it's purest forms. Untested by it, she was rendered undone by it. And it was no fault of the friends and Prince she loved so much in her eyes. She felt like it was entirely her own.

Miracles wrought out of cynicism and despair to bring such light. Hope that belongs only to the future, and not to the one rendering these miracles. She feels each emotion well up within her, as if they're her own; feeling on several levels like a soul tethered unto her. In a way it feels so fitting, that this connection be at her end, like it was at her beginning.

And then the pain is gone, albeit briefly.

Pink clad footsteps stagger on crumbled stonework, before she comprehends it's over. Only to begin anew, as every new memory stabs within her skull like razor sharp edges for her mind to slide up against, including that of cold steel in her chest. Her hands briefly reach out to the others, before they recoil, as if undeserving of their comfort.

Tears fall from eyes that are her own again, as she slides down to the stone, unable to hold up her own weight. Right now the memories have all been rammed into her skull so quickly that she has difficulty seperating the girl who is Usagi Tsukino from the one who is Princess Serenity, she still feels her helplessness in the face of adversity so acutely that she completely forgets the strength she'd shown in this one. And thus she cannot forgive herself by simply since in her perception the tragedy happened mere moments before, knows that their sacrifices were repaid only by the betrayal of her past self's suicide, "I'm sorry! I'm so sorry!"

She lowers her head, and starts sobbing into her hands, which already have sparkling tears flowing past the gaps in her fingertips her words are muffled, "I f-failed you! I failed all of y-you! You all tried suhso hard! And I m-made it all so m-m-meaningless because I was such a c-coward!"

And even though just moments ago, she felt her mother's love for her, greater than that of ten billion people, she remembers the accusation of her false spectre, wrought on the night of Obon. "We w-were given another chance and so far I've d-done nothing to live up to her legacy! Y-You've all given up so much to protect someone who's worth-!" She remembers Beryl's wicked derision. What did she have to balance against the scales of such a being? She felt she had none of Mars' passion, Mercury's wisdom, Jupiter's courage, Venus' commitment to duty, or even Endymion's nobility. "-absolutely nuhthing!"

<Pose Tracker> Ami Mizuno [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

It's a long road from the Silver Millennium back to the present -- but it flies by in an instant. Sailor Mercury -- now Ami Mizuno, not the Princess of the planet closest to the sun -- stands with her friends, shaken by her experience.

The instant that Sailor Moon begins to cry, though, she shakes off that shakenness and moves toward her friend. "Sailor Moon..." she starts, softly; it's hard to hear those words from Usagi. That she's worth nothing. That she made it all meaningless. In the past, perhaps, that may have been true... perhaps in the past, the actions they took were ultimately fruitless, and Princess Serenity stood at the center of that fruitlessness. ... but...

"... you were my first friend," she offers -- her voice a whisper amid the ruins. "You're worth a lot to me." And while she knows she's only one person -- that in this moment, the weight of her life can't be expected to outstrip the weight of the ten billion in the past... she wants, so badly, for it to be a start.

She glances to Sailor Jupiter immediately, then to Luna, and finally the rest of the Senshi, opening her mouth to say something else, perhaps to appeal to her to somehow help -- but manages nothing.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Jupiter [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Where she was standing once before, Sailor Jupiter finds herself standing again. There is no ball; there are no rivers of blood, no blades in her, not even true buildings any longer. There are only ruins. Ruins, and...

And tears, not now for her own death, but for that feeling, that one woman's love and wish and /need/. The fact of Jupiter's past life, of who she was, of everything she'd lost...

But all of that feels so distant in comparison to such a heart. How can she focus now upon herself in the face of a love that...

Her own pain will wait. her own vivid memories of the beauties of what was lost are not gone; her own despair has not gone away to some place she can never remember. But that spark remains with her, and now...

And now Jupiter slowly looks up, green eyes taking in the ruins around her, the stairs, that awful sword. She'd died quickly; she'd been spared seeing the true extent of the awfulness that happened. But she doesn't see the phantoms of those who were.

She sees her friend, crying, her beautiful, incredible friend, sliding down, unable even to stand, and--

She begins stepping forward. She puts aside her earlier hesitation, and one step at a time, in the silence, she walks to Usagi, she kneels beside her friend, and wraps her strong around around her, tears still in her own eyes, too, shaking her head.

Ami's words help embolden her. ...One friend. She looks back to Ami... but then rests her head on usagi's shoulder.

"You reached out to me, when everyone else was afraid. ...You became my friend. When I'm with you... I feel like I have meaning. Like I have a purpose. Like..."

"We love you. I don't see that other girl, when I look at you, though I remember her now. ...I see you. The you who saw me."

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mars [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1K5t7tRqkF8

Sailor Mars wakes as though from a dream. Her sense of reality is fluid and flexible, and she doesn't easily distinguish between her relived past and her insistent present. As she comes to, she does her best to pace herself..though there's no inherent reason for her to suppress her reactions she struggles to do so, so that they won't overwhelm her. She remembers the pain, and the desperation, and the frenzy. For perhaps the first time she directly acquaints herself with what it means to be the Soldier of War.

And she understands the environment in which they all find themselves. Death is not defeat. There is no triumph of one side over another here. Just...desolation. Squalor. The frantic attempts of life to destroy life. Where Rei had previously learned that the Moon embodied unparalleled destruction, she now understands that that result required a bloodier stalemate than she'd ever considered.

The war was never won nor lost...and but for an explosive moment, never fought. Two aspects had warred so ferociously that the moment couldn't sustain their weight. The battle had been postponed..delayed for so long that so many of its principals had forgotten the circumstances that they fought for. But now she remembered. Now she knew what she and her friends must do.

She bridges the gap between her and Usagi in a few brief paces, and catches her weeping charge's wrist. And she smiles softly, weakly, still reeling from the weight of revelation. "Don't be stupid. You failed no-one. We failed you...but yet you live, so maybe we didn't fail at all. You lived as long as you could and you remained true to yourself throughout it all. You didn't fail anybody so don't fail yourself now. The war's not won. This...what we see.."

Her voice catches and wilts, but she continues on all the same.

"The Moon is a corpse that hasn't yet fallen. Fate hasn't sewn its last stitch. Beryl sought to slay us all in a sudden burst of treachery and blood, but we stopped her in her tracks. Now we live again to fight that same battle. You lived..you embodied the truest sense of yourself. Had you done anything else..then you would have failed. Now's our moment, Serenity...Sailor Moon..Usagi..now's when we end it. Now's when we plant our flag.

And then she weeps..there's nothing to be done for her dead planet, but it strikes her in an instant. Rei Hino doesn't regret the pain of her last stand, and instead exults in it. But Mars is a graveyard, and has rotted for so long that..in her new life she understands all too well that the totality of human consciousness utterly fails to grasp what it was like before the Great Traitor lashed out.

She can do nothing for her people now but expunge the poison that stole away their breath. Whatever comes next..must follow that which came before. As she lives again she learns that the centuries have only hardened her resolve. When she thinks back to how she died she's heartened, knowing that she hasn't lost an ounce of her will. She is made flesh once again to deliver justice. She won't lie down until it is so.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Venus [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

The entire experience is disorienting. Venus has seen visions of the past before, but none so detailed, none so overwhelming as the one they also saw minutes before. For a second, she isn't sure if they have emerged from the vision or not. But when she looks down at her arms, she finds that they are unmarred.

There's little time for her to gather her thoughts, though, as Sailor Moon keeps her from contemplating the events of the past for too long.

Venus' lips form a straight and narrow line. It was probably better not to think about it right now. Instead, she approaches Usagi, and crouches down to her height. She nods her affirmation to what the others have said already.

"Usagi-chan," Venus says firmly, but gently, in an attempt to draw Sailor Moon's eyes to her own.

"None of us are the people we were back then," she says, onece she's sure she has her attention. "Our lives are completely different from what they were like back then."

There's a pause there, and for a second, it looks as though Venus doesn't have anything to say. But just before the silence can drift on any longer, she opens her mouth and continues.

"Even if you weren't the princess," she says, "I'd still want to fight alongside you, because we're friends. Let's protect Earth, the moon, the galaxy from Beryl /together/."

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Moon [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

With every word. They bring her back.

'Sailor Moon you were my first friend. You're worth a lot to me.' Those gentle words, like the day they first met and she'd fallen in love with the Ami Mizuno that said Luna was like an angel falling from the sky. She lifts her eyes instantly to meet hers, still streaming with tears. That simple comment from her says so much, and it's enough to make her rethink all she's said. The flow of tears stem, though not entirely.

A catch of her wrist. 'Don't be stupid. You failed noone.' Distantly, in her mind, it almost causes her grief to snap immediately back to laughter. It was so very like Rei-like from the get go that it almost caused mood whiplash! So like the passionate Miko she'd first met, the pretty lady she'd thought she'd do anything for. After a moment, her wrist shifts within her grip, to hold Rei's hand in a show of solidarity and sisterhood, even as she talks about how this isn't the end, how they have another chance.

A warm embrace from behind, by arms so strong, but not so proud as to embrace her and put her head on her shoulder. 'You reached out to me, when everyone else was afraid. You became my friend. When I'm with you... I feel like I have meaning. Like I have a purpose.' She remembers the girl that she thought was so beautiful, so wonderful, who'd saved her from street toughs one hour, only to share such wonderful home cooked food with her by lunch time. All she'd wondered was how anyone could be afraid of her. Her head tilts to look back at her. She manages to put on a brave smile. She puts her other hand on one of Jupiter's arms that are encircling her, just basking in this feeling.

'Usagi-chan. None of us are the people we were back then.' She looks back down. She still feels the shame of not calling out to her closest bodyguard. The one she'd given so much trouble in the past life with all of her visits Earthward, and seperating from her, and constantly demanding so much of her. But she also remembers the admiration she felt as she followed the heroics of Sailor V. Her hero. Her model for so much, and then later her friend. A friend who had sacrificed so much, not just because of duty, but because of friendship, 'Even if you weren't the princess. I'd still want to fight alongside you, because we're friends.' She takes a deep breath. She steadies herself.

"Everyone-" She finally says, a bit breathlessly. Perhaps because it was stolen away from sheer awe and admiration of every single one of them. Abruptly, she laughs, through the tears that still flow, "-you're all so good at making me feel really silly." There was still sorrow, despair, and so many insecurities. But the feeling of helplessness was gone. The feeling of failure nearly so.

Because unlike in the past life, she was Sailor Moon. And she would fight alongside these girls who meant so much to her. "Let's do it then. Let's make sure nothing like this ever happens again. Let's make sure this is all remembered. Let's protect everyone. Together." Only then does she smile, and makes an admission to them all. "You know, it's funny. I started out alone, but I think it was only after meeting all of you, becoming your friends, fighting at your sides- that I truly became proud of my role as a Soldier of Love and Justice." It takes her a few moments longer to get out the last two words, which are so soft. She seems like she's completely overwhelmed by it all. "...Thank you."

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Jupiter [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Usagi's laughter brings a small smile to Sailor Jupiter's face. Everything else... Everything else, they can face later. But here, and now, in this ruined land, after everything... They're together. She finds herself looking up at Sailor Venus, and slowly inclining her head, at those words.

"Together," she agrees with Sailor Moon, as she looks then to Sailor Mars, with her plan... and to Mercury. ...But only for a moment, before, still hugging Sailor Moon, she inclines her head.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Jupiter [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Usagi's laughter brings a small smile to Sailor Jupiter's face. Everything else... Everything else, they can face later. But here, and now, in this ruined land, after everything... They're together. She finds herself looking up at Sailor Venus, and slowly inclining her head, at those words.

"Together," she agrees with Sailor Moon, as she looks then to Sailor Mars, with her plan... and to Mercury. ...But only for a moment, before, still hugging Sailor Moon, she inclines her head.

"We have who we are today. ...We still have so much to protect. Our mission isn't over yet. ...And I wouldn't be anywhere else but with all of you."

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mercury [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Nodding to Sailor Moon, Sailor Mercury manages a smile to match Usagi's. "I think... we all feel that way, Sailor Moon. We can be proud of ourselves... because we're together." She's a little misty-eyed now, to be sure... but hearing all of her friends likewise have Usagi's back makes it the good kind of misty-eyed.

Swallowing hard in an attempt to get herself steady again, Sailor Mercury moves in to join what is /rapidly/ going to become a group hug if the Senshi aren't careful.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Venus [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Minako nods her agreement, then wraps her arms around the growing group. "I'm so glad that we were able to meet again," she says, smiling. Her eyes are getting watery now, too -- and it's hard for her not to get a little teary.

For the longest time, she thought that she was a lone warrior. But now, discovering she had friends like these to fight beside her --

-- it was the best feeling in the world.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Moon [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Princess Melodies - BSSM OST - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wR3sXwPlfic

It was a wonderful group hug that they shared together. Just like their mission, their destiny, their friendship, their love. All of it shared...


That's what was important. Tears and warmth and comfort shared, and not a hug which they so easily release each other from, even though eventually do. She now felt like Usagi Tsukino, more than the soul of an ancient princess. But she accepted that it was a part of her. And while all the pieces of what made up Usagi Tsukino's relationships were important, and equal to her. That tie, made certain, that right now, she still felt like there was something missing.

And she knew what that piece was. It came like the tinkling of teeth against steel fingers, the chiming of tiny bells. It floated into her ears like some distant melody.

I'm sorry I'm not honest
I can say it in my dreams.
My thoughts are about to short circuit
I want to be with you right now.

Memories. Sometimes the only snapshots of time that one had. Sailor Moon closed her eyes. She takes a deep breath with hands against her chest. She remembers her Golden Prince She also remembers the dashing, handsome man in a tuxedo who was always so quick to come and offer his support in dire times. She thinks of how he must be suffering within her ruby red claws, as darkness closes in around him. Her eyes watered unbidden.

The moonlight makes me want to cry.
I can't even call it's midnight
But I'm so innocent what should I do?
My heart is a kaleidoscope.

Like a mirage of color, it interposed over the rubble of the ruins. Ethereal, but it felt so real that she could... touch. Her eyes fall upon a single spot, and she walks like a girl possessed towards the place that once led to the Crystal Tower. Its path is nearly unconrecognizable now. But in the distance she hears the laughter of children, of herself at play so long ago. And darker things besides as that laughter is silenced.

She remembers the flash of rapier thin energy. The shattering glass, the declaration of love. She kneels down before a pile of rubble, and begins clearing it away with gloved hands. Sedately at first, but then more rapidly. She half expects to find the rusted hilt of a sword or worse besides. But all signs are gone. Dissolved through the light of miracle or the relentless toll of time even more surely than the monuments about them. What she sees instead, takes her breath away as surely as the tears that fall. A glint of gold.

We are led by the light of the moon.
We meet by chance again and again.
The countless shining stars above us foretell love's whereabouts.
Born on the same earth.
A miracle romance.

As she draws it out, to see the almost wholly preserved locket, she holds it gingerly within her palms, as if worried it too would dissolve and float away as moon dust. And then a moment later, as if realizing that it was in fact real, she clutches it against her chest, feeling the tiny prick of glass teeth even now against her fuku. "Endymion..." She whispers.

Just one more weekend together.
Whatever gods please give us a happy end.
In the present past and future.
I'll always be in love with you.

"...I love you. You were the first person I fell in love with." She remembers the first time she saw him. They'd argued. Months of chance encounters and antagonism becoming friendship. Then something else entirely.

When we first met that so very dear
Glance you gave I'll never forget.
From the millions of stars in the sky I can find you
Changing coincidences into coincidences I love this way of life.

Without using her hands, she works her way up to her feet. It takes a while, because she's a bit clumsy. She's also a bit of a crybaby, tears were spattering the broken pathway still. She looks off into the horizon, upon the wonders of the cosmos, the warm shining stars that twinkle millions upon millions, just above the tip top of shining, brilliant blue. She takes a deep breath. She'd been so reluctant to come to the moon tonight. She promised herself she wouldn't show such reluctance to fight again in the future. "I'm coming for you."

A wondrous miracle approaches us
We meet by chance again and again.
The countless shining stars foretell love's whereabouts.
Born on the same Earth.
A miracle romance
I do believe in a miracle romance.

"I'll make sure that we're able to make the most of our second chance together. Because this time-" She says, with certainty and resolution, as she makes a vow to the cosmos, "-I'll be the one who protects you. I absolutely won't fail. Because now I'm a proud Sailor Senshi too. Because I can stand with Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter and fight." It was the others who taught her pride in her destiny, a pride she could feel so long as they loved each other, fought at each other's side. That pride which slipped away whenever they were all apart.

BGM Change - Moon Pride - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0Va228UhRs

Tonight the Full Moon shines ever so brightly upon Earth. Maybe more brightly than it has in a long time, because tonight despite the grief, and the pain, the ladies of the white moon have come home.