Disclaimer: Hello again! Whew! This was one doozy of a part to write. 48 KB! Do you believe it? Anyway, the Sailor Scouts are not my creations, nor are the Generals or Queens Serenity and Beryl. Maggy and Zafir are my creations and anyone else that isn't from the TV series/manga/etc. is too. Please don't use my characters unless you ask me and I say you can. If you, for some reason, want to put my story up on your page, feel free to do so - just let me know. :)
I'm sorry that it took me so long to get this part out - finals have a way of slowing everything down. :) I finally sat down and cranked this out - so I'm sorry if the second half is a little rough. I may not have access to my e-mail over the summer, so I wanted to get this finished before tomorrow - when I go home!! Happy. :) :D
Well, enough of my babbling. You came here to read Part 2, not listen to me talk. :) Don't forget to let me know what you think! :)
Generals' Hour: Part 2
While Maggy was busy tearing into Malachite, a grief-stricken Nephlyte was collapsed in his room in the palace. A keen ear might have picked out the sound of his weeping through the closed doors, but none were available to do so. He sat in a corner, with his head in one hand and his knees drawn to his heaving chest. In his other hand, he clutched The Ring. The only sound, other than his steady crying, was a low moan, "Lita..."
He started rocking slowly back and forth, as if subconsciously trying to calm himself down. It didn't work - there was a hole in his mind where Lita's steady presence had once been. It felt as if he could almost touch her, if he drew deep enough into that hole. He felt himself sinking and abruptly pulled back. She wasn't his to claim. Not anymore. With that thought, his sobbing resumed.
Sailor Mars walked slowly down the corridor absorbed in her own thoughts. She had just met with Princess Serenity and the news was disturbing. I can't believe that we're actually going to go through with this. The most disturbing thing of all was that she didn't know if Serenity was right. Usually, Mars followed her Princess without question - after all, what does one little Sailor Scout know? She shook her head. I wish I dared ask my Planet God. Surely Mars would know if this were really wrong. Yet, she knew she wouldn't ask. She already knew what Mars' answer would be and she dreaded hearing it put into words. Her soul told her to follow Serenity, no matter what her heart's opinion on the matter was.
She slowly became aware of a sound penetrating her tangled web of thoughts. She couldn't be certain, but it sounded like someone crying! Worried, she followed the sound to its source. Upon reaching it, she took stock of where she was - The Generals' wing. How odd. She was even more surprised when she realized that this door belonged to General Nephlyte. She didn't want to intrude, but her empathic and mystical powers were screaming at her to do something. She made up her mind. He may turn out to be the enemy tomorrow, but right now, he's a soul in anguish. He needs my help. She opened the door...
...and gasped in shock. She couldn't help it. The room was a disaster area. The furniture was overturned, everything that had been on the furniture lay broken on the floor, the closet had been torn open, the clothing thrown over everything...in short - it looked like a tornado had hit. Then she saw Nephlyte. Her heart spasmed. "Oh Great Mars, what happened here?" she whispered. Nephlyte didn't even look up.
Mars worked her way over to him, unconsciously shifting her clothing as she approached. It was not Sailor Mars or even Rei, that knelt by Nephlyte's side, but a High Priestess in the robes of the High Temple of Mars. She placed a hand on Nephlyte's back and whispered his name. There was no response. He was in shock. Rei arranged herself more comfortably on the floor and pulled him to her, slowly rocking him back and forth while he wept. His arms went around her as a drowning man would grab onto a piece of driftwood in the ocean - clinging for dear life. She murmured quiet reassurances, while she frantically tried to figure out what could have happened.
When Nephlyte finally drifted off to sleep in her lap, she looked down at his hand. It had fallen open, dropping an emerald encased diamond ring onto the lap of her robes. She picked it up and examined it. Having spent some time on Earth, she recognized it immediately, An engagement ring. She glanced back at Nephlyte. Did Lita turn him down? Is that what this is about? She touched her hand to Nephlyte's head and sent forth a small probe. She was quickly sucked into a whirling mass of grief. She fortified herself and aimed for the source. After battling for nearly an hour, she reached it and tapped into the memory. The sunrise, his proposal, her acceptance, Malachite's appearance, Jupiter bolting, Serena,... Mars almost lost herself in the whirlwind again. She pulled out of his mind as quickly as she could. She closed her eyes, Oh Serena, what have you done? What made you think you had the right to try to break up a Lifebond? She had known the Princess was capable of this in the abstract, but it was a different thing to actually see definitive proof...
She eased Nephlyte off of her lap and stood up. She started looking for somewhere to put him. Except for the pile of broken glass and tattered clothing, the bed was untouched. She wiped all of that off and changed the sheets, so he wouldn't get cut by the bits of glass. She picked him up, Having a Scout's enhanced strength can be useful at times..., and lay him in bed. She covered him with a heavy blanket and sat next to him, waiting for him to wake up.
Elsewhere in the palace, Malachite and a now recovered Jadeite, headed for the Generals' Conference Room. They had a lot to do to prepare for the ceremony. When they arrived, most of the Captains and their Lieutenants were already there. Nephlyte was not.
Jadeite was the one that said it, "Nephlyte isn't here."
Malachite had a worried expression on his face as he answered, "I know. This must have hit him harder than I thought it would. Maybe I should have followed him this morning..."
Jadeite shook his head, "Malachite, don't. If you keep spending so much time agonizing over might-have-beens, you'll tear yourself apart, too. I'm sure Nephlyte will pull together. It's not as if we can't handle tonight without him if he needs the time to recover. Just hand out assignments assuming that he won't be there. That way, if he isn't, we won't have to panic."
Malachite looked skeptical at Jadeite's practical solution and self-assured manner. Suddenly something caught his eye - a General's uniform. He moved closer, expecting to see Nephlyte. It wasn't him. What the...? Jadeite leaned close to him and said, "That's Zoisite. She's the ever elusive fourth - uh, make that third - General." At Malachite's questioning look he explained, "She got her commission before I did." Malachite said "Ah," and nodded. "How come I've never seen her before?"
Jadeite looked shocked. "You've never met her before?"
"Well, on second thought, I guess that makes sense. She's almost never here."
"Where is she normally?"
"In Healer Hall," at Malachite's wide-eyed expression he said, "I'm doing this badly. Let me explain. Zoisite is a very strong natural Healer. You know how the Healers normally have Apprentices, Journeyman, and Masters?" At Malachite's nod he continued, "Well, there is a fourth level of power - much stronger than the other three. Zoisite's an Adept."
Malachite's jaw dropped, "I've heard of Healer-Adepts. I didn't think that there were any currently alive..." he shook his head in awe, "And she's a General, too?!?"
Jadeite smiled, "Yup. When all the problems started back home, she applied to the Army and was accepted for officers training. When she got through, they made her a Lieutenant. She had such a head for strategy and tactics that she was promoted to Captain and given her own command within two months. Not long after, she progressed to General - I guess the upper echelons decided that she was too much of an asset to risk on the field every day."
"I guess she's not much of a fighter - being a Healer and all."
"Actually, that's not true. Put a sword in her hands and she's a hellcat. Heck, even without a sword in her hands she's deadly. I know I wouldn't want to face her. I don't know anyone that's ever beaten her in a fair combat. She doesn't enjoy killing, but she must've recognized long ago that it was part of the job. She wouldn't have applied to the Army, otherwise."
As their conversation was winding down, the rest of the Captains and Lieutenants filed in. Malachite called the meeting to order. "All right, ladies and gentlemen, we're gonna have a pretty rough night on our hands. I'm sure that you've all heard the rumors running through the rumor mill about the Princess," various heads bobbed, "Well, I hate to add credibility to the gossip-mongers, but as far as the current intelligence goes, these rumors are true," everyone started mumbling to each other and Malachite raised his voice to be heard over the din, "But, we don't know anything for certain. All we do know is that Princess Serenity may try something tonight. The tamer reports say that all she wants is to start her rule a little early. The more extreme ones have her making an alliance with Beryl to kill the Queen. Then there's every variation in between. All I can say is Keep Your Eyes Open. Don't let yourselves or your troops get distracted. We may need to break up the ceremony and get the Queen out at a moment's notice. Keep your communicators tuned to the emergency frequency. I'll be prowling around keeping an eye on everyone. Just do your best. The fate of the Moon Kingdom may well rest in our hands tonight. General Jadeite has your individual assignments. May the Gods of the Planets watch over you all and keep you safe. Dismissed."
The Captains went up to Jadeite to get their assignments and Malachite sunk slowly down into a chair. He heard a low, melodious voice behind him, "So the rumors are true. I hadn't thought that she'd have the nerve."
Malachite started, he hadn't heard anyone approach. Sitting next to him on the table was General Zoisite. Say something, damn it!
"The exaggerations of your stealth abilities seem to hold a grain of truth to them." She laughed, "Appearances can be deceiving. It wasn't that hard to slip over here - you were pretty out of it," she paused, "This must have you pretty worried."
He shook his head, "You have no idea. It's as if the entire universe has come crashing down around me. I have no idea how to prepare for this. There is no precedent whatsoever. This is the Moon Kingdom. They've had total peace for so long, it's sickening."
Zoisite laughed again. For a General, she laughs pretty readily. He made a mental note to try to make her do it as often as possible. Such a distinctive laugh, too. Out loud he said, "So how is it that I've never met you before? There are only four of us. You'd think I would've run into you at least once..." he trailed off as he saw her shaking her head.
"Not necessarily," she said, "You and Nephlyte see each other because you want to. That's understandable, you're practically brothers. Jadeite sees you both because he wants to. He hangs on your every word," she smiled, "Now me, I'm never in the palace proper - much less the Generals' wing of it. Healer Hall is clear on the other side of the palace grounds. I spend practically all of my time there. Come to think of it - I usually sleep there, too. It's more convenient."
Malachite thought for a minute, "That makes some amount of sense..." Zoisite interrupted him, then blushed when she realized that she had, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt you, but I noticed earlier that Nephlyte isn't here. I would have thought that he'd be here. I'm concerned - is he feeling OK?"
Malachite didn't know what to tell this woman, who - even though she was a General - was nearly a stranger. He was saved from having to answer by Jadeite's approach. "Everyone has their assignments, sir. We should get to our posts and set up." Malachite and Zoisite rose. Malachite said, "General Zoisite, do you know your position?" She nodded, suddenly militaristic, "Yes, sir. I'm posted at the foot of the dais, near the Queen. If you don't mind, I'll go take up my post, now." She spun on her heel and left the room.
Malachite let out his breath. Jadeite smiled at him, "See something you like, sir?"
He nodded. Despite the light mood, Malachite couldn't stop his mind from worrying about Nephlyte. He looked out the window and saw the sun starting to set. Duty calls. "We'd better go. They'll probably start soon." They both left the room.
Nephlyte slowly fought his way back to consciousness, while trying to remember what had happened. He thought he remembered seeing one of Mars' priestesses, but he wasn't sure. He came very abruptly awake when he saw said priestess sitting on his floor, and recognized her as Sailor Mars. He looked around his room, Gulp. Did I do all of this? Oh man, I hope not. Mars saw that he was awake and turned to face him. He was startled to see tear tracks running down her face. And she's still crying, he noted with wonder.
She stood and approached his bed. She sat down. "I'm sorry I intruded, but I felt..." she stopped, "I felt that you were in pain. I couldn't leave you like that..." she trailed off and lowered her eyes, as if embarrassed to have witnessed his moment of weakness. When he finally spoke, his voice sounded hollow, even to him, "Thank you. I didn't even know you were there. I just..." He stopped talking, unsure of how much he should say. Mars whispered, "Does Lita know? How much you love her?"
"I don't know. I thought she did, but now..." he looked over at the ring on his night-table, "Now, I'm not so sure." He looked up at Mars and said, "Rei. I don't mean to be rude, but I have to get dressed for tonight, and clean up, and..." She nodded, understanding, "I'll go. I have to get ready, too," she paused in the doorway and turned back as if reluctant to leave him in such a state, "I hope you find peace, Nephlyte, I really do." She left. Nephlyte shook his head, wondering why even his soon-to-be-enemy found the need to pity him. After a moment of quiet contemplation, he left it alone and got on to a more pressing problem - finding a uniform which was still presentable enough to wear to the ceremony.
Malachite was restless. He had just made his first rounds. Everything seemed in order in the Great Hall. The Queen's Dais looked secure. The security appeared to be adequate. Seems, Looks, Appears - nothing is! This is ridiculous. We have no way to prepare for an attack from within - if Serena decides to do something, she won't even have to get to the dais, she'll already be up there! The Scouts know this palace far better than we do - they grew up in it, for crying out loud! He silently fumed for a few more moments. He decided to check the more secure rooms in the palace, like the War Room and the Shield Room. I wish Nephlyte were here. Then maybe I wouldn't feel so jumpy.
As he left the room, he heard the trumpets begin to play. Damn. He walked back in just long enough to catch Zoisite's eye. She nodded, understanding the unspoken order - she was in charge until Malachite returned. Malachite left. After searching room after room and finding nothing, Malachite began to doubt. What if I was wrong? What if Serena isn't planning to betray the Queen? An inner prompting told him to go back to the Shield Room that instant. He bolted. When he reached the Shield Room, he finally found the sign of betrayal he'd been looking for. He yelled, "Sailor Mercury, what are you doing?" Oh, brilliant. Any child could see what she's doing. She's lowering the Shields! It was too late to stop her. She entered one last command and turned to face him. Her eyes were cold, "I'm sorry, General. We never wanted it to go this far." He reached for the Shield controls, "Don't bother trying to put them back up. I've destroyed the pathways. You'll have to rebuild the whole system to get the Shield back up, now," with that last comment, she dissipated her visor and ran. Malachite was in such a state of shock that he didn't even bother to follow.
He shook himself. You knew this could happen! Well, it did! Now, snap out of it and do something about it! he berated himself. He pulled out his communicator and contacted the other Generals. To his surprise, all three of them answered his hail. His voice was shaking, "All right guys, this is it. We were right. Serena is going to betray the Queen. I just saw Mercury drop the Palace Shields. Zoisite, get the Queen out of there. Nephlyte and Jadeite, get the troops together. We're gonna have Beryl breathing down our necks any minute, now. If you see any of the Scouts, assume they're with the Princess and arrest them, if you can. The clock is ticking people, let's move." He cut the transmission and raced back to the Ball Room. I knew there was a reason I hated this place, he thought in disgust.
While Malachite desperately tried to reach the Ball Room, Mercury was engaged in a mad rush of her own, I have to get to the Princess before Malachite calls the Generals. Damn! Why'd he have to be lurking around the Shield Room? This could have been handled quietly, now there's going to be a fight...Damn! In her haste to reach the Ball Room, Mercury wasn't watching where she was going. She slammed full force into Sailor Venus, who was running the other way.
"Damnit, Mercury! Watch where you're going!" she yelled.
Mercury cringed, it wouldn't do to upset the Princess' right-hand Scout, "I'm sorry, Venus. It won't happen again."
"It better not! Where were you going in such a hurry, anyway?"
"General Malachite saw me in the Shield Room. He knows what we're up to! I have to warn the Princess."
Venus frowned, "She already knows. I think she felt it when you saw Malachite. I was on my way to find you, just now," she hung her head, "As if we didn't have enough problems. Damn. All right, go find Mars. If you can find Jupiter, bring her, too. I'll meet you back at the Ball Room. We'll make our move from there. Hopefully, the Princess has a back-up plan."
The two Scouts stood up and went their separate ways - Mercury to find Mars, and Venus to try to find Malachite before he got to the Ball Room.
He was too late. Malachite stared at the wreckage that had once been the Great Hall, and felt a tear slip down his cheek. He slowly picked his way to the dais. It was as empty as the rest of the room. He heard a voice in the Ball Room. "Damn! I thought we told everyone to evacuate!" he muttered. He looked out the window and saw the signs of a fight beginning. It would be a nearly impossible one to win. The Princess was a formidable enemy. Combined with the power of Queen Beryl and the Negaverse, he didn't see how she could be stopped. Malachite swore and headed into the Ball Room. The sight that met his eyes was not a pleasant one.
Queen Serenity was sitting on the floor, clutching the Silver Crystal and shaking her head. General Zoisite was standing over her, begging her to come to safety. Malachite walked over, "What's going on here?"
Zoisite sighed in relief, "I don't know, sir. When we got your message, the Princess went stiff - she knew, somehow. She looked over at Venus, nodded, and turned back to the crowd. She cut her mother off when she tried to say something. She looked at me and smiled. Sent shivers up my spine."
Malachite put an hand on her arm sympathetically. He knew what it was like to be the sole receiver of Princess Serenity's gaze. He urged her to continue, "And...?"
Zoisite cleared her throat, "She turned back to the people and said, 'My people,' she laughed, 'Yes, I do mean my people. I can now proudly inform you that you are the subjects of Queen Metallia. I have waited years for this moment,' she turned to the Queen, 'Don't look so surprised Mother. You should have seen this coming. If none of you resist, I will see that you are not harmed. I can't vouch for what will happen if any of you do resist, though.' She suddenly looked out the window and swore. 'It's not time, yet! We're not secure, here! What the hell does Beryl think she's doing?' She yelled at Venus, 'Go find Mercury, Mars, and Jupiter. Obviously, Beryl feels its her right and privilege to muck up my plans. I'll have to make sure she doesn't totally ruin this.' Venus left, and by then all the people had fled."
"The Princess took one look at her mother and held up a dagger. She yelled, 'Dark Moon Dagger Transform!' The dagger elongated into a sword and the Princess was enveloped in what appeared to be a black hole. When I could look at her again, she was in all black. It was plain black, skin-tight body armor. Her hair was swept back into a long braid held by a black velvet band. She looked straight at me and laughed, 'Like my new toy, Zoie? I thought you might appreciate it. 'Til later!' She aimed the sword at the window and the window shattered. She ran out to the fight."
Malachite shook her, to stop the endless narrative. That was shock talking, he could see it in her eyes. She stared at him, "We've been friends since we were kids! I heard the rumors, but in my heart, I didn't believe them! How could I have misjudged her so terribly?"
Malachite was slow to respond, "I don't know. I think we were all a bit blind where the Princess was concerned. None of us wanted to see what she really was," suddenly he remembered the Queen. He knelt down next to her, "Your Majesty, I understand that you're in shock. It's understandable, but right now we have to leave. It isn't safe here." She shook her head violently, her silver ponytails whipping about wildly.
Malachite's communicator whistled. He pulled it out. It was General Jadeite, "Jadeite, what's wrong?" Jadeite answered in a rush, "We're gonna lose this, sir! We need you and Zoisite out here, now! We can't do this without you!"
Malachite said, "Easy, Jadeite, easy. We'll be out as soon as we can."
"That's not good enough! We need you now!"
Malachite looked at the Queen and said, quietly, "All right Jadeite. We're coming."
Zoisite moved to protest and Malachite cut her off, "Not now. We have to win this first." She nodded and they pulled their weapons, ready to do battle. They left the Queen where she sat, murmuring to the Crystal.
When they got outside, Malachite sent Zoisite off to her troops and he went to find Zafir - his head Captain. He didn't get far. Sailor Venus intercepted him after three steps. She grinned and said, "Leaving so soon, General?"
Malachite brandished his sword and said, "I don't have time for this, Venus."
Venus threw back her head and laughed, "You don't get it, do you? You've already lost! There's no way you can win this! The Princess is already on her way to get the Crystal. You've lost, Malachite. Accept it," she moved a step closer to him, "You know, I've always respected you, Malachite. We're so alike, you and I. If you come along quietly, I'll see that you get a quick death. Come now, isn't that a fair offer?"
Malachite growled, "Hardly."
Venus laughed again, "So talkative these days! Well, have it your way. I've always wanted to test myself against you." With that last comment, she pulled a sword from her interdimensional pocket, "Always knew this would come in handy someday!"
Seconds later, their swords clashed.
At one of the other exits to the Ball Room, Mercury and Mars were slowly emerging onto the field of battle. They stared at the carnage around them, trying to find a rhyme or reason to it. Finally they noticed Serena's black clad figure approaching. Serena stared at them, "It's about freaking time! Where's Jupiter?"
Mercury and Mars cringed, "We couldn't f-find her," Mercury stuttered. Serena rested her sword arm on her hip and said, "Oh, never mind! I've been looking for you all over! I need your fog."
Mercury gulped, "Uh. Sure. Okay."
Serena looked at her a minute more, "Are you coming?"
Mercury gulped again, "Uh-huh. Okay."
Serena exploded, "Then will you stop saying 'OK' and come with me, already!!??" Mercury opened her mouth and Serena put up her hand, "And if you say 'OK' again, I'll blast you."
Mercury only nodded, terrified. Serena mumbled, "There's got to be a better way of providing distractions than her fog - maybe I can reproduce it," she glared at Mercury, "She's practically useless in a fight. If she didn't have those computer skills... I should've offed her years ago." She grabbed Mercury's arm and said, "Let's go."
Mars, suddenly alarmed, said, "What should I do?"
Serena turned back to her and shrugged, "Go fight something - just stay out of my hair!"
Mars jumped. When Serena had finally left she turned back to the fight. Fight something, she says. Sheesh! Fight what? She started to walk onto the battlefield. Every once in a while she would stop and throw a 'Mars Fire Ignite' to part the crowd, all the while looking for someone to fight - someone who would be worth killing. She spotted General Nephlyte.
He was busy fighting off five of Beryl's youma, and to Mars' surprise, he was winning. She soon realized that she had the advantage of surprise here. Nephlyte had no idea that she was behind him - she could get rid of him with one sword thrust. He'd never even know who had killed him. She drew her sword. Part of her, the part that had been so closely tied to the God Mars, was screaming, NO! What are you doing? You're a Priestess! You're an Empath! By all that's Holy, you can't do this! Rei, NO!! She dimly heard an echo of the words from the great God Mars himself, but for once paid him no heed. She had a job to do - and in the name of the Moon Princess, she would do it. She raised her sword.
The foundations of the palace shook. Lita, who had been moping in her room, fell off the bed. What the hell are they doing out there? She picked herself up off the floor and looked out the window. She thought she saw Beryl's flagship just over the horizon. That's not possible! I'm imagining things. She felt a small, fuzzy thought begin at the back of her mind and jumped. The thought grew, and Lita recognized it as the beginning of a contact with her God. She opened herself to the contact.
It's about time! was all He had to say.
Lita cringed, "I'm sorry, Jupiter."
Sorry doesn't cut it! Do you have any idea what's going on out there? I've been trying to contact you for nearly an hour! He growled.
Lita stood up, "Well I'm sorry, mister high-and-mighty! I just had a really rough morning and I needed time to think! I didn't need any of your smart-ass comments!"
Jupiter chuckled, So, that's what it was. Well, now that you're thinking again - go take another look outside. There's a major battle going on, and I think you'll want to take part in it.
Lita ran to the window. What she saw this time took her breath away.
See? They need you out there.
"Oh no! I have to get out there! The Princess-"
Is the one responsible for this, Jupiter interrupted, quietly.
Lita shook her head, "No! That can't be! That would mean-"
That Malachite was right, and you broke Nephlyte's heart for nothing?
Jupiter had a way of cutting right to the heart of a matter that was completely unnerving, "Yeah."
Well, now that you feel completely rotten and lower than the lowest scum in the kingdom, are you ready to do something about this? He paused, I assume that you're not going to join Princess Serenity? He sounded unsure of himself.
"Right," for a moment Lita entertained the thought, She is my Princess. My duty to protect her... she looked up in sudden realization, "My duty to protect her ended the moment she betrayed her kingdom. My duty is to the Moon Kingdom, now - not her," she tilted her head, "Right?"
She felt Jupiter's approval shine on her, Yes, Little One, exactly so. I have a gift for you, if you would accept it? I think you need it, now.
Lita nodded and she felt Jupiter envelop her in his presence. It filled her and completed her - like when she was transforming. She looked down at herself and saw that it was no longer Princess Lita that stood looking out the window, but Sailor Jupiter. A greatly changed Sailor Jupiter. She no longer wore the leotard and mini-skirt ensemble that had always made up her uniform. Her white leotard had lost it's poofs at her shoulders and now ended at her wrists in green sparkles. The green skirt had become a pair of green leggings and a green leotard that was layered over the white. It was belted at the waist by her sword belt, which now had the symbol of Jupiter on the buckle. Her gloves were gone, showing the green nail polish that now grace her nails. The bows were gone, as well. They had been replaced by the sword belt and a necklace upon which hung a star-shaped emerald - with the symbol of Jupiter shining within it. Her tiara still graced her brow, yet her boots now extended to her knees over the leggings. Her sword felt heavier than usual. And on top of it all, the very core of her power felt different. She felt different.
You are, Little One. You do not have an easy task before you - one Scout against 6 Scouts and the Princess needs an extra edge.
"Six? Don't you mean seven?"
No. Sailor Pluto has decided to remain neutral in this fight. Her responsibility is to protect Time and the Great Balance. She will not take sides unless it is absolutely necessary. It is not her place to do so.
"I see. Now what were you saying about an 'extra edge'?"
She felt his smile, You are no longer the Sailor Scout that you were. You are no longer an Inner Scout - You are an Upper Scout. For the longest time, there were two sets of Scouts - the Uppers and the Youngers. The Youngers consisted of the Inner and Outer Scouts that you already know. The Uppers consisted of their predecessors - their mothers.
Sailor Jupiter was confused. Yes, I know. In your lifetime and for many generations past, there have been no Upper Scouts. They have taken to retiring as soon as new Scouts are available - and as a result, they never reach their full potential. You are the first Upper Scout in ten generations.
Sailor Jupiter still looked unsure, "So what's so different about being an Upper Scout? Other than the cool new uniform, that is?" Have to admit - losing that mini-skirt was definitely a step in the right direction.
Jupiter chuckled at his Scout's train of thought, The levels of power available to you are greatly increased. The Younger Scouts rely on their own personal power to create their attacks. The attack phrases that we provide gives them a way to focus their power and produce the desired result. You no longer have to do that. The power for your attacks will come directly from me. You can still use your own power, but now you don't have to. You are no longer confined to the attack phrases that I think you can handle. You can still use attack phrases if you want, but as long as you have a mental picture of what you want to do with the power, it'll work. In other words, you won't need to waste time and energy focusing your power into set patterns of my choosing - you can focus it into whatever shape you want, and you'll get the power in greater quantities than you have until now.
Long-winded speech, Sailor Jupiter thought, "So what's with the sword?"
Ah yes. The Star Sword - your other legacy as an Upper Scout. There is one for every Upper Scout - the sword will soul-bond to you, in a less powerful manner than I have, though. It will increase your power even more - just think of it as the absolute, perfect weapon. That's enough to know for now. You can discover the rest of its secrets later - you have to help your friends.
At her confused look, Jupiter added sadly, Not the Scouts - the Generals.
Sailor Jupiter nodded and ran out into the hallway. When she saw the Great Clock, she was shocked to discover that that whole business hadn't taken more than 3 minutes. That isn't important now. I need to get outside and find Nephlyte - and pray that he can forgive me. A small thought forced its way into her brain, And pray that he's still alive to do so...
Jupiter ran down the halls at breakneck speed. Nothing dared get in her way. She smashed through the outer palace door and sprinted onto the field of battle. She didn't slow her breakneck pace - her heart wouldn't let her slow until she found Nephlyte. She rounded a corner, and the sight that met her eyes brought her up short. She skidded to a stop, trying to take it in - Malachite and Venus were engaged in such a concentrated swordfight that she didn't think they saw her. To her dismay, she was wrong. Malachite had seen a flash of green to his left and made the mistake of looking - Venus yelled in triumph, and drove her sword through his stomach, leaving him sprawled on the ground. Jupiter swore - somehow she knew that she didn't have time to stop and help.
Her link to Nephlyte - which she now recognized for the Lifebond it was - was screaming at her that Nephlyte needed her. She sent up a soft prayer and apology for Malachite and resumed her sprint. That scene had driven home the point that her God had been trying to make - Princess Serenity was Evil, and had been all along. A burning hatred and determination filled her being. If anything has happened to Nephlyte, I'll kill her.
For the second time, the sight of something ended her mad rush. She gasped in horror - Sailor Mars stood over Nephlyte with her sword raised. Nephlyte, busy battling five youma, had no idea she was there. Mars started to lower her sword, and Jupiter screamed, "NNOOOOOOO!!!" She held one hand in front of her, palm up, and stretched the other over her head, "Jupiter Lightning Bolt Shock!" The lightning zoomed for her top hand and raced along her body to her other hand. The lightning bolt flew straight and true - knocking Mars a good 60 feet away from Nephlyte.
Jupiter didn't waste another moment - forgoing the attack phrase, she shot 5 more lightning bolts at the youma and ran to Nephlyte. She grabbed him up in a back-breaking hug and started to cry. Through her sobs, she gasped, "Oh Nephlyte! I'm so sorry! I was wrong - I didn't know! Please forgive me! Please! I can't take this! I love you! Please!"
Nephlyte lowered his sword and wrapped his arms around his love, murmuring words of comfort, "I love you, too, Lita. I'll never leave you. Of course, I forgive you. It's OK. I'm here," tears started streaming from his eyes - and for once, they were tears of joy.
The sounds of battle melted away around them. There was only silence and a sense of peace. The physical contact opened the dormant Lifebond between the two and Nephlyte rejoiced when he, too, saw it for what it was. Their minds meshed, each soothing the hurts they had unknowingly inflicted on the other. After a moment, Jupiter pulled back and kissed Nephlyte. It lacked the desperate passion of their kiss from that morning, but it filled them both with a sense of rightness that couldn't be denied. No matter what happened in the future, they knew that they could depend on each other.
When they finally pulled away from each other, Nephlyte gave her a sheepish grin and held out The Ring, "Think you want this back, now?"
She giggled and playfully slapped his arm. She grabbed the ring and put it back on her finger - where it belonged. Reluctantly, they let go of each other. When Jupiter had stepped back enough, Nephlyte looked her up and down and whistled, "What happened to you? Nice uniform!"
Jupiter sighed, "It's a long story - and it's gonna have to wait," she saw General Jadeite and grabbed his sleeve as he ran by, "Where are you going, Jadeite?"
Jadeite, who had fallen flat on his back when she grabbed him, picked himself up and dusted himself off. "The fighting's done on the West side of the Palace. I was on my way to find Malachite to see where my troops are needed."
Jupiter paled as memory hit her, "That's not such a great idea. Me and Nephlyte will go find him - you go find the Queen. I think she's still in the Ball Room. She needs to get to a safe place, say...Healer Hall! OK? Can you do that?"
Jadeite nodded, then smiled when he saw Jupiter and Nephlyte's hands - which were still joined together. Nephlyte nodded and Jadeite gave a whoop of victory. Then the significance hit him, "You're on our side????"
Jupiter smiled sadly, "Yeah. Yeah, I am. Go get Queen Serenity, Jadeite - we'll take care of things out here."
Jadeite laughed, "You got it, sirs!" He ran off.
Nephlyte hadn't missed her expression when Malachite's name came up. He grabbed her shoulders and spun her to face him, "What's wrong, Jupiter? What happened to Malachite?"
She shook her head, "No time. We may be too late as it is. Come on." She grabbed Nephlyte's hand and they took off.
Malachite blocked another swing by Venus, Damn, she's good, and brought his sword around trying to throw her off balance. If he could bring his greater weight into play it might turn the tide. As it was, he was just barely holding his own against the Scout. He thought he saw a flash of green out of the corner of his eye. That was when he made his fatal mistake - he let himself get distracted by it. That one second was all it took. He heard Venus' shout of victory and tried desperately to rectify his error, but it was too late. He felt Venus' sword go through him in a state of shock. It took a moment before he felt the pain. When he did, it was immense - he good barely get a breath around the cold steel sitting in his abdomen. Venus yanked her sword free and Malachite fell to his knees. No. Don't let it end like this! Please! Great Mother Goddess, I need more time!
For once his prayers were answered - Venus decided to use her powers to finish him off instead of her sword. She raised her arm and shouted, "Venus Crescent Beam!" Malachite managed to gather his legs beneath him. She screamed, "Crash!" But this time, she miscalculated. Malachite managed to jump out of the way. The Beam that should have pierced his heart, only grazed him from his left shoulder to his right hip. It hurt like hell, but it was only a superficial wound. Malachite grabbed his sword and scrambled to his feet, intent on finishing the fight. He never had the chance. The very Heavens themselves seemed to shake in anger and anguish. Sailor Venus screamed and clutched her head. Across the field, he heard five other, similar screams. Venus collapsed, unconscious.
Malachite tried to take a step towards the rest of the fighting, only to discover that his legs wouldn't hold him up. He collapsed to the ground. The waves of agony that had held off until that point, caught up with him. He wrapped his hands around his stomach, knowing that he had to try to stop the bleeding, and knowing that if help didn't arrive soon - it would be too late. Then he saw them. Two figures - one in a General's uniform, the other in a greatly altered Sailor uniform - running towards him. When he recognized them as Nephlyte and Lita, he smiled - and silently thanked them for trying. His eyes closed...
Nephlyte spotted him first. Malachite lay collapsed on the ground, his arms wrapped around his stomach. Nephlyte skidded to a stop and dropped to his knees. He gently raised his friend's body so his head rested on Nephlyte's shoulder. He took stock of Malachite's injuries as Jupiter checked his pulse. They looked at each other, worry on both their faces. The sword wound was the most serious - he had already lost a lot of blood. Jupiter rested a hand on Nephlyte's arm and said, "Stay here with him. If you think it's worth the risk, try to get him to Healer Hall. I'm going to go out there and try to end this fight."
Nephlyte shook his head, "It's too dangerous! There are six other Scouts out there! How can you fight them all?"
Jupiter smiled, "I won't have to. That horrible scream we heard before, remember?" Nephlyte nodded, and she continued, "It was the Gods. When they saw Venus throw her Crescent Beam at Malachite, it was kind of the last straw. They couldn't deal with what their Scouts were doing, so they closed off the Soul-bonds that bound them to the Scouts. Jupiter shielded me, and Pluto shielded his Scout," Nephlyte looked confused. She paused and then said, "Oh! Setsuna decided to stay neutral - she isn't involved. It's more important to her to Guard the Gate of Time. Whatever that means. Anyway, I felt the other Scouts' agony - losing a bond like that can be a serious shock to a person. They won't lose the powers they have - but from now on they can't get new ones, and they have to rely solely on themselves for the energy now. They're all out cold - I'll only have the youma to deal with. I'll have the Army's support - it's OK," she kissed him quickly, "I'll be fine. You take care of Malachite. He needs you more, now." She left.
Nephlyte looked back down at Malachite. The man had been like a brother to him. It wasn't fair. Just as things became all right with him and Lita, he shouldn't have to lose his best friend. He gently rocked Malachite back and forth. This can't be happening. Any minute now, he's going to open his eyes, jump up, and yell 'April Fool!'. Any minute now. It didn't happen. Nephlyte heard two pairs of feet running towards him. He looked up - Zafir and Serena. Fortunately, it seemed to be Zafir chasing Serena and not the other way 'round. He yelled Zafir's name and the Captain stopped. Serena kept running - into the palace.
Nephlyte's brain wouldn't process that information. All he knew was that Malachite was dying and he needed Zafir's help to get him to safety. Zafir ran over to him, a question burning in his eyes. It died on his lips. "Great Mother Goddess..." He sank to his knees by Nephlyte. "Is he OK, sir?"
Nephlyte shook his head, "He's alive, but he won't be for much longer if we don't find a Healer," he looked up at the Captain, "I can't carry him and keep the youma off our backs at the same time. I need you to watch my back so I can get him to Healer Hall. Can you do that Captain?"
Zafir nodded, "You can count on me, sir."
"Good. If the Gods are on our side, we just may save him, yet. Let's go." Nephlyte lifted Malachite in his arms and nodded to Zafir to get Malachite's sword. His own sword was back in its sheath - it wouldn't do him any good, right now. He slowly picked his way through the battle, praying all the way.
Serena laughed as Captain Zafir stopped chasing her. Fools. They think that one life is more important than stopping me? What idiots. As she reflected on the battle she was generally happy with how it was going, even though it didn't seem like her troops were winning. The Lunars were no match for the power of the Negaverse and the Seven Shadows - as she had suspected. Without the Scouts on their side, the Generals and the Army were nothing. She hadn't even seen her soon-to-be fiancÚ on the field. She spared a moment to wonder where Darien had gotten to, but ignored it. Her mind wandered to the other person who had been conspicuously absent at the start of the fight. Her soul burned in anger, How dare Jupiter defy me! That little brat. She'll pay for her betrayal. She'll pay dearly. It was no surprise that the God Jupiter had taken this opportunity to grant Lita an Upper Scout's powers. With all of the other Scouts temporarily out of action from their soul "burn-out", there was only one way that Serena could decisively pull a victory out of this semi-disaster. I need the Imperium Silver Crystal.
That thought repeated itself over and over to the pounding of her feet as she ran. It drove her on when she wanted to stop and catch her breath. Finally, her goal was in sight - the Ball Room. She slowed and peaked in. Good. The Queen was still there and still in shock. General Jadeite was kneeling by her, pleading with her to come to safety, She won't listen to you, Jadeite. Haha. You all thought you had her figured out - the brave 'Captain' determined to go down with her 'ship'. Ha. None of you can see that the real reason she stays here is that she's too terrified to move! Petty Queen Serenity. Can't handle the unexpected. She was born a petty little princess and grew up into a petty little queen. Can't handle anything if it hasn't been fully explained to her first. Some ruler. The Moon Kingdom needed a strong monarch in these days of threat from the Negaverse. Why didn't they believe me? I didn't want to hurt her - I just wanted her throne! But no one listened to me! No one saw the threat that was hanging on our doorsteps. Fools. They should have listened. Now it's too late. Who wants to stay with the losers? No one could blame me for wanting to be on the winning side. Fools. Maybe next time a princess has an idea, they'll listen to it, she smiled a grim smile, If there's still a kingdom left when I'm finished, that is.
She shook herself out of her reverie and stood up straight and proud. She marched into the Ball Room, Enter Serena, proud Warrior Princess of the Negaverse, stage left. She chuckled. Jadeite and the Queen looked up to stare in her direction. She moved a few steps nearer and held up her hand, "Mother. I'm sorry this had to happen, this way. I never wanted you to get hurt. If you hand over the Crystal, quietly, I'll see that no one harms you. Isn't that what you want? I'll keep you safe. Just give me the Crystal."
Jadeite put a hand on the Queen's shoulder as if to stay her actions, but she paid him no heed. For once in her life, Queen Serenity found the strength to take a stand. She stood and faced her daughter - or what was left of her. She said simply, "No."
Serena frowned, "No? Is that what you said, Mother? No?"
The Queen raised her head, "That is what I said. No," her eyes then went as cold as Serena's, "And you are no daughter of mine."
Serena stared at her mother in shock. She's standing up for something. Of all the...! Damnit! Why'd you have to pick now to show a backbone?
It was then that the worst thing of all possible worst things happened. Beryl entered the Ball Room from the other door. Queen Serenity stared at her and backed up, into Jadeite's arms. She made a little mew of terror. Beryl smiled - a snake's smile, "Give over the Crystal, Serenity. This isn't a suitable way for a Queen to act. Just be the obedient Queen that you are and hand it over."
Queen Serenity stared at Beryl and at Serena who had walked over to stand at Beryl's side. Her eyes flicked rapidly back and forth from one to the other. In actuality, she couldn't handle the implications. My daughter...
Beryl frowned, "Well?"
Queen Serenity lowered her eyes, and began a litany, "No..."
"No...No...No...No..." the word, whispered at first, filled her being until it was the only thing that she knew. Her voice steadily grew in volume as she presented these two with her defiance, "NO...NO...NO... NO!...NO!...NOO!...NOOOO!...NOOOOOO!!!..." then she tilted her head back and let loose one final scream, "NNOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!"
The Palace foundations shook one more time, and the Crystal shattered into microscopic pieces. Queen Serenity's mind shattered with it. She crumbled to the floor as Beryl screamed in rage. The Crystal, with no one person left to soul-bond too, was frantic. Each piece scattered, trying to find it's whole and re-bond. After several seconds of frantic flurrying, each tiny piece of the Imperium Silver Crystal lodged itself into the soul of one of the people around the Palace - good and evil alike. In an attempt to protect itself, the Crystal granted immortality wherever it found lodging - someday, it would join together again, but for now it would sleep. The specks, settled in their new homes, settled down to wait.
Meanwhile, the force of the shattering of the Crystal had greater repercussions on Beryl and Serena's forces. It grabbed them up, shook them like ragdolls, and threw them back to Beryl's stronghold. The Lunars looked up in disbelief. The youma were gone. No one really believed that they had won, but they saw a tiny respite on the horizon. Slowly, they began to take stock of the damage, and desperately try to rebuild before Princess Serenity came back. And she would come back. It was only a matter of time. They just hoped that they would be ready when she did.