Welcome back! Guess that if I didn't scare you off with the first two parts that there's something worth salvaging in here. :) This chapter is different from the first, in that it takes places immediately after the previous part - no huge time gaps. ^_^ I'm not sure if the next Part will immediately follow this one in the flow of time, I haven't decided yet.
The confusing bit in this chapter is the names I've used for the Senshi - no, I didn't majorly screw up. I meant to use their American names. :) There is a reason for this - the American names (Serena, Mina, Ami, Lita and Rei) are their names in the Silver Millennium. In the parts that take place in modern day Japan, I'll use their Japanese names (Usagi, Minako, Ami, Makoto and Rei, respectively). 'Kay?
Kunzite stood outside the King's rooms, waiting impatiently for the herald to announce him. This was the last place in the solar system he wanted to be - he wanted to be with Zoisite. He mentally cursed Endymion for his (as usual) rotten timing. Finally the herald motioned him to the doors and announced, "Lord-General Kunzite!" He irritably pushed past the man and walked over to Endymion's table.
Endymion smiled up at him and motioned for him to sit down. Kunzite frowned when he saw the young Prince sullenly eating his lunch to the King's right. Playing hardball, are we? Well, two can play at this game, he thought as he took his seat to the King's left. Endymion turned to him and made as if to speak, then closed his mouth.
Kunzite looked at the Prince and said, "My Prince. How are you this morning?"
Darien blinked muzzily up at him and mumbled, "Tired. Wanna go back to sleep." Then he yawned, nearly forgetting to cover his mouth when he did so.
Kunzite smiled, he knew full well that the Prince had visited Jadeite at nearly 3:00 in the morning. He slipped Darien a wink, and he smiled in response. Kunzite turned to the King, "Your Majesty, perhaps the young Prince should be excused?"
Darien jumped up and grabbed his father's arm, "Oh can I, Father, can I? Mama said that she was gonna let me help plant the rose garden this year! Please can I go?"
Endymion smiled at his son's antics and made a shooing motion, "Go ahead, Darien. But don't forget your lessons this afternoon!" he yelled to Darien's rapidly retreating back. He turned back to Kunzite, "So! How are things going on your end?"
Kunzite poured himself a glass of orange juice and thought about just how to answer this question, "Well, sir, the Guardians have been discussing the betrothal- "
Endymion interrupted him, "Yes, fine affair, that. But enough about the betrothal, I want to discuss something else. How's that new boy fitting in with the rest of you? I admit I was a little concerned – he didn't seem like he would fit in at first."
Kunzite mentally swore, He isn't even going to let me discuss it! I don't believe it! "Your Highness, King Endymion, this betrothal is of great concern to us- "
Endymion jumped up and slammed his fist on the table, "That's enough! I don't want to hear anything else about the damned betrothal! It's a fine match - Serenity and I have been wanting it for years! It took many years of careful compromise and negotiations to get the terms settled. And I don't want to hear another peep out of you about it! Understood?"
Kunzite nodded, miserably, "Yes sire, perfectly."
Endymion smiled and sat down, "There now. Let's talk about something else. Where are you going, Kunzite?"
Kunzite had gotten up and started walking towards the door. He turned back to the King, "I think you're making a huge mistake, here, Endymion. And I will not beg your pardon for saying so. The Princess won't tolerate marrying a man 12 years younger than she, no matter what her mother's opinion on the matter. As the Prince's Guardian, I must oppose this." He bowed, "Forgive me, my King." He turned on his heel and marched out of the room.
Endymion sat at the table, mouth wide open, and food forgotten. He looked down at Kunzite's empty seat and frowned. He called the herald over, "Benjamin, have Kunzite brought back here for dinner - I don't like it when we can't agree on things. Tell him that if he comes around before then, I'm willing to forget the whole thing." Benjamin nodded, "Oh yes, sire - I'll pass it along."
Kunzite threw open the doors to the practice arena with a well aimed blast of power, and proceeded to take down every target in the arena with a pair of purple, boomerang-shaped bits of power. The other three in the arena had ducked for cover the instant he blew the doors open. When they emerged from where they had hidden, they found Kunzite sitting lotus style on the floor in the center of the ring, eyes raging, trying to calm himself.
Nephrite sauntered over to where Kunzite sat, "I take it it didn't go very well?"
Kunzite growled up at him, "Don't push me, Captain."
Nephrite snapped to attention, "Yes, sir, General, sir! Would the Lord-General like a donut to go with that?"
Kunzite stared up at him in amazement, "What??" Then he swatted at Nephrite, "You are ridiculous! Go find something useful to do!"
Nephrite, still grinning like a fool, said, "Yes, sir! Right away, sir! I'll go get that donut!" He ran out of the practice arena.
Kunzite felt a pair of hands start massaging the major kinks out of his shoulders, and he let his head drop down to his chest. Zoisite crooned in his ear, "Easy. Whatever happened, it isn't a catastrophe. We've got 9 years to fix it."
Jadeite sat down in front of him, "Tell us what happened."
Kunzite told them. Jadeite frowned at him, "Could you possibly have antagonized him any more?"
Kunzite was about to answer when Nephrite came back in and sat down, "I don't blame you. If it had been me, I probably would have whacked him upside the head!"
Kunzite gave him a weary smile, "Were you eavesdropping?"
Nephrite tossed a grin at Zoisite, "Only way to learn anything in this freakin' place - besides, I wasn't going to stay in here with you that out of control. Why risk it?"
Kunzite growled and Zoisite attacked his tense muscles again, "Down boy! Don't take out your anger at Endymion on Nephrite."
Nephrite howled and slapped his knee, quickly losing himself in laughter. Jadeite dissolved into a quiet chuckle and Kunzite put a hand to his mouth, trying not to laugh. Zoisite pulled away from him and pouted, upset. Kunzite pulled Zoisite into his arms and kissed the top of his head, "Zoisite, I always take out my frustrations on Nephrite. He's got such a thick skull, I can pound on it all I like and it never bothers him. Besides, he ducks better than most of the others I've trained." Somewhat mollified, Zoisite let Kunzite tuck him under his arm.
Having gotten that out of their system, Jadeite summed up the problem, "So Endymion won't listen to you and the only other people we can approach, aren't old enough or don't live on Earth - am I right?"
Kunzite nodded, "That about sums it up."
Jadeite's brow wrinkled, "Oh. That's not good. I suggest that you apologize to Endymion and try to let this cool for a while. Darien may be the only one who can do anything about this in the end. And he has to learn to fight his own battles." Then he raised an eyebrow at Kunzite and Zoisite, "And may I offer my congratulations?"
Kunzite and Zoisite turned bright red and Kunzite stammered, "But, I, you, how?..."
Nephrite punched him in the arm, "Took Zoisite a couple of hours to find us, so we figured..." He waggled his eyebrows at Kunzite. Kunzite buried his head in his hands and muttered, "It's just not fair... It's just not fair!"
"Oof!!" Venus grunted from her position holding the punching bag, "Take it easy, Princess! You're gonna knock me on my butt!"
Princess Serena didn't listen, merely cocked her fist and whaled at the bag again, intent on taking out all of her frustrations. She threw in a punch with her other hand and followed it up with a high kick with her left leg. Two more punches fell in rapid succession followed by another kick, this time with her right leg. Venus slipped and lost her grip on the punching bag, falling with a screech to the floor. Serena, just noticing her friend's predicament, stopped her rapid-fire series of punches and kicks, grabbing the swinging bag.
Venus put her hand on her back, "Owww... Watch it next time, you maniac! What's gotten into you anyway?"
Serena held out a hand to her First Scout, "Sorry, Mina! I've been kind of stressed lately..."
Venus took the hand up and pulled herself to her feet. She commented dryly, "I’d never have guessed.” She dusted herself off and added, “So, what's got you so up in arms?"
Serena tugged the two blue velvet bands out of her hair, shaking it out, "I don't know. Probably this 'betrothal' as my mom calls it. If you ask me, she's absolutely nuts!" She gathered her hair at the nape of her neck with one band, braided it quickly and wrapped the other band around the bottom.
Venus chuckled, "Every time I see your hair out of that ridiculous hairstyle, I have to laugh - it almost doesn't look like you!"
Serena slapped at her friend, "Laugh it up! I'm 21, it's time to start looking a little more mature. I should have given up the meatballs years ago." A mock wrestling match soon ensued.
After a minute or two, a voice penetrated their play fight, "Guys! Please! You shouldn't be fighting! I'm sure we can settle this peacefully!" The two blondes shared a glance and smirked, "Mercury."
They got up and brushed themselves off, turning to look at the younger Scout, "What is it, Mercury?" asked the Princess. Amy frowned in disapproval, "Princess..."
Serena looked down at her Sailor-suited figure and frowned, "What?" A quick inspection of her uniform ensued. "I don't see anything wrong..." Then she realized that Mercury was referring to the fact that the Princess was wearing her Sailor uniform at all. She frowned, "Mercury. I understand that you're new at this, but I am a Sailor Senshi, the same as you. Nothing is going to change that. If you can't handle it, then maybe you should find some other occupation."
Mercury's eyes widened and she stepped back, looking as if she'd been struck, "I-I-I..."
Venus rolled her eyes and put her arm around the younger Senshi's shoulders, saying, "I understand that this is different than anything you've ever seen, but the Princess is the best there is. If it weren't for her, our kingdom would have fallen to evil forces many times over. You could learn a lot from her if you'd let yourself. She really is good at this, even if she does whine too much on occasion..." She ducked the swing that came from the Princess' direction, then smiled as Serena shrieked, overbalanced and fell flat on her face.
Serena moaned, "Ouchie. You did that on purpose!"
Venus chuckled, "Yup. You are the best, but even you deserve to be humbled once in a while - and klutz genes seem to run in your family. You just haven't exercised yours in a while."
Sailor Moon heaved herself to her feet, "Sure Venus. Whatever you say." She looked up at the great clock and groaned, "I have to go check in with mother and her council. I'm gonna go grab a shower first. See you guys later!" Then she ran off towards the Palace, braid bouncing around behind her.
Serena jogged quickly up the stairs to her room, tossing a grin at the guards who watched her door. They smiled and waved as she approached. One opened the door for her. When she finally reached her bathing room, she concentrated on her broach and detransformed. She looked at the full length mirror on the wall of the bathing room and gave a dramatic sigh. There she stood - the very image of nobility and grace. Willow-like hourglass figure, delicate features, crystal blue eyes, long slim neck and arms, simple white gown flowing about her figure, and above all that was the longest blond hair in the kingdom, held up in the most ridiculous form of pigtails the Princess had ever seen. And more important than all of that was the silver Heir's Circlet which sat upon her crown of hair.
And I'd give it all up in an instant to get out of this ridiculous marriage. She turned from the mirror, placed the Circlet on the sink, tossed her dress in a corner and took a quick shower. When she was done, she placed the Circlet back on her head, and dressed quickly in an outfit nearly identical to the one she'd worn after detransforming. She looked into her closet and saw row after row of identical dresses - their only differences so slight that were unnoticeable. I really hate Palace life.
She turned from the closet and walked slowly out the door. Now that she was dressed as the Moon Princess, she felt a need to act it – the grace, the poise, the perfect speech and accent, the walk, the attitude. It was why she so desperately needed the release that being Sailor Moon gave her - a chance to forget all of that and just be herself. A chance to release a few frustrations and be a normal girl. Venus understood that - had understood it since she'd come to the palace when they were both twelve. They had rapidly become best friends. The Princess smiled, I just hope we can get Mercury to understand that. She's been here such a short time, but I like her already. I don't want to be at odds with her.
She looked up at the doors she now faced, her mother's throne room. Time to face the music. She'd been fighting this betrothal all week, ever since she'd learned of it. The Council had decided that they needed to speak with her and picked today. That's why she'd taken her anger out to Venus and the practice field. She had to be calm and commanding at this meeting - she had to make the Councilors see her side of this if she was to have any hope of getting out of this marriage. She took a deep breath and nodded to the herald who went inside to announce her.
"Princess Serenity of the Moon Kingdom!" he announced.
Serena took a deep breath, It's show time. The doors opened and she stood at her tallest, desperate for a good first impression. When she looked around the room, her heart sank, No...
Her mother had called her bluff and raised her - this was not a scenario for which she was at all prepared. She looked around the Council table with a growing sense of despair. This wasn't her mother's Council - her mother had called together all of the Monarchs of every planet in the Alliance of the Silver Millennium. And was that Princess Fireball at her mother's left hand? Even her mother's advisors - Artemis and Luna – were present, and in their human forms, no less! The Outer Monarchs, the Inner Monarchs, the Sailor Starlights, Princess Fireball – there was no way she could fight them all and her mother damned well knew it. I can't believe that after decades of squabbling like children, the entire kingdom unites - to fight me!! the Princess thought in despair.
She walked up to the throne, sharing glances with each of the Upper Senshi that she passed, her depression deepening with each glance. Each and every one of them was behind her mother, every step of the way. The only one who looked as though she might waver was the Ruler (and only living inhabitant) of the planet Pluto. But it would take a power far greater than hers and a cause far more important than this to get Setsuna to side with anyone else but the flow of the Timestream. Finally reaching her mother's throne, she inclined her head.
Luna looked as though she might growl. Serena didn't even look at her old friend, I'm sorry Luna. I can not bow or kneel to Mother, not now. I don't dare show that much subservience - I am the Heir, and I must succeed. Her mother's eyes were shining as she saw this defiance for what it was. She spoke, "My Daughter. My only Daughter." Serena flinched at the emphasis put on that one word, "You know why we have called you before us on this day. What do you have to say for yourself?"
The Princess looked her mother straight in the eyes and opened her mouth, only to shut it again, I can't do this - I'm hurting her so badly, how can I do this? She opened her mouth a second time, "Mother..." She trailed off. Her mother raised an eyebrow then turned at an unexpected noise - one of the other Cats had come running into the Throne Room. He skidded to a stop in front of the Princess, "Serena! There's a youma running wild outside - Venus and Mercury can't hold him off on their own!" Serena looked up at her mother - for once, asking permission. Her mother nodded.
Reaching into a pocket of interdimensional fold space, the Princess pulled out her broach, "Moon Prism Power... Make Up!" The responsibilities of the Princess melted away, leaving only her bare soul. A pair of celestial ribbons formed out of her power and wrapped around her, forming her Sailor Uniform. Sailor Moon blinked her eyes and inclined her head to those gathered and ran out to fight, Saved by the youma! How often does a person get to say that?!
Finding the problem wasn't too difficult. Venus' Crescent Beam lit up the area with a bright flash. Sailor Moon ran to her side. Venus saw her and gave her a thumbs up, "Your turn!" she yelled. Moon grinned, "Right!"
She closed her eyes and held her hands over her head, calling her power to her, "Moon..." she whispered. A silver glow formed between her hands, slowly breaking into several smaller (but no less powerful) bits of energy, "Celestial Comets..." the next whisper - a little louder than the first. The bits of energy enlarged, forming a field around her whole body. The last word was shouted as she threw both of her hands out in front of her, "Shine!!" The field of silver energy comets flew from her being, where they'd been held in orbit, straight for the youma, brightening to the point where they couldn't be looked at directly. The youma didn't even have time to notice its dilemma before it was annihilated.
Moon opened her eyes, "Did I get it?"
Venus laughed and punched her in the arm, "Don't close your eyes when you do that and you'll be able to see for yourself!"
Moon laughed, "Now where would be the fun if I could see where I was aiming?" Mercury stared at her in shock.
Moon gathered them both in close, "We need to talk – the timing of that attack couldn’t possibly have been random." They nodded, "But for now, I want you to come with me - maybe I'll feel more able to face the council with my fellow Senshi at my back!" They smiled and gave her a brief hug.
When the three Senshi reached the Throne room, it was to hushed whispers. When they saw the Princess still clad in her Sailor Uniform, many of the Councilors frowned in disapproval. Luna made as if to say something, but Sailor Moon cut her off, "No, Luna. I'm not going to play this game." She turned to the Queen, who in spite of her unhappiness had a wary shine of respect in her eyes. She cleared her throat, "I came to this meeting intending to play your game. I wore the dress, I held my tongue like a proper princess. But each time I sit down to the table, you seem determined to change the rules on me." The Queen smiled, seeing something of herself in her daughter. Sailor Moon continued, "I was raised to do as the Council commands, and that's fine for a princess. But I am not only a princess. I am Heir to this Kingdom, and I am the Lead Senshi of this Kingdom. As such, I do not dare bow to your will if I feel that you are wrong. My place as a Senshi does not allow me that luxury."
Turning back to her queen, Sailor Moon raised an eyebrow, "For now, I will let this betrothal stand." Excited whispers filled the room and Sailor Moon raised her voice above them, "But, only until another solution can be reached that all can agree on. Check, Mother?"
Serenity smiled and bowed her head, "But not Mate, my daughter."
Sailor Moon laughed as she detransformed, "These days, I'll take what I can get."
A small unassuming ship of Jovian origin landed on the surface of the Moon. The pilot settled her down with amazing skill and dexterity, for one who had never landed a ship in such light gravity. He looked down at the young woman sitting in the passenger seat. He settled a hand on her head and smiled at her. She smiled back - brave in spite of her fear. An overwhelming sense of pride overwhelmed the pilot, "You'll do us proud, little one. You'll do us proud, indeed."
The woman smiled, "I'll try, Papa. You know that. I'll do honor to our House, you'll see. Aunt Rhiannon won't have anything to be ashamed of."
The pilot kissed his daughter's head, "I never doubted it for a minute, Lita. Not for a minute."
Lita smiled, "You keep repeating yourself, Papa. That's a terrible habit."
The pilot (otherwise known as the unassuming brother of the Queen of Jupiter), tousled his daughter's hair - for once free of its ponytail. "Scamp."
Lita stuck her tongue out, "Scoundrel."
He smiled, "That's my girl! Go get 'em, Tiger!"
Lita jumped out of the hatch and waved goodbye as her father took off. Turning to the Palace, she squared her shoulders and marched towards it, I will fit in. I am the Senshi of Jupiter, and I will not fail. Tucking her hair into its customary ponytail (more for familiarity than looks), Lita bared her teeth and said to the Moon at large, "I dare you to make me try!"
A voice from somewhere down below her asked, "Dare who to try what?"
She jumped, unable to locate the source of the voice. She felt a small tug on her boot and looked down. A small orange tabby cat with a silver crescent moon on its brow was looking at her, quizzically. "Well?" it asked.
Lita's mouth open wide, "You can talk!"
The tabby smiled at her, "All Moon Cats can talk! Where are you from that you don't know that?" Seeing the girl's continued confusion, the cat gave a small bow and added, "Jordan, at your service, Lady...?" he raised the tone of his voice, indicating that she should supply the rest.
"Lita. And I'm no Lady! I'm a Starpilot! I've been flying ships for almost as long as I could read and write," she stated proudly, "My Father taught me everything he knows."
Jordan gave her a little frown, then sat curling his tail around his knees. He licked his whiskers, an amusing little gesture that made Lita giggle. He said, "Lita, you say... There's only one girl I know with that name and that job description. You would be Lady Lita of Jupiter, niece of Queen Rhiannon of Jupiter, and third in line to her throne. Are you not?"
Lita blushed, surprised that he knew her origins, "After my cousin and my Father!"
He bowed, "As I said, third in line. You would be coming to visit your Aunt? Or are you here for some other purpose?"
She swallowed, "Some other purpose, but I'm not sure I'm supposed to tell anyone. My Aunt didn't want me to do this, and I don't want her to find out..."
"Until it's too late?" Jordan finished. "Very well. Your secret is safe with me, Lady Lita of Jupiter. Now, step lively, we have to get you to the Palace and present you to the Princess - you must be formally inducted. If you don't wish to involve your Aunt or the Queen, she is the only one who can perform the ceremony. Come along, now!"
He sounded so like one of her old fencing instructors, that Lita followed him without question. He smiled back at her in reassurance, She's barely more than a kitten! She can't be more than sixteen! Younger than Mercury, even. He shook his head a bit, This is going to cause trouble. Rhiannon was dead set against her niece becoming Sailor Jupiter. He looked back at the young brunette, I'll help you if I can, kitten. If you're willing to defy Queen Rhiannon, the Upper Senshi of Jupiter, then you deserve my help. He paused, then with a mighty leap, settled on Lita's shoulder. She looked startled at first, then laughed and started scratching behind his ears. A low, rumbling purr worked its way up from his throat to shake his whole body, And if you can keep that up, for a while, I certainly won't leave you! He chuckled, and Jupiter smiled in response. Together, they entered the Palace.
Lita nervously plucked at her flight suit, now unsure of her decision not to pack anything. Sure it had made the trip easier, but she hadn't expected to be brought into the company of the Princess of the Moon so quickly! She ran a hand over all her flight patches - awards for bravery, quick thinking, good flying. She lingered over the little set of wings that had belonged to her grandfather, set below her own broader pair. I hope you're proud of me, Grandfather. I've tried to be the kind of Granddaughter you wanted. Wish me luck!
Hearing a pounding of feet in the hall, Lita abruptly jerked out of her reverie and came to attention. She prepared herself to meet the Princess. A flurry of blond hair and long white dress threw open the door and streaked into the outer room without a pause. Another blond head and a - was that blue? - head followed close on its heels. Jordan chuckled from his spot on her shoulder, "The first was Serena, the second Mina, and the third Amy - Venus and Mercury."
Serena, suddenly realizing that someone had been in the front room, came to an abrupt halt. Mina and Amy crashed into her. "Ow! Watch it, you two!" She whirled and stalked back to the front room - that was the closest that Lita could come to describing her purposeful walk. When she was face to face with the Princess, she was mortified. I'm nearly a foot taller than her! She immediately kneeled and ducked her head. "Princess! I'm so sorry!"
A warm chuckle sounded from in front of her, "For what? Being taller than me? Don't be. Nearly everyone in this kingdom is taller than me. And do get off the floor - I can't very well talk to you if I can't see you, now can I?"
Lita shakily stood up and lifted her gaze to meet the bluest pair of eyes she had ever seen. They had a depth to them that made Lita shake - she was sure that those eyes could see through to her very soul. And the controlled grace and beauty in the form in front of her made her feel awkward and ungainly in comparison. She lowered her eyes. Why did I even try? I'm not worthy of this great responsibility. What was I thinking?? She felt a hand lifting her chin up, forcing her to again meet those eyes.
Serena smiled as she saw the symbol which was now beginning to glow upon her brow, "Sailor Jupiter, I presume?"
Lita nodded miserably. Serena beamed, a most dazzling smile, "Oh good! We've been short quite a few Inner Senshi these days! What's your name?"
"Lita," she mumbled.
Serena frowned a bit, "Lita... The Starpilot? I've heard of you - your reputation as a flying ace has quite preceded you," she gave another sudden smile, "Sailor Uranus is dying to know if your abilities can hold a candle to hers - she races, you know. And she's a rather fine hand with a starship."
Lita blushed, "I left my ship on Jupiter, Your Highness." She felt the tears smart in the backs of her eyes - the loss of her Hawk had been a great bitterness to her. But there would have been no way to take the Hawk with her - Queen Rhiannon surely would have noticed its presence on the Moon. When she raised her eyes to meet Serena's, she saw them burning with an intense sympathy. She found herself enfolded in a surprisingly strong embrace, "Welcome to the team, Jupiter. And don't fear - you'll fly again, you'll see." Lita smiled as she was embraced by the other two Senshi, and Jordan started up a rumbling purr in her ear. She thought in wonder, I've come home. By the Gods, I'm home... This time she didn't bother to stop the tears of joy that fell from her eyes.