Chapter VIII: Facing Death
Sailor Astera jumped and caught her breath as she heard echos of heeled boots enter the rink. Quickly and quietly, she shifted her position and hid behind the judge's balcony, watching through the slits in the wall. Darkness shrouded the rink and she could tell the senshi's eyes had not yet adjusted as they inched their way foreword with caution.
"Where are you Astera?" Sailor Moon shouted looking around in the darkness as she listened intently.
Sailor Astera leapt over the banister down onto the rink. One might have barely seen the faint glint of one short silver dagger in each hand, "So you've come, Princess of the White Moon. I hope you are prepared to meet your dark fate."
Sailor Moon turned towards the voice and the other senshi spread out in a protective semicircle in front of her. "Return our friends and fight us honorably! They have done nothing!"
"It doesn't matter!" Astera scoffed, "Sailor Moon, I'm going to kill you."
Astera ran through the darkness following the voice that had called out. As she approached the senshi, she cried out an incantation that combined the two daggers into a long sword. Adrenaline pumped through her veins and with little effort, she swung sword about her blindly as skid across the smooth surface. Chilled and pain-choked screams echoed through the rink as bloodied bodies slammed to the ice. Sailor Moon backed up against a wall with wide eyes full of terror, "Mars?! Venus?"
Lights came on in a flash and the lit the rink violently. Sailor Moon squinted against the assault at first, then shading her eyes, opened them slowly. "No!" she barely gasped, clutching her hands to her chest and losing the feeling in her legs. The other three senshi lay motionless on the floor, each in a puddle of their own crimson blood. As tears welled up in her eyes, she fell to the floor shaking uncontrollably.
"Dear, sweet Sailor Moon," a laughing voice echoed from above, "You poor
thing!" Astera jumped down and landed in front of her. She lifted Sailor Moon up with one fist and cast her aside, watching her limp body slide across the ice and slam into the opposite rink wall. Sailor Moon's body arched with the impact and she lay crumpled against the cool ice trembling. Astera went to her and gazed into the pale, empty eyes, "You are nothing, you were never meant to be anything at all," With a quick kick to the side she threw Sailor Moon on her back and pinned her to the ice with her body.
Lifting a glittering silver dagger high above her head with both hands, she smiled madly and felt a surge of energy rush from her toes to her fingertips. "Death is mine to hand out!" she screamed. "REVENGE IS MINE!" As the dagger plunged downward and through bright red bow, the universe trembled. With bloodthirsty violet eyes, Astera rose to her feet above the lifeless body and crushed the dimming Ginzuishou to dust.
She woke up to total darkness. Her palms sweating and she was shaking from that blood-spattered dream. An eager smile crossed her lips as she heard voices in the hall - perhaps it was an omen of the future.
Sailor Moon had just about given up all hope of ever finding her Mamoru, but the others were still determined and pushed her onward.
"This is ridiculous!" Jupiter said. She slammed a fist against the tunnel wall. Lucky for her it was a flat part, but it shattered none the less. She stared at it in disbelief, then grew very, very red. "What the heck?" she screamed as she began throwing punches left and right. Suddenly all the tunnels around them seemed to melt away and they were left standing in a room right outside the main rink.
They all looked at Jupiter in astonishment. She smiled uneasily, "Heh."
As they entered the rink they stuck close together. It was pitch black and very cold. A harsh laughter broke the silence; it was Astera.
"So you finally did make it! Incompetent trash. It's a puzzle to me how you defeated any enemy at all." She dashed quickly behind them, causing a shift or air and a cold breeze across their legs.
Mars turned with a vicious look and a fist of fire that lit the area a few feet around her, "You're a coward!" Receiving no reply she turned back, but was encountered with blackness beyond the red glow. "Guys?" she said, trying not to sound nervous.
"Mars?" A voice replied, to her right. "Where'd you go?" It was Sailor Moon.
"I'm here! To your left," she said, then realized she was a sitting duck. She went into a fighting stance and walked toward where the voice had come from. She was smart enough to realize the fire made her stand out and she extinguished it. "Keep talking," she said hoping Sailor Moon was also trying to walk towards her voice.
"Over here," Venus' voice said - only she was to Mar's left.
"What?" another voice said. It was Sailor Jupiter, but she sounded as if she were on the other side of the rink.
Suddenly a florescent light clanked loudly on and flickered a few times before coming to full power. It shown in a bright cone from the ceiling illuminating a figure was strung up by its arms, its head fallen to one side.
"Mamo-chan!" A voice cried out. Sailor Moon remembered the last time she had see him this way in the Arctic before the fight with Metallia. "It must be a trap," she thought, "I will not be fooled." She clutched her scepter tightly. The figure rolled its head up and looked though the darkness. It's voice was raspy but it was that of Chiba Mamoru, "Just...kill Astera."
Progressively, three more lights sputtered on, each revealing another of the boys. Shinozaki was tied by his legs, hanging like a rag doll upside-down with his back to the girls. Motoki was tied like a hog by his hands and feet, spinning slightly; his head hung back and his eyes seemed to be rolled back in his head. Yuuichirou was tied at the waist, doubled over; his arms hung limply toward the ground. With each light came a gasp or cry from the darkness.
"Unfortunate for your friend Mercury that she couldn't be here for the show," Astera laughed, "but she wouldn't have any fun anyway. Her boyfriend's already dead!" The rest of the link was flooded with light and the senshi saw that they were all more than four or five yards from one another. Astera jumped down from the balcony and landed in front of Mamoru.
"You don't stand a chance Astera!" Mars spat.
"Yeah," Jupiter added, "it's the end of your games. The odds are against you."
"I don't recall asking you to speak." Astera said smugly.
"What do you want from us?" Sailor Moon asked, "If you are a senshi, why are you fighting us?" She was looking at intnetly Mamoru as she asked this. Astera realized that her plan was working just as she had figured it would.
"You are nothing right now, nothing compared to the monster you will become," she declared. "I want you're life in my hands, Sailor Moon. Or shall I call you Neo-Queen Serenity?" Sailor Venus stepped in front of Moon defensively followed by Mars and Jupiter as well.
"You'll have to deal with us first!" Venus glared at Astera with a disdainful eye.
Astera laughed, "Perfect! I was hoping you'd say that. But first, I think we have a slightly more important matter at hand." She motioned to the boys behind her. "I think they'll make great bargaining tools, don't you?"
"No deal!" shouted Jupiter, "Sparkling Wide Pressure!" A huge surge of lightning shot down from the sky through the ceiling and into the interior of the building. In a quick move, Astera jumped from her position and leapt towards the reflective mirrored wall along the side of the rink.
Jupiter altered her aim and released the attack not fully aware of the surroundings. Her rage turned to shock as she watched the attack miss Astera and shatter the wall.
"Watch out!" Venus screamed as she dove at Sailor Moon. But the attack did not head directly towards them and they watched as it flashed upward towards the ceiling. The four senshi stood in horror as the lightening crackled and caught the ceiling, surging many of the lights and throwing them into darkness again. It then ran down the wires that tied Shinozaki; his hanging arms were the closest and fastest way to the ground for the voltage. The current went through his body and jumped to the ice below. The band that had been secured around his neck flash a brilliant red before exploding in a ball of fire.
As Astera watched Jupiter fall to her knees and cry out her beloved's name. She lifted her arms above her head and crossed her wrists calling, "Amethyst Spiritual Delusion!" A flock of tiny violet energy-sucking mirages surrounded Jupiter and she collapsed totally; the mirages began draining energy from her body and mind as she slipped into a state of devastation.
Venus came swiftly from behind and kicked Astera across the back. She rolled past Astera, managing to sweep a kick across her legs and knock her to the ground.
Astera stood up quickly, and looked down at the nasty gash on her right calf. She was invigorated by the fight. "Jupiter should know it's bad luck to break a mirror," she hissed spitefully.
"Don't you know it's dangerous to play with fire!" a voice cried out, "Fire Soul Bird!" Sailor Mars sent her flaming phoenix at the outline of Astera. Mars was appalled when Astera smiled as it approached then simply vanished. The attack soared on and Sailor Moon looked up from her fending the mirages off Jupiter, "No!"
The fire sliced through Yuuichirou's mortal skin like a hot knife through butter. He uttered out a scream of agonizing pain as the entire left side of his torso was set ablaze by the attack. The warmth of the flames melted the ice and the flaming bits of flesh smoldered in the water.
Mars too, collapsed in incredulity. Astera laughed and shouted a command to her mirages. The hungry little energy shades flew over to feast on the fallen Mars.
Sailor Moon stood up and made a motion towards the predatory Astera, then suddenly realized she had not seen Sailor Venus, "Sailor Venus?" she called.
There was a rapid movement in the darkness, and she turned to see two dangling cords under one of the bright flood lights. Motoki had been freed. "Mamo-chan!" she thought as she got up and ran towards her love. Astera reappeared in front of her and Sailor Moon slammed into her, then fell back skidding across the slippery surface. She was unconcious from the fall.
"At last," Sailor Astera scoffed, "at my feet where you belong." She raised a hand to blast an attack at the stunned Sailor Moon, but a blur of brown caught her vision and distracted her. Demitrius had latched onto her arm with all four paws and his eyes were pleading.
"Please stop this! You can't kill her." he said. Astera looked at him with astonishment.
"Get out of my way!" she said with surprize and anger, "What the hell are you doing?" She pushed Demetrius away and dropped her foot right under his belly sending him skidding across the ice with a yowl. She then turned back to Sailor Moon, but her thoughts were now scattered. How could her guardian turn on her? Demitrius caught his balance and ran back at her as she knelt down to grasp Sailor Moon's throat.
"I brought her here to help you!" Demitrius shouted at Astera. Then he called to Sailor Moon, asking her to wake up. Sailor Astera was furious. As he ran towards them, she turned her hand on him and carelessly blasted him far across the rink with a powerful beam of dark energy. Sailor Moon's eyes flickered open and she watched Demitrius slam into the rink wall. His brown body bounced and slid, coming to rest motionless on the ice.
"Why?" Sailor Moon asked.
Sailor Astera's eyes narrowed as she looked down upon the stuggling soldier on the ice in front of her. "You even turn my own against me." She lifted a hand, "Astera-Nemesis Dagger!" A gold hilted dagger appeared and she glanced down at the semi-stunned girl on the ice in front of her. "Revenge will certainly by sweet!" Remembering her dream vividly, she let out a scream of glory and swung the dagger above her head.
"Not this time! Venus Love Me Chain!" a chain of golden hearts wrapped around Astera's raised wrist and pulled her forcefully down on her side; the dagger skittered across the ice. She struggled to regain her footing, as Venus tried to pull her down like a roped bull.
In a fit of frustration, Sailor Astera shattered the chain apart and ran at Venus. Sailor Venus was in disbelief as watched in terror as the black and violet figure ran at her in the glimmers of her fading attack. She motioned to block the brunt of the rush, but no impact came.
A young man's voice came howling from the rink's edge and Astera came into the light holding Motoki by the head, another dagger at his throat, "You think that is the only dagger I have?" In a sharp motion she sliced his neck clean open, severing both major arteries. She let the body fall to the ground and wiped the blood off her dagger with her skirt.
With a snap of her fingers, the dragons were around Venus. She fought them off but they became entangled in her hair and drew her to the ground. Weakened, she too collapsed.
By now Sailor Moon had collected herself. She stood up and a raised her scepter, "That's enough! I won't let you destroy these lives! How could you? Have you no
heart?" she was choking on tears. "Moon Princess..." she stopped short. Astera stood in front of Mamoru, her arms folded, her head lifted.
"I can't attack," Sailor Moon thought. "Oh Mamo-chan!" His words came rushing back to her, "Just kill Astera..." She looked into those violet eyes and saw nothing but hatred.
Astera lifted and hand and there was a rumble under the rink. To Sailor Moon's surprise, the ice melted away in one giant circle under where Mamoru was hanging. "I think you might enjoy this, Sailor Moon," she laughed, "I know I will." She walked around the edge of the water, "I've started to have a little thing for him, you know."
Sailor Moon continued starring hard, just waiting for the opportunity to strike she made a few motions to the left and right keeping her distance; but Astera matched her move for move keeping herself between Sailor Moon her the helpless man behind her.
"But unfortunately, so do you," Astera sighed, "and fate has set it so that he must die." She paused, "And you must watch." She pulled her wrists together in front of her chest and trust them forward, "Celestial Subversion!" A stream of aqua-amethyst light shot across the rink. The scepter fell from Sailor Moon's hand as she succumed to the illustion of Astera's attack. The wand and rolled across the ice, clanking along to Astera's feet. The light shot up and down simultaneously and Sailor Moon became cocooned in a solid rocklike shell, the only thing visible was her face.
"Isn't that splendid?" Astera kicked the scepter and it skittered across the ice slamming into the side wall. "Now, the show must go on."
The lights dimmed in the rink. A slight moan was heard from the darkness, the little energy sucking demons still fluttered about doing their work. The light on Mamoru flickered inconsistently, casting changing shadows on the water below. He lifted his head, only slightly aware of his surroundings, but entirely aware of Usagi's presence. His body was so weak now.
As the ropes holding him began to lower him down, his mind was telling him that he must be being rescued. He tried to move his body but nothing seemed to work the way he wanted. All the blood had rushed to his legs and they felt heavy and cumbersome. His arms had lost all feeling half an hour ago and it took all his effort to lift his head, only to be confronted with darkness. He wanted to badly to fight "Sailor Moon… is in danger..." he thought.
Sailor Moon struggled in her cocoon but it was far too tight for her to fight through. She began to cry as she realized what Astera had planned.
"Mamo-chan, I heard you were quite the swimmer," Astera was amused with herself, "I wonder just how long you can hold your breath!"
"Mamoru!" Sailor Moon screamed out, struggling to break free of the demon that held her. "Leave him alone! It's me you want!" She was frantic now, her gasp on reality was twisted and fading as she struggled. She screamed nonsense, anything to stop her, "Let me be the one! Take my life! I will give you anything! Please stop!" and so on, but Astera just smiled as she watched the figure lower.
When his feet touched the water and his pants began to soak up the frigid liquid, a sudden realization dawned on him. This wasn't a rescue, this was more torture. As the water level reached his waist he was far more alert than he had been hanging. He looked up with pleading eyes - no words could describe how one feels as death taps on their door and lets it self in.
When the water was to his neck he became aware of the need to fight this. With weak and beaten legs he tried to kick and keep his head above the water. As the ropes lowered his arms into the water, he flailed them around - but he could not feel if they accomplished anything. For what seemed to him like hours he struggled, fighting what was truly inevitable the moment the ropes began to lower. He waited for Sailor Moon to come to his rescue, he struggled knowing that she was on her way to help him right then. As his head finally slipped under, he waited for her hand to pull him up. And under the surface, with lungs full of water, he departed this life believing his Princess would come.
Ami sat up in her bed suddenly. She had been asleep with a fever for hours and woke to find the sun had set. But what startled her was the dreams she had been having. Something was terribly wrong; a darkness had settled in her soul.
She walked over to her desk and turned on her lamp, and took out a sheet of paper. She rummaged through her desk draw until she found a pencil and sharpened it.
"To my dearest friends," she began, "It has come to my attention that I can no longer be a sailor senshi. I am unable to be of any sufficient use to the team like I should be, and I think it's in the best for me and the team if I simply resign. I wish you all luck and," she stopped. And what? she thought. And I'm abandoning you? And I'm selfish? She sighed and rested her heavy head in her hands. Her eyes happened to wander upon an old dusty book lying on top of her bookshelf. Where did that come from?
She got up and pulled her chair over then gently took the heavy book off the case. She blew the dust of the cover and rubbed the caked stuff off with her hand. The gold writing on the cover read. "The Legends of The Silver Millennium: Stories of the Kingdom." How could she possibly have this book?
Ami tried to remember the many gifts Chibiusa had brought from her home in the future. Ami could not recall having ever received this book from her; surely she would remember such a prized possession. Looking at the publication date, she determined it would be published a century after the rise of Crystal Tokyo. Flipping through the Table of Contents, she saw that it contained all the tales of the Moon Kingdom of the past as well as some information on the early history of Crystal Tokyo. She had obviously stuck it up on the shelf and forgotten about it, though she just couldn't imagine how.
She flipped through the pages glancing at the beautiful illustrations and skimming the stories. She stopped suddenly, her heart jumping. The title read, "The Story of Astera." Quickly she came out of her dreamy state and sat up right reading, skimming for any information. "Astera was a strange planet in the Sol System." she read. "A remnant from a pre-Sol system, it had a strange orbit which alienated its people from the Moon Kingdom. The rebellious ruling family wished to overthrow the Moon Kingdom. The history of this rivalry was thought to be only a legend from the Ancient Kingdom, but the inhabitants of Crystal Tokyo soon learned of its validity. Though the last of the rebels were destroyed in the year 2905, the Legend of Astera serves as a reminder of the extent to which people will go for power. Read this legend and know the darkness of a vengful heart:
"A long time ago, before the rise of the Moon Kingdom, the Solar System was in turmoil. War and disease ravaged the planets, and the people of the Solar System clung to the story that a legendary savior would appear with the mark of peace to lead the system into a new age. A daughter of the ruling family on the moon bore a child with white hair and a golden crescent mark on her forehead. The child, Selene, was proclaimed a savior and raised to become our beloved Queen Serenity.
The King of Astera was a dark sorcerer. He was greedy and jealous of the Moon's power in the Solar System, and he quietly began brew a rebellion against the Moon. He spread rumors that their messiah was fabricated and false. His Queen, Kiara, became pregnant. While she slept one night, he used his powers to cast a spell on the child. Shockingly, when the child was born, it bore the crescent mark of the Moon! The people of Astera proclaimed they had the savior and that Queen Serenity was a fraud. King Yukio spread the lie that Serenity had been falsified by the Moon Kingdom in order to stay in power. He called for acts of war to dethrone Serenity and replace his young Princess Astera in her place. Through his daughter, the wicked King Yukio wanted to rule the Solar Sytem. Our gentle Queen Serenity had a wavering heart; she wanted more than anything to live peacefully.
Queen Serenity's advisors told her they would attack the enemy and defeat him, but she was peace-minded and wanted no conflicts. She decided it would be wise to send a small group of soldiers to bring a hand written letter to the king and queen of Astera requesting time together to decide what was best for the Solar System. However, the people of Astera would not allow the letter to be delivered until they first read it, and since the orders were to only allow the letter to be read by its intended recipients, they remained in a deadlock.
Tired of the foolish bickering and desiring a peaceful outcome, Queen Kiara set out to retrieve the letter. The King would not let her go alone, so he sent her off with a group of lightly armed warriors as guards. As they approached the camp of the Moon Kingdom, darkness settled on the land. A scout from the camp saw the group approaching and mistook it as a secret attack by the Asterian rebels. They quickly warned the others. Another group was ordered out to come up behind the approaching band and destroy them.
Since the Queen and her guards had come lightly armed, they had little means to protect themselves from the ambush and they were slaughtered by the light of fire and moon.
The next day, when his wife had not returned, Yukio went in search of her. There on the side of the road, he found Kiara's lifeless body, her silky blonde hair caked in mud and dried blood and her fair skin turned gray with death. He cried out from that place in time and claimed he would seek revenge for this horrible deed.
When Queen Serenity heard what had happened she was taken aback with horror and sadness and immediately went to Astera to meet with the King. Against the wishes of her advisors, because of her delicate condition with child, she went into the meeting room alone. As she stepped in, King Yukio held a sword up to her neck and told her she was foolish and he would kill her and her unborn child. She sympathized with him and her voice never faltered. Slowly she convinced him that all was not lost and that the queen's death may not have been in vain. As a token of her hope for peace, she offered him a gift.
The Obsidian crystal had been made by the finest artisans and spiritualists in the Moon Kingdom and would allow Yukio and his kingdom to have expanded lifetimes. Yukio reluctantly accepted the gift and went to bide his time, for he was still very bitter.
Astera was slowly leaving the solar system as it followed its awkward orbit. Then 16 years later, the horrible day of Metallia’s attack on the Moon Kingdom came unexpectedly and King Yukio sent no help. Everyone was caught off guard and all of the royal family was killed - except Queen Serenity. With her daughter and heir dead and no hope for her kingdom, she used the remaining power in her crystal to send all her loved ones to a peaceful future on Earth.
During this battle, Astera had traveled far out of the system and existed in seclusion. With the fall of the Moon Kingdom, the entire planet went into a frozen stasis. When Crystal Tokyo was formed, the planet Astera returned to life. Yukio continued to raise his daughter to believe that she was the true heir to the Solar System’s great power and that the Moon Kingdom had fallen because of its greed and lies. He believed their awakening to be the sign of a new dawn of power. It took many more years for the planet to reenter the main section of the solar system. When they finally entered the regular orbital plane, it was the year 2905. King Yukio was pleased to see a desolate Moon, but was shocked to find Neo Queen Serenity had come to power in the gluttonous splendor that was Crystal Tokyo on Earth.
The mad king saw it as terribly unjust that the daughter of a murderer was in power of the entire solar system. He had convinced himself over thousands of years that Princess Astera was the true messiah and destined leader of the system. He had been teaching her and all in his kingdom about the Moon Kingdom and how they were cruel, heartless, and greedy. And above all, he told her, was the Queen, the most vile person in the entire universe, bend on avoiding justice with bribery. He was convinced that her heir, our beloved Neo Queen Serenity, would be the same. His skewed views were ever distorted through eyes of hatred. His feverish need for revenge culminated in an attack on Crystal Tokyo.
As the battle wore on, more and more of King Yukio's troops fell until at last it was just him astride his horse. He refused to surrender. In an attempt to gain the revenge he sought, he threw a dagger directly at Neo Queen Serenity. King Endymion was there to protect her and the Queen had no choice but to use some of the power of her Ginzuishou to defeat this man. However, King Yukio had one final hand to deal. Sacrificing everything, he activated a destruction sequence at the core of his planet in one final attempt to destroy the Queen. The planet Astera was destroyed, exploding along fault lines that tore the planet apart. Its pieces settled into a regular orbit between Mars and Jupiter. Serenity, with help from Endymion and her guardians, escaped unscathed. She knew the far reaching powers of hatred. Using the Ginzuishou, Serenity willed the planet Astera to be faded from all know existence and memory for as far back into history as she could feel. She wished, in effect, for it to be erased it from existence. She then sanctified the new asteroid belt by placing four new guardian seeds there to grow.
King Yukio was most certainly killed and it is believed that his child, the Princess Astera, was also lost in the battle. Let this tale of dark revenge be a reminder to all that seeking solace in hatred will not soothe tragedy. Darkness reaps dark rewards."
Ami sat starring at the last paragraph for a few seconds. Astera was from the future but had been alive since the Moon Kingdom. She was here for revenge of the death of not only her father, but also her mother and her entire planet. Quickly Ami flipped through the index looking for 'crystals'. She turned to the section and skimmed for the creation information. There had to be some more information in here that they could use.
"Ah ha!" she read aloud, "Some crystals are those of a pure heart, spirit, or soul. The power of these crystals forms the life of every living creature." She looked up at herself in the mirror hoping that she was right and could stop Sailor Astera in time.
Chapter IX: The Final Stand