Chapter IX: The Final Stand
Sailor Astera walked to the edge of the water and looked down at the floating body of Mamoru. She felt a chocking in her throat and a sting in her eyes, but it all welled up into an dreadful laugh that echoed through the empty rink. With a pass of her hand, the little energy sucking dragons fluttered to the devastated Sailor Moon and began too fly around her, eating away at the cocoon entrapping her.
Sailor Moon's eyes were closed but she was fully conscious and aware of what had just occurred. She knew that her beloved was dead and deep inside a terrible feeling crept: the feeling that it was all her fault.
Astera watched and waited. Sailor Moon's life would be hers now; there was no other way. With their entire lot of boyfriends dead and all their energy destroyed, the White Moon soldiers had nothing on their side. Astera knelt beside the water and pulled the body to the edge. With some effort, she lifted it up onto the ice and checked the cold, wet flesh for a pulse. There was none. Satisfied, she stood up to finish the job.
By now the little demons had eaten away most of the cocoon. Astera could have just called it off, but she wanted her pets to have some fun. As she approached the feast, Sailor Moon was mostly uncovered, held now only by stands around her waist, wrists, and ankles. She remained there, eyes closed, head fallen to the side.
"So I guess that's the end of it," Astera said in an almost sympathetic voice. "You know, after all this, I thought I would feel some sense of power, some amazing urge to run out into the world knowing I've won." She sighed, "But somehow, I feel like I have made a mistake somewhere." A slight smile crossed her lips as she formed a dagger in the hand behind her back, "Oh I know what it is!" She took a few steps closer and leaned in close beside Sailor Moon's ear, "I haven’t claimed my new crystal yet. Can't really be the Queen of the Universe without that, huh?"
With that, Astera grabbed Sailor Moon's brooch and tried to rip it from her chest while prying the at the Ginzuishou with the dagger. However, she found it almost impossible and the brooch cracked as Sailor Moon's sailor outfit turned to pink ribbons. Astera struggled with the brooch but it would not budge from its place.
"Let it go you fool!" She screamed, but a blinding light suddenly spilled from the small stone and illuminated the entire rink. Astera backed up, shielding her eyes from the pure, heavenly light. She reached for her crystal that hung from a chain around her neck and clutched it tightly, praying for strength. The brilliant light cast harsh shadows around Demitrius' body on the edge of the rink.
The restrains holding Sailor Moon disintegrated and she fell to the ice on her knees. Slowly, she stood up. A powerful wind swirled around her as she lifted the Ginzuishou high above her. The light became more focused as it reduced itself to a glow and formed a pulsating aura around the crystal.
Usagi opened her eyes and smiled in care and love, "Astera, you have been hurt. I can help you and together we can make save you from this darkness. Please don't destroy yourself or others, it isn't necessary." She looked up through the windows at the top of the rink and focused her thoughts on the Moon, "Please help me, Serenity." The Moon's light grew brighter ever so slightly, and Usagi was instantly enveloped in a gleaming dress of white and gold. Her long golden tresses spun around her in wild motions as the Ginzuishou's energy pulled the air masses in the rink around. The crescent on her forehead shown radiantly.
This only angered Astera more. This Princess, this vile wicked woman, was to grow up to own the universe. She had no right.
"Let me heal you," Serenity said.
"I don't need any healing, you wicked descendent of the White Moon! This world, this universe needs to be cleansed of the hatred and destruction that you
will bring to the future! You must be destroyed here and now, before you grow stronger, before you become the egotistical, wicked queen of the future!" Astera ripped the crystal off the chain, "And I will be the one to take your place!"
"So be it." Serenity closed her eyes and prayed for all the help she could get. With these prayers she imbued the hope that Astera would someday know the faults of her ways, “She is a sailor senshi; must this be the only way?” Serenity asked herself. Her eyes narrowed and she focused on Astera who seemed suddenly a little more unsure of herself. With the help of her inner power and the power that remained from her friends, she cried out, "Cosmic Moon Power!"
A violent light burst from the Ginzuishou and the ice below them cracked and splintered. Astera fell to the ground and was severely stunned by the impact of the blast. Serenity's intent was now was to destroy; if this enemy could not be helped, she must be killed.
"Pure powers of the White Moon, please give me this strength!"
Astera regained her posture and was facing the blast of the attack head on. Her grip on the Adazuishou was so tight its edges cut into her skin. With hands bloodied from herself and others, she held the powerful weapon in front of her, "Amethyst Crystal Power!" An explosion equivalent to, if not larger than the one from the Silver Crystal ripped through the rink. The other three senshi lay motionless on the floor, harsh shadows playing around them.
The intense violet light began to counter the pure white light of Serenity's Ginzuishou. It was a now a struggle of endurance, a battle to death until the weakest collapsed to the ice. Neither was prepared to give up.
Serenity could not believe the power of the Adazuishou actually appeared a formidable rival for the Ginzuishou. With all her mind, soul, and body she released everything she had, and yet the crystals seemed equal in power. Where the two powers collided, there was an awful sound of unearthly noises. The terrifying sounds carried down the street to the ears Sailor Mercury, who had been running for the last ten minutes with the book clutched in her arm. “Come on Sailor Moon, just a little longer,” she ran as fast as she could but she felt as though she was moving no where, as if in a nightmare. When she finally saw the rink, she hardly recognized it; the entire scene in front of her had blurred into a mass of strange shapes and colors. She could barely make out the stairs to the main entrance. “Just don't lose it now,” she pleaded to herself, “Do it for Derek.” With that thought came renewed strength and she pulled down her visor and raced through the doors with a sudden confidence.
The stalemate was still being fiercely upheld when Mercury came charging into the rink. When she saw Serenity, she realized her strength was failing; she could not have been a second later.
"Serenity, you have to heal her! She isn't meant to be this way!" She shouted from the edge of the rink. In a quick motion, Mercury scaned in the direction of the battle and typed variables and figures into the computer. She swung her view to her friends on the floor. She gasped as there we no lights present in their bodies. However, when she glanced up at Serenity through the visor she saw her as a translucent body with a beautiful white light glowing in her hands. Beside her, three more beautiful lights of red, green, and yellow glowed with intensity. When she looked at Astera, it was no surprise to her that a glow was not present inside of her. However there was a bright lavender light from her hands. The crystal!
Serenity was wincing. She was weakening and she knew her strength could not sustain a healing attack on Astera. She trusted Mercury's guidance, but not her own constitution. Her eyes welled with tears as she thought of the consequences of her failure. All the lost lives: all her friends, Mamoru, Chibi-usa. She struggled to keep up the fight but the violet light was impossibly gaining power over the Ginzuishou. "Impossible!"
Sailor Mercury dropped her visor and the mini-computer faded. She too looked up through the windows of the rink and prayed. Then she took a quick moment to think of Derek. “We had been apart so long. Maybe soon, we can be together once again.” She walked to Serenity and put and hand on her shoulder. Serenity looked over and saw the two cerulean orbs gazing at her with nothing but loyalty and admiration. No words were exchanged for there was nothing to say. Mercury bowed slightly, her arm across her chest in a sign of respect, then stepped in front of Serenity, directly in the path of Astera's attack.
“Mercury Planet Power!” An aqua glow radiated all over the soldiers body as she formed a shield in front of her Princess.
Serenity cried out for her to stop, but Mercury would not move. She stood firm, her body planted in front of the one she was sworn to protect - her mind felt as it might explode with the pain and the force of Astera‘s attack. Every fiber in her body told her to stand down and retreat, but her mind was pure and focused and her mission clear.
Serenity looked about her and realized that she would need to release the full power of her crystal if Astera was going to be defeated. “Such is my fate…” she thought, as she clutched the Ginzuishou's cooling surface. Sailor Mercury faltered and fell on one knee. Serenity, still shielded, began regaining strength. She collected the power she felt around her and focused on the pure thoughts of eliminating all evil feelings of vengeance from within Astera's soul. Serenity herself did not know that the crystal was indeed the soul that needed cleansing.
As Mercury collapsed the violet light stopped abruptly. Serenity kneeled on the floor and Mercury was flat in front of her, all of her life taken.
Astera was weak, but standing. Her voice was faint but there was such a heavy silence in the rink, it could be heard throughout. "A valiant effort, Mercury: to try to stop me even after your princess had fallen." She walked toward the two. "And you Serenity, were a challenging opponent, though not as challenging as I had hoped." Astera bend down and touched Mercury's wrist to check for signs of live. Sudden movements made her look up. Serenity was gone.
"Moon Healing Escalation!" Astera turned with her hand still on Mercury's wrist as another blast of pure white light engulfed her. She forced the Adazuishou to the light but it would not emit an attack. She swore and called out her incantations over and over to no avail. The crystal began to glow with a pure light from within. The dark violet in the crystal slowly faded and the dim lavender light emerged and cautiously grew brighter and more intense.
"What is this?" she screamed, "What are you doing to it?"
The crystal casing shattered and the dim lavender light grew brighter and brighter. Slowly, it took over illuminating the rink, as the healing light from Serenity's crystal forced the Adazuishou to take its true form. The powerful light of the Ginzuishou began cleansing the wounds of the fallen men and soldiers around her, breathing into them another chance at life in the face of certain eternal rest.
At last, all her energy expended, Serenity’s body hit the ice. She struggled to open her eyes. The last thing she saw was the pure lavender glow of the true soul of Astera, float gently into her body as it too fell to the ice. Then darkness.
The Ginzuishou rolled across the ice, dimmed, and turned to stone...
Usagi's eyelids slowly lifted. “I feel so light,” she thought dreamily, “it’s very nice to be this way.” Her body felt warm and as she opened her eyes she saw herself surrounded by and floating in a warm endless glow. She looked down at herself, “Where am I?” She was nude; her skin felt smooth and soft and she felt neither exposed or threatened. “What is this place...? Did I use up the last of my life?"
“You did.” A familiar voice echoed through the light. Slowly, the outline of a sailor senshi formed in Usagi’s view: her hair was a long loose waterfall of gold and she wore a very familiar black and purple sailor outfit. In her left hand she carried a tall ornate staff that pulsated with lavender light from a strange curved symbol at the top.
“Sailor Astera?” Usagi asked in surprise, “Your hair! Your clothes!” The colors on Astera’s outfit had been reversed; where previously a crescent moon had adorned her forehead, a golden tiara with a purple gem sparkled in the heavenly light. Sailor Astera came forward to Usagi and placed a hand on her shoulder.
“I have you to thank, Usagi,” she smiled warmly, “for showing me my true path.” Usagi stared wide-eyed at the new soldier before her; tears slowly came to her eyes as she pulled from Astera‘s touch and turned away.
Usagi turned to her with a tear filled smile, “I am so happy for you,” she said honestly, “but, the others…” Sailor Astera’s concerned look lifted as she embraced Usagi and wiped a tear from her cheek.
“Release your fears,” she said as she waved her staff across the divine space, “your loved ones are safe.” Through a hazy mirage in the clouds, Usagi could see Mamoru, Rei, and all the others waking up slowly in the ice rink; their wounds were all healed, their bodies returned to life. “It was your selfless power that saved them, Usagi.”
Usagi’s tears continued at the sight of her loved ones safe and well. “Thank goodness,” she sighed, then closing her eyes felt a sudden pain in her heart. She wanted so much to be with them.
“Astera, where will you go now?”
Now it was Astera’s turn to bear the emotion, “It’s because of you that I am free. You see, all this time I have been consumed by darkness; the fear and hatred of the past was laid upon me long before I was able to discern anything on my own. My power was not destined for that,” she felt a tug at the thought of all the pain she had caused. “My true mission is a mystery to me, but I will have to seek it on my own.”
“I see,” Usagi smiled, “then you will not return to Earth?”
“I was never meant to exist in your world,” she sighed, “but you are.” Usagi looked up expectantly.
Astera lifted her staff and the lavender light began to grow, “I cannot stay in this form for long. You’re friends are waiting for you, Usagi. Please remember me this way! Your brilliant light is always meant to shine in this universe!”
Usagi was blinded by the increasing light and she shaded her eyes. In a flash, she felt as though she was falling, falling so fast - down, down, down….
“Usako?” a startled voice choked out as she opened her eyes once again.
“She’s alive!” another voice added, laughing with tears of joy. Usagi sat up, helped by strong arms. She was surrounded by all her friends, each one of them back to normal and beyond overjoyed at her revival. Cries of joy echoed through the demolished skating rink as Usagi realized the moment and embraced her friends. After their joyous reunion, Usagi noticed something near them on the ice. She reached out for it; it glistened in the rising sunlight: a small amethyst crystal.
“Remember me this way…” Usagi recalled. Smiling, she placed the stone in her pocket as her friends led her out into the new breaking day.
THE END!!! ^^
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