The Darkest Road
by Notre-Dame-des-Fleurs

Episode Eleven: Beyond Good and Evil

* * * * * * * *

I had found the time on the much-rumored space ship rather dull, but nothing compared to this in terms of boring. I’d been practically locked up in this dreadfully empty little room since yesterday evening, carefully watched over by at least half a dozen guardsmen.

Truth be told they weren’t actually keeping watch over me but over their beloved princeling, but with both of us cramped together in such little space, that was a technicality. Not to mention how Mamoru’s presence didn’t exactly improve my already bad mood. This was no better than the Golden Kingdom.

“C’mon,” I whined. “Can’t we do anything? Everything’s gotta be better than just sitting here!”

Okay, so I am one of those people who crave constant entertainment.

“Remaining here are our orders,” Jadeite replied evenly from his disgustingly serene cross-legged position on one of the meager beds. “You can take over the shield if you want.”

I didn’t even bother to reply. Jadeite had kept the damn ward up since arriving, whereas I had simply refused. It was idiocy, even Jadeite admitted that – if any darkcreature appeared, it would doubtlessly be noticed long before it touched the shield. Besides, holding the ward only served to wear down the power that could be put to better use if there actually were any enemies here. Besides, nobody here was enough of a magician to see if we actually produced a ward or not, hence I found no reason whatsoever to waste my energy on such blatant foolishness, but as usual Jadeite had a greater sense of duty. He’d tried to talk the guard officers out of it, but it appeared that nobody cared to listen to a boy of fourteen.

I slumped down on the floor listlessly, resting my back against the wall. Snapping my fingers, I produced a number of brightly colored energy bolls, all for the single purpose of annoying the irksome guardsmen. Ignoring the looks Jadeite and Mamoru each bestowed on me, I smiled beautifully, enjoying how the Captain’s face grew steadily sweatier. It had been obvious from the start that he was uncomfortable around us, and abhorred the thought of us using magic.

He opened and closed his mouth several times before finally stuttering out my name, complete with title.

“Yes?” I kept my voice sweet and innocent as I replied.

“It’s fine, Jidho-san,” Mamoru interrupted. “Zoisite, would you stop that?”

So, the dear princeling was trying to prove his supposed authority. Well, his loss.

Fortunately for him, a messenger came to a panting halt in front of Jidho and his guardsmen, forestalling any utterance from me.

“Well?” the captain prompted.

“The princesses of Venus and Mercury are still missing. They are requesting we send out a party as well to look for them.”

“I have strict orders to guard the prince,” Jidho said. “Can’t those all-mighty Tennou find the lasses?”

“Kunzite-san is probably in the general area, but his primary objective is still to kill darkcreatures. Nephrite-san is still cleansing the remains of the city,” the messenger reported.

“Of course we’ll send an additional party of seekers,” Mamoru claimed, obviously trying to sound official and prince-like. I had to admit that he succeeded fairly well. “Pick your men, Jidho.”

Not well enough, evidently, as the captain still looked uncertain, as though contemplating how he should best phrase his refusal.

“Doing one’s best to save innocents from the darkness is everyone’s sacred duty,” Mamoru continued. “Questioning one’s superiors, however, is not.”

When Jidho still failed to answer, Jadeite finally raised his face from the ground. Clear, emotionless blue eyes fixated the captain’s face.

“Shall I dispose of him, my prince?”

“That will not be necessary. I hope.” Mamoru raised his eyebrows questioningly at Jidho, whose face was by now absolutely drenched in sweat, and who almost immediately saluted and began choosing his men. Mamoru practically sparkled, whereas Jadeite was a bit more restrictive. Then, the prince’s facial expressions were usually more open than my comrade’s.

I’ve never been one to look at gift horse in the mouth, nor one to think about what I do before I do it – while everyone hurried back and forth and stopped paying attention to me, I cautiously sneaked out and ran for it.

I didn’t stop until I’d left the camp behind me. Unfortunately, I discovered when I stopped, this new scenery didn’t offer any exciting sights either. The ground was muddy from hundreds of soldiers and horses walking over it, and there was sort of like a stench in the air, as though something incredibly filthy had died and been buried here without cremation. The town was situated to my left, but for a number of reasons, I had no desire to get any closer to it. And for even more important reasons – such as my stubborn pride, for example – I was not about to return to the camp. Instead, I turned my back at both city and camp and resolutely began walking in the opposite direction.

It wasn’t very long before I heard the distinctive sound of a mundane patrol approaching, and as it didn’t figure in my plans to get spotted just yet, I gave my surroundings a quick glance-over. There was nothing to take cover behind, but that hardly mattered – I saw no reason to prefer my present location to the one I would end up in after a random teleport.

I must have been blind. But then, I’ve only ever really seen what I’ve wanted to see.

Anyway, since I didn’t know where I wanted to go, I kept no destination in mind as I entered Shadow Space, content to merely let the latent energies send me wherever they wanted. Normally, the only difference from a standard teleport was that it took a little longer time and that instead of exerting control over Shadow Space and concentrating on where you wanted to go, you kept your mind blank and just let chance push you in whatever direction it wanted.

This time, it was profoundly different from that – the moment I arrived in the mirror-dimension, I was thrown away by lines of thick, dark energy. They tugged at me, lashing out like whips of evil. They weren’t strong enough to penetrate my shields, so after the first few instants I wasn’t hit anymore, but it was still a strange and unnerving experience, and I stumbled out into the real world as fast as I possibly could.

I landed painfully and gracelessly on my face. Cursing miserably, I dragged myself to my feet and inspected the area. Apparently, I had landed in the outskirts of a forest, just where the trees thinned out into a plain. My cheeks went white as I stared out over the wide expanse of what had once seemingly been a park – there was something there, something so vastly evil as to defy description. I felt stoned, dazed, didn’t know what to do.

Taking a deep breath, I tried to calm myself. Quite obviously, the only sensible course of action would be to teleport the hell out of here at once, before I caught any attention from the demon. Sure, I’d been created and trained to battle such creatures, but nothing had prepared me for this kind of feeling, this sort of helpless fear. I gathered the energies needed for a teleport as discreetly as I possibly could, was just about to reenter Shadow Space when a sudden bolt of golden lightning down on the plain caught my attention.

Staring, I let the magic I had called forth disintegrate.

There was someone there, battling the demon. Squinting my eyes, I saw the small forms of what appeared to be two girls in sailorfuku. No, that was ridiculous. But then another wave of golden energy struck the demon, and my doubts vanished. ”The princesses of Venus and Mercury are missing”. And now it was I, of all people, who had found them.

I bit my lower lip uncertainly, not entirely certain what to do – I could still teleport away.

My pondering was cut short when one of the girls screamed, a thin yell of pure pain and fear. Goddamn it, they aren’t strong enough for this! Running towards them as fast as I could, I tried in vain to quiet the insistent voice in my head saying that neither was I.

* * * * * * * *

It was never my intention to get into battle with that demon. Hell, of course it wasn’t. However suicidal I might feel, I couldn’t risk Ami’s life as well. It was just bad luck that we happened to run into such a powerful demon when fleeing from a pack of youma that had discovered us.

I fought it as best I could, not because I had any hope of hurting it, but because it was really the only thing I could think to do. We’d transformed into Sailorsenshi several days ago, realizing that we were too dependent on food and sleep in our mundane forms. By the time we encountered the demon, I’d had ample practice with my Crescent Beam. Ami had done a few spells, as well, but Shabon Spray was even unlikelier to harm the demon than my amateur attacks. I tried a Venus Love Me Chain, but found myself too powerless to activate the necessary magic. It was hopeless.

Not that any attack of mine could have stopped it, I thought resignedly as my third Crescent Beam missed and the demon lowered its head and swallowed us. I heard Ami scream as we fell down the gullet and landed in what had to be the beast’s stomach. The inside, of the beast’s stomach.

I have no idea what animal body the demon had originally taken over, but it was clear that the evil energies had mutated the creature severely. It had become some sort of gigantic beast, not unlike those ancient Earthen reptiles known as dinosaurs. I suppose it was fortunate that it was of so huge a size, because that meant that we hadn’t been chewed on before we were swallowed.

Unfortunately, the stomach had those same proportions, which meant that I almost drowned in the gastric juice – I’d landed on my hands and knees, and the sticky substance just wouldn’t let me up. I choked, panicked, until Ami’s hands found mine and helped me. Even when I stood, though, the wetness reached my chest, and like all gastric juices, these were corroding. It felt as though my skin was set on fire, and I praised whatever god might hear me that at least I’d kept my eyes closed during my brief dive.

I’d wanted to die, but not like this. Not in torment in a demon’s tummy.

“You all right?” Ami asked. She had spots of gastric juice all over her, and her hair was already beginning to dissolve.

“Yeah,” I said. “Don’t think that’s gonna last, though.”

“I might try something,” she offered, then closed her eyes in concentration. “Shabon Spray!

Instead of just releasing the bubbles, she directed them downwards, created a small platform that we could climb onto, a brittle island of salvation in this stinking hell.

“I’m afraid it won’t last long,” Ami said, her face sweaty and tired.

“I get it. I’ll try to get us out of here.” I turned towards the wall of the stomach, summoning as much power as I possibly could in my “Crescent Beam!

The bolt of golden energy tore a little whole, not enough to escape through, but, I discovered as I peered through it, reaching all the way through the body. I could see the outside – gasped as my gaze was caught by a small figure enveloped in a burning magical aura.

“Hold on just a little longer, Ami-chan. We might be rescued.”

“I’m sorry, Mina, I can’t.” It was almost a sob, a sound more weary and desperate and despaired than anything I’d ever heard. Ami slumped forward as the bubbles disintegrated below us.

“Ami-chan!” I screamed, catching hold of her hand just as the burning pain closed around me again. She didn’t answer.

* * * * * * * *

After more than twelve years of training, one could think that I should have a fairly good idea of how to deal with the situation. Unfortunately, everything I’d been told to do, all the instructions that had been so carefully imprinted in my mind, were completely erased by the first bolt of demonic magic.

I threw myself out of the way with a rather undignified yelp, landing in an even more undignified position on my bottom. The attack had grazed my shoulder, but fortunately my instincts had taken over, warded me with protective layers of magic. The fabric of my clothes was burnt, but that was all.

I was not afraid anymore. Not once since the magic activated. I knew so well that this kind of possessing demon, no matter how powerful it might seem, couldn’t hurt me when this golden warmth ran through my veins. I tried to keep it in check, not wanting to overdose, secure in the knowledge that I was far too mighty for any darkcreature on this side of the Walls to harm.

Which still wasn’t quite good enough – I was safe, but the girls weren’t, and they’d been freaking eaten by the demon. This incredibly filthy creature had eaten them, possibly killed them, and I still didn’t know what to do.

My decision process was cut short when the demon attacked. The spell bounced off my shields, but still managed to knock me flat on the ground. Though I wasn’t hurt anywhere, the flow of energy directed at me pressed my body against the ground, the air out of my lungs, rendering me panting for breath.

“Son of a bitch,” I muttered, releasing a bolt of raw power that struck the demon in the lower torso. The pressure eased, and I sat back up, but it didn’t take my opponent even a split second to retaliate. This would never do – if I didn’t call up more power, I couldn’t beat it, and if I did awaken more of my slumbering strength, there was a good chance that I’d end up in the same state that Jadeite had, way back when Nephrite faced off against Mesala. The thought of looking for help did flit through my mind as a rather tempting option, despite the humiliation it would bring, but by the time anyone got here, it would certainly be too late for the princesses.

“Come on,” I whispered to anyone who might hear, “help me. Please.”

For natural reasons, the most important being that nobody was around, I wouldn’t have expected an answer to that prayer, but to my infinite surprise, there was one – a stirring of energy underneath me, as though the ground itself was rising to aid me. Nanda yo…? I strengthened my shields so as to be able to concentrate despite the demon’s continued assault, pressing my palms against the ground. Its energy practically flew towards my touch. “Simply lovely, without the bland cloak of humanity so very, very lovely as to have the planet itself fall so in love with you that it rises from its foundations to beg the favor of dying for you.” It seemed it really had. So maybe Jadeite’s half-serious ramblings hadn’t been so wrong after all.

Help me,” I whispered to the ground, projecting my need telepathically. “Taskette kudasai,.”

And the ground rose in a mighty wave of stone and magic to wash over the demon.

“Holy shit!” I exclaimed, not having dared to hope that this would actually work.

When the wave passed, it left a ruined landscape and a fairly ruined demon. Its body was badly torn, and its aura had suffered significant damage. Two girls lay on the ground, one blonde and one blue-haired, both bloodstained but breathing. I ought to be able to handle the rest myself.

Thank you,” I told the planet, using that same particular hybrid of speech and telepathy that seemed to have worked last time. “Domo arigato yo.” It felt natural to address it in the old language, for some reason, but I didn’t speak it well enough to rely solely on Nihong.

Stumbling to my feet, still protected by a number of wards, I hurried over to the fallen children. Damn girls getting me into trouble. It was still a great relief to find them mostly unhurt, though with a number of nasty corrode-burns. How the hell did they acquire those?

Shaking my head, I pushed the matter away. I was no kind of a healer, so I would probably just mess them up worse if I tried to help. I could handle simple things like bruises and abrasions, but this was clearly out of my liege. Instead, I placed a shield over them and turned to face the issue of the still-remaining demon.

I raised one hand, summoning sufficient power to vanquish it. It stared back at me with empty, pit-like eyes. And I hesitated.

It was an evil invader attempting to destroy me and my world, but at the same time it was just a corrupted creature who had never wanted to become like this. And even the demon itself wasn’t exactly…dead. I couldn’t see any other option, but you don’t kill living beings. You just don’t.

I just don’t.

On the other hand, I couldn’t just let it roam about freely and destroy more human lives. At the same time…No, I would not bloody my hands like that.

“Please,” I whispered to the demon. “Can’t we just try to come to an agreement?”

Something in its eyes shifted, almost as if it understood what I was saying. I left all thoughts of attacks behind me, and concentrated my energies on strengthening the good qualities of my aura. Demons, per definition, don’t have hearts, don’t care for love. But if I could make the planet of Venus rise in adoration of me… Besides, love wasn’t the only thing I offered. Beauty is a streak for which many demons are known to have strong fetishes.

“Come to me,” I said, letting a depth of power that had always previously been sleeping somewhere in the back of my mind flow through me, envelope me in an embrace of the absolute, shining perfection that has hunted to many a mortal dream. I wasn’t exactly human anymore as I offered it both my hands. “We can be together. That’s what you want, isn’t it? What we both want. I’ll be yours, and you’ll be mine. Forever.”

I wasn’t certain where the words came from, but then, I wasn’t certain what I was doing at all anymore. Wasn’t even sure who I was. The only thing I was truly aware of was the magic in me, the Tennou that was so gorgeous that even a demon from outside the Night Walls couldn’t help falling in love with him.

Darkcreatures aren’t supposed to have that kind of feelings. If they do, they aren’t properly darkcreatures anymore, and if they can’t go back to what they were before they became that, they disintegrate and vanish.

I stared at the spot where the demon had stood, feeling strange and somewhat lonely.

* * * * * * * *

After five days of fighting darkcreatures, I was beginning to feel rather cranky. There was practically nothing here to eat, and I couldn’t take the risk of sleeping without putting up shields so strong that it craved more energy to generate them than I gained by the rest. Consequently, my attacks were a lot less flamboyant now, never using an ounce more energy than was absolutely necessary. The overwhelming joy from the first hours had diminished, leaving only a grim sense of triumph for every dusted darkcreature. The bright side was that I didn’t have the energy to call up enough power to kill me anymore, couldn’t accustom more than mundane levels of magic. The mere fact that that was the bright side made the situation pretty dark.

I’d gotten word that princesses Minako and Ami were supposedly somewhere around, but I didn’t know their auras and thus couldn’t perform a very effective search for them. Besides, I was fairly certain that they were already dead.

Groaning, I turned to face the pack of youma that tried to sneak up on me. All the corpses I’d made should have taught them to leave me alone, but it was quite apparent that intelligence wasn’t their most prominent feature.

I didn’t bother with any fancy lines or posing, just threw an energy boomerang that decapitated three of them. It hadn’t taken me long to realize how practical these weapons were – not only were they effective, but I could also use them again instead of having to create new ones.

I’d dropped the level of strength in my personal wards for what seemed like long ago, realizing that I needed the power better for attacks. Unfortunately, this meant that it had been rather a huge mistake to think that all the darkcreatures had been mere youma.

I was too slow when I tried to duck – consequently, the oni’s spell hit me straight in the head. I escaped permanent damage only because all the power from my mental shields transferred to wards against physical damage. Even after I’d finished off the creature, I couldn’t reinstate those protections against mental intrusion, because then there wouldn’t be enough power left to protect me from direct physical harm, which was obviously a lot more likely to befall me.

Two of the remaining youma managed to flee, but I dusted the other four. It was pure dumb luck that I had time to do that before a light caught my attention, because after I started staring at the soft brightness there on the plain, I was completely and utterly lost to the world.

I walked towards it as if transfixed, aware of nothing but the fact that I needed the get to the source of that light, that glimmering perfection.

My mind became momentarily clearer when I stumbled over something, the sharp movement jerking me out of my daze. Having regained my balance, I looked down to see the unconscious forms of the missing princesses. Strange,. But I couldn’t think about it now, because the miracle-light was calling out to me again, beckoning me. I was only about ten meters away from its source, but the brightness was so brilliant that I didn’t recognize him until the distance between us was no more than a few feet.

“Zoisite!” I gasped, but it wasn’t really him, not as I usually saw him. This was Zoisite the Tennou, and in this form he had more in common with Serenity as she’d been when she held the crystal than with his mortal self. Between that and my love for him – well, what little part of my mind that could still form coherent thoughts cried something at the lines of, ,i>Not good. Get the hell away from here or you’re lost.

But this wasn’t a catastrophe. This was a wonder. A being completely of Heaven. Dear gods, I have to get out of here.

“Please,” he said, and my knees buckled.

“Will you be with me?” he said, and I bowed my head in utter awed adoration.

“Come,” he said, and my hair brushed the ground as I approached him.

“Onegai,” he said, and I was completely and utterly lost, clasping his outstretched hands desperately, still kneeling and bowing my head. I unworthy to look at him, content merely with the touch of his fingers. “Onegai yo,.”

Zoi, I thought belatedly, because there was something not quite right here – something in his last desperate whisper that forced me to regain a minimum of consciousness. That was not the Tennou. No, those last two words had been Zoisite’s own, a last hopeless prayer for salvation of the human boy who was drowning in the same glimmering loveliness that had called me here.

I fought for control over my mind, realizing that it wasn’t only my sanity at stake here, but Zoisite’s as well. At last I managed to move one of my arms. To release his fingers was the hardest, most painful thing I had ever done, and I might well have blacked out from pure despair if I hadn’t still had my other hand entwined with his. Compared to that, it was surprisingly easy to give his knees a sharp blow, tripping him.

The surprise made his magic’s grip on me weaken for a split second, and in that instant my powers snapped awake as well. They struggled for dominance as I caught him, practically crushing him against me as I rose, then sweeping him around in the air. Either Zoi or Zoisite-the-Tennou, whichever was in charge, giggled delightedly, twining his arms around my neck. Perhaps it was both of them – since I was about halfway controlled by the spell, it made sense that it was the same for him.

This time, when I looked down into his smiling upturned face, I did kiss him. Dear gods, did I ever. And not in the at least pseudo-innocent fashion that I’d practiced that time in his bedroom just before we left, either. Rather, these kisses were of a sort that I would later know to be called French. Desperate. Passionate.

It was some indeterminable amount of minutes later that my magic quenched his, and I realized that I was standing on a battlefield over the fallen bodies of princesses Ami and Minako with my arms around a twelve-year-old in a rather indecent embrace and my tongue still buried in said person’s mouth.

Oh, fuck,, I thought. Uh, bad choice of words there.

I loosened my hold on him just a little, alarmed by how limp he felt, how heavily he leaned on me. His head lolled to the side when I moved my face away, his eyes dull under half-closed lids.


“Zoisite! Gods, are you all right? Zoisite? Zoisite!”

A soft sigh escaped him, and then he fell forward against me. His eyes blinked slowly open again as I shook his shoulders. “How dare you put yourself in danger like this?” I practically screamed at him. “What are you doing here at all? Anything might have happened to you! How dare you scare me like that!” Quite frankly panicked and still emotionally unstable, I rewarded his lack of answer with an enraged slap. “You could’ve died, damn you!”

His eyes closed, and he fell so heavily that I almost dropped him. Zoisite! He featured the complete limpness of unconsciousness as I allowed my legs to fold beneath me, lowering us both to the ground. Applying what minor healing ability I had to ensure that nothing worse than magical exhaustion had befallen him, I let out a deep sigh, letting the relief wash trough me.

“You’ll be all right,” I told him, cradling his head and upper body in my lap. My fingers brushed against his face, caressing its every line – I knew I shouldn’t, but I couldn’t help myself. Sitting under the protective shield that – as far as I could fathom – he had placed over the unconscious Sailorsenshi, I stared in despair at the perfect beauty of his face.

* * * * * * * *

According to the healers at camp, Artemis’ assumptions were essentially correct, and after twelve hours of coma-like sleep, I felt physically all right. My mental state was another story. I was slumping miserably in my bed, the image of the murdered woman buried in the transparent ground seemingly imprinted on the inside of my eyelids. No, that was a silly cliche, and an untrue one besides – I saw her image whether my eyes were opened or closed.

I killed her.

No, damnit, I hadn’t killed her! The darkcreatures were the ones who’d ruined the building from which the stone had dropped. And she’d probably died even before she was hit, even though I hadn’t thought it wise to ask the only one who might know about it. Artemis was unstable enough as it was.

“Nephrite?” someone called, and I raised my head to see Jadeite, who had stopped hesitantly just inside the tent-flap.

“Yes? And come in, by all means.”

“Thanks. Feeling better?”

“Mostly. But that’s not what you came to ask about, huh? I thought the planet was practically cleansed by now – what do they need me for?”

“If I wasn’t used to it, I’d find that precognitive ability of yours pretty damn unnerving. Sometimes I still do, actually.” He shook his head, sobering. “But you’re right, concern about your health is not my main reason for coming here. The planet is practically cleansed, but the princesses still aren’t found. Kunzite hasn’t returned either, and, well, Zoisite ran off earlier too. For some reason, the mages are unable to locate Kunzite, so if your condition permits, they’re asking that you retrieve him and, if possible, the others as well.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” I replied. At least it would be better than sitting here and feeling sorry for and disgusted with myself. “So Zoisite took off on his own, huh?”

“I can’t deny it. Truth be told, it’s probably what we should have expected after trying to keep him in that godforsaken tent with Mamoru for so long. Anyway, are you able to locate Kunzite?”

“No problem. Is there anyone I should notify before taking off?”

“I’ll see to that. Well, see you later, then.”

The reason for their asking me to fetch Kunzite didn’t remain a mystery for long – between the traces of dark energy, new protective spells and his low energy level, it was fairly tricky to locate him. Even after accomplishing that, the issue of getting to the area in question remained. If Venus was indeed as purified as we thought, teleportation should be no harder than usual, but with the saying better safe than sorry in mind I still conjured a number of wards before entering Shadow Space.

It turned out that I might as well have skipped the shields – if still a little disorientating, the mirror-dimension was no longer outright dangerous.

I stepped out into reality just a few feet from my comrade – comrades, actually. It was only subconsciously that I noticed the princesses, because it was so clear now, so blatantly obvious whom Kunzite loved. Whom Kunzite had always loved. I mentally kicked myself for not realizing it sooner, wondering how I could have been so blind. And wondering just what the hell was going to happen now.

“Kunzite,” I called, and he finally looked up. I wasn’t sure whether he hadn’t noticed me or just hadn’t cared to acknowledge my presence. The expression on his face was hard to puzzle out, consisting of so many different emotions. Fear. Longing. Guilt. But no denial.

“Take him,” he implored, casting the slumped form of Zoisite a quick glance. “Take him away from me.”

“I’m sorry,” I replied hesitantly, “but I think you’d kill me if I tried.”

The sound he emitted was the kind of offspring I would expect after breeding a sigh and a laugh. “I guess you’re right,” he admitted ruefully.

* * * * * * * *

My love for her had dictated my every decision these past four years, ever since the first time I saw her. I’d been twelve, and she’d just turned eight. She was a princess. My princess, I hoped during mad dreams, but knew that she could never be.

It had been some official ceremony or other, because of which the monarchs did speeches from a balcony. I’d been a junior student at a military magic school, given leave from my lessons to hear the words of my rulers. I’d come early, so I’d managed to get a good spot in one of the foremost rows. It didn’t take long, however, before I wished I’d been on the other end of the crowd, so that I could’ve sneaked away without anyone noticing it – the king was elegant and dignified, and the queen was blonde and beautiful, but after the first half hour, I was starting to get dreadfully bored. I’ve never cared much for the kind of meaningless pleasantries they spoke.

And that was when she joined them. I stared, breathless, as this slip of a girl waved at me from the balcony.

“Let me present to you Aino Minako, future avatar of our planet!”

She wasn’t a princess proper, but the daughter of the king’s younger sister, the Lady Arianne who’d married that Mercurian prince. It was ridiculous that she would become Sailorvenus only because the royal couple had no daughters of their own, because she was so brilliant.

Ai no bishoujo senshi, honto wa. And my heart clenched – the guardian princesses, the Inner Senshi, were not allowed to love anyone but their Moon Princess, couldn’t truly care for anyone outside of their circle. Never care for me.

I cursed myself for all kinds of fool, for who was I to think that she would ever lower herself down to the likes of me in either case?

She was a princess, avatar of love and beauty, whereas I was a humble servant at best. Sure, I was talented, my teachers foretold me a bright future, but even so I could never approach her. She’d marry a prince, someone with an equally special shine. I could only worship her from afar, because I was a commoner, without a lasting Star Seed. If it were ever extracted, it would darken and crumble. Only those of a very select few could live on forever – only those of the likes of her, the Sailorsenshi, the Moon Queens, the Shitennou. People from the higher heavens that I could never hope to reach.

Love is usually described as a blessing, but my falling for her was a curse. If I’d never seen her, if I’d never known true love, I wouldn’t have known what I was missing. Then I could have married an ordinary girl like myself and had a family, some simple happiness. That was lost to me now, for how could I ever love anyone else after loving her?

After the first terrified shock, I realized that this sudden attack from the Eternal Night was my chance. Taking as many be-spelled items with me as possible, I followed her through the warp in the old shrine.

As a rather miraculous streak of luck would have it, I didn’t run into anything worse than an oni. Even though my skill was mundane, it was plenty enough to handle most youma. Probably I’d had the fortune to end up in an area that Kunzite-tennou had already cleansed.

I didn’t find her until everything was over, until ,he, had already rescued her. Of course, it’s always the prince who slays the dragon, never the nameless soldier. It’s the knight who saves the damsel, not the squire.

I arrived just as the two Tennou carried the girls and their unconscious comrade through their warp-gate, presumably bringing them back to what remained of the capital. She, looked up at the tall, white-haired man just once, but with such an adoring expression as to shatter my heart. I could feel the sharp splinters cut through my soul.

Damn Kunzite for having everything I’d ever wanted, damn him to hell for being everything I’d ever wanted to be. For being special. Her knight in shining white armour. And damn Princess Minako for realizing how much better he was than me. At the same time, I still worshipped them both, would have jumped at the possibility to serve them. The thought sickened me, but I couldn’t decide whether my love or my hatred for them was strongest, knew only that both emotions was accompanied by an amount of awe that most people would consider blasphemy to feel for anyone but the gods themselves.

I didn’t believe in gods, not anymore.

I fell to my knees, hitting the ground senselessly with fisted hands. That was when It whispered to me.

Boy. For a very cheap price, I could bring you a whole lot closer to the fulfillment of your desires.

It was a demon, sorely weakened from being so long cut off from the Eternal Night. I could have destroyed it. Everyone knows that darkcreatures don’t usually are very honest, especially not when they might gain anything by lying. I should have destroyed it. The thought did flit through my mind, just before I reached out a hand to it, accepting. My energy, residence in my body, for maybe the chance to be with her. It didn’t seem like such a bad deal.

* * * * * * * *

return to Index / go to Chapter 12

The Nephrite and Naru Treasury