Subject: [FFML] [Ranma/ SM xover] Warrior of Hope, Chapter 6
From:
Date: 2/27/2004, 5:36 AM
To: "FFML" <ffml@anifics.com>

Okay, it's finally done...kind of.  It's not edited as of yet, but it should be within reason.  This is designed so that it can be read as a stand-alone, but you will get more enjoyment if you read the previous chapters, which can be found at http://asgeras.anifics.com .  

A couple words of warning.  This ch. does contain some very slight yuri.  Not much happens, but it's there.  Plus, this chapter is a little more dark than some of the previous ones.  Well, without further ado, I give you:


Warrior of Hope
Chapter 6: The Dawn of Darkness
 
 
"Wake up, Hikari," Queen Serenity whispered, gently shaking her daughter.  "You've got a big day ahead of you."
 
Hikari sat up, arching her back as she let out a huge yawn.
 
"Cover your mouth when you yawn, young lady," Queen Serenity reproved her.
 
"Sorry, mom.  I thought it'd be okay this early," Hikari said, giving her mother puppy dog eyes.  "It feels really good when you first wake up."
 
"I'll let it slide, since it's your birthday, but you have to remember that you never know who's watching.  Never forget, now that you're thirteen-years-old, you're an official representative of the moon.  It may not be fair, but we're held to a higher standard than others."
 
"Yes, mother.  I really will try to do my best."  Hikari told her, making sure she made eye contact.
 
"Yes, my little princess," Queen Serenity said, ruffling Hikari's hair, "I know you will."
 
Hikari blew some hair away from her eyes.  "So where's Luna?  She's usually the one to wake me up."
 
"I decided to give her a break.  354 days a year is more than enough to have earned it," Serenity chided.  "Besides, it gave me a chance to get out of early morning court for a little while."
 
"Well, it's nice to see you alone for once," Hikari said, hugging her mother.
 
"You too," Queen Serenity said, holding Hikari and gently rubbing her back.  "Unfortunately, though, I have to get back pretty soon.  I'm not sure even Artemis will be able to stave off the other royalty for too long."
 
Hikari looked out her room, noticing the position of the earth.  "It's already 8 o'clock?!"
 
At a nod of assent, Hikari jumped out of bed, her nightgown fluttering behind her as she rushed around the room.  "There's plenty of time before the ceremony starts," Serenity told Hikari, a twinkle in her eye.
 
"Mom, I only have a couple of hours before it actually starts!!  The most important moment in my life and I'm going to be late," she growled, clutching at various accessories and articles of clothing.
 

"I see that I can leave you to your own diversions for now," Serenity said, brushing off her dress.
 
"Bye, mom.  Love you," Hikari said as she ran out the door.
 
She started to run down the hall, but noticed several servants and minor politicians running around, reminding her why she normally woke up so early in the morning.  After returning several curtsies with her own, she finally made it to the royal baths.  *It's a good thing this side of the palace is segregated from any males,* she thought, blushing.  *I don't know whether I could live this down, otherwise.*
 
Upon entry to the bathing room, Hikari paused to appreciate its beauty, having rarely been able to use it before her entry into adulthood.
 
Like most of the palace, the predominant color was white.  The floors and walls were made of white marble, while the ceiling was made out a pure crystal, giving way to the stars and distant sun.
 
In the center of the room was the main bath, a warm pool that was as big as most pools she'd seen.  The water itself was constantly being filtered, then recycled back through the mouths of four golden unicorns, each one rearing up in a pose that befitted their royal nature.
 
Hikari went to the racks of oils and soaps that lined the pool, trying to find one that would be soft, yet smell good.  Finding several lilac smelling oils, she stripped down and entered the bath.
 
Her skin tingled as she entered the cool water.  The further she got, the deeper and warmer the bath got.  Her worries seemed to dissipate from her as she crouched down, her hair floating around her.
 
Sighing, she stood up and proceeded to wash herself, taking extra care with her long, golden hair, which was now long enough to reach the ground if it wasn't put up.
 
Eventually, her mind started to drift to the day ahead of her and she felt a shiver of excitement run down her spine.  She'd waited so long for this moment!!!
 
With her coming of age she'd finally be able to wear her hair in a semblance of the royal tresses courted by her mother.  She would finally be able to look and act somewhat like a princess, but that was the least of wheat was to happen.
 
Today she would meet the girls who were to be her honor guard.  A group of young women who were destined to become her advisors and closest friends, just as the current leaders of the planets were for her mother.
 
She'd heard various things about each princess, but people generally kept their mouths closed in her presence.  Today would be the first time she'd even get a glimpse of any of them.  *That will change soon enough,* she thought, a smile upon her face.
 
Not only that, but she was now old enough to start learning magic formally.  She'd picked up some minor spells from books in the library, but also knew that she wouldn't get much further without help from others.
 
Sighing with contentment, Hikari got out of the bath, a small gust of wind chilling her body.  *I'll have to remind mother to put another warming enchantment on this room,*  she thought, moving towards a crystal spire a that was a few feet off to the side.  Reaching up, she ran her hand across one of its slanted sides, activating its resident spell.
 
Her hair fluttered around her as she was surrounded by a warm wind.  Despite the gentle caress which the wind gave, the tension she was starting to feel continued to escalate.  There were so many things that could go wrong with this morning.  What if one of the other girls didn't like her?  What if she stumbled during the ceremony?  What if she didn't have a strong propensity towards magic?
 
Mind aflutter with doubts, she lost track of how much time passed, until she felt.something.  Her eyes narrowed as she scanned the room.  Someone was here.  Someone was in the royal bath chamber.
 
Hikari drew herself up, presenting as much dignity as she could while she was still naked.  "Whoever you are, show yourself," she demanded, her gaze continuing to wander the room.
 
Feeling something behind her, she whirled around and a figure emerged from the corner of the room.
 
Hikari's mind started to nag her, as the figure's she took form.  Shadows didn't so much disappear, as draw inward, leaving a girl with red hair, who was slightly shorter than herself.  She was dressed in a black form fitting outfit that covered everything but her eyes and hair, which fell down her back in a ponytail.
 
"Mokusei?" Hikari asked, putting a name to some of the things she'd heard about the princess of Jupiter.
 
As Mokusei continued her walk, she removed her mask, revealing a smirk.  "So, I see the moon princess has some ability in her after all," Mokusei said, placing a fist against her chest and bowing slightly.
 
"And I see that the fables about you aren't completely false," Hikari said, drawing to more formal tones.  "Especially those which recount acts of impropriety."
 
"Oooo, touch�, Princess," Mokusei responded, drawing up from her bow.  Hikari was surprised to note a genuine smile on Mokusei's face.  "I think I'll enjoy working with you," she said, a twinkle in her eye.
 
"See you in a couple," Mokusei's voice said, coming from behind Hikari.  Turning around, she couldn't find anything but an empty bath.  An echo of light laughter seemed to come from all around, causing her to twirl back towards Mokusei, but found the area where she stood empty.
 
Hikari shook her head slightly.  Was she being mocked?  If it wasn't for Mokusei's smile she would have sworn so.  As was.
 
Walking towards her clothes, Hikari tried to push all other thoughts aside, only partially succeeding.  Her mind still wandered, but was open enough to allow for her to dress herself.  Throwing her old clothes on the floor next to the door, muttered "randorii" as she walked out, causing them to sink into the floor.
 
The hallway was bustling with people who were making preparations for the ceremony and the feast which was to follow.  Curtsies and calls of "Good morning, your highness" seemed to permeate from all around.  Reluctantly, she set about nodding in acknowledgement, instead of her regular curtsy.  She hated to set herself so high above others, but there wasn't much choice.  Time was passing much too quickly.
 
Returning to her room, she centered herself on a large, flat crystal which was hanging on an otherwise empty wall.  Tapping it twice in rapid succession turned it into a reflective surface.  She carefully divided her hair in two then gathered one side until it reached slightly above her temple.  Grabbing a golden rubber band, she formed part of it into a round ball and let the rest fall to the floor.  Doing the same with her other side, she ended up with a slightly lopsided hairdo.  *Is all this really worth it?* she asked herself as she endeavored to fix her hair.  Ten minutes later she was rewarded well for her efforts.
 
Looking in the mirror she saw a young woman who seemed to exude warmth and confidence.  Her dress flared around her, dropping from a fringe around the top of her arms.  Its whiteness was so bright it fairly glowed, offsetting the golden tresses of her hair nicely.  *I actually look like a princess for once,* she thought, a small smile curling the corners of her lips.
 
The door to her room slid open, letting Luna in.  "You look lovely, Princess, but we have to get going.  WE need to make sure you're in place with plenty of time left."
 
"Yes, Luna.  I think I'm as ready as I'll ever be, anyway," she said, smiling down at Luna.
 
Luna headed out of the room, curbing towards the throne room, closely followed by Hikari.
 
Noticing how empty the hallways were, Hikari's heart started to beat faster.  Could it be that everyone was waiting for the ceremonies to begin?  Everyone?!
 
They stopped in front of the doors to the throne room.  "Are you ready?" Luna asked her.  Hikari turned her gaze to the massive doors, which legend said were impervious to everything but the most powerful of magics.
 
Hikari nodded her head, taking a step towards the doors.  "Not so fast, Hikari," she heard from her side.  "This calls for a bit more than just strutting in unannounced."
 
Hikari looked down, rather confused.  She'd never heard of such a requirement.  Besides, Luna's voice was too tiny to carry so far.
 
"Just remember, Princess.  You are who you are.  Always be proud of yourself and your accomplishments," Luna admonished.  "I pray that they may guide you towards a wise and loving leadership."
 
This said, Luna did a back flip, leaving a golden after image behind her.  The image grew, surrounding Luna and somehow melding in with her.  Expanding her.  The glow continued to expand and grow brighter until all traces of Luna vanished.  
 
A couple of seconds later, the glare began to dim, revealing a young woman in her 20's standing before Hikari.  She stood there smiling at the princess, long, black curls falling down her back.  She wore a beautiful golden dress that would be the envy of many a girl, but, despite all this, her eyes were what attracted Hikari's attention, being the same gorgeous blue she'd stared down to all her life.
 
"Luna?" Hikari asked.
 
"Yes, Princess, it's me.  I don't shape shift very often, since it's so uncomfortable, but I figured today was a worthy cause," she said, giving a slight shrug of her shoulders.
 
Hikari gave Luna a gentle embrace, which Luna awkwardly returned.  "Well, that's enough of this, Princess.  We don't want to keep your audience waiting, do we?"  That said, Luna released Hikari and walked towards the doors.  Placing a hand gently upon the doors, they slid open, seemingly without effort, revealing a crowd that completely filled the stadium like throne room.  Her heart almost stopped as she looked around.  This was her mom's idea of a small crowd of friends and family?  There had to be at least a thousand people in here.
 
"I present unto you her highness, Princess Hikari, heir to the throne of the moon and candidate supreme for the leadership of the Senshi, protectors of the galaxy," Luna called from behind her.
 
Hikari took an involuntary step backward, as sword met sword above her head.  The Royal Guard had formed a rather imposing walkway, leading up to the dais.  Looking to the side, she saw her personal guard, Thomas, give her a wink. 
 
*I can do this,* she repeated to herself, forming a mantra.  Her body seemed to straighten of its own volition, long hours of practice kicking in.  Noticing her mother standing on the dais, she made her way up to the throne with unfaltering steps, her eyes never leaving those of her mother's.
 
Hikari stopped before her mother, making a graceful curtsy which was returned by a slight curtsy from the Queen.  Thunderous applause broke out throughout the room.  Hikari blushed as she looked at her mother, who motioned for her to turn around.  The crowd quieted down, waiting for the Queen to speak.
 
Serenity placed her hands gently upon the shoulders of her daughter.  "Friends and family.  People of the moon," she said addressing the crowd, then turning to a large, flat crystal that was floating in the air, she raised her voice louder yet, "and people of the galaxy, I present to you Hikari Haeru Serenity, future queen of the galaxy and candidate for the leadership of the Sailor Senshi."
 
Thunder filled the room as applause once again broke out.  Hikari lifted her head to view the crystal, which was flashing pictures of large crowds found throughout the galaxy.  Her stomach lurched, threatening to lose its contents.
 
After what seemed like an eternity, the applause finally died down to a more manageable level.  "At this time, the moment of her thirteenth birthday, I place her before you for approval in both roles already mentioned, prime candidate as future queen of the galaxy and leadership of the Sailor Senshi, protectors of the galaxy."
 
"If approved, Princess Hikari will immediately undergo training to help her, both in leadership for the galaxy in times of peace, but also in tactics of war, should such dire circumstances come about."
 
Murmurs rose around the room.  They'd never heard the speech live before, thanks to the long life of the royal line, but they new this broke the standard deviation.
 
"Peace, my children," Queen Serenity said, holding up a hand.  "I say this as a reminder as to what role the Senshi play for us all.  We have been fairly peaceful for the past millennium, but was it always so?  Our history tells us that was not the case.  We must have protection from outside forces in case we should be attacked once again," she stated, her voice starting to crescendo.  "If such ever happens again we must stand together!  We must be strong, and for that we need strong leadership!!"
 
The auditorium was filled with shouts of support.  Throughout the crowd in the auditorium, as well as those on other planets, swords and weapons were raised with voices turned upwards in praise.
 
Another aspect hit home with Hikari.  Could she really do what her mom was asking of her?  Was she capable of protecting anyone, let alone a city, a world, a galaxy?!?!
 
Queen Serenity once again raised her right hand, leaving her left wrapped around her daughter's shoulder, knowing the support she'd need.  "This much responsibility can not be taken lightly by either by the my daughter, or yourselves," Queen Serenity started once things had died down.  "You must trust Princess Hikari as much as you have myself in the past.  Decisions have been made to the benefit of all, even though such is not always seen at the time of making such decisions.  She must have your support, just as much as she supports you.  You must have faith in her as much as I know she has faith in this galaxy."
 
*How could I ever live up to so many expectations?* Hikari asked herself.  *I can't do more than a few simple spells and even those take most of my concentration.  How will I ever be able to handle the power of the Queen?*
 
"I pledge to you here and now that Princess Hikari is worthy of such a load.  She is quick of mind, spirit, and body, but her heart surpasses all.  She would lay her life before turning her back on any of you.  This I pledge."
 
Hikari lifted her head at her mother's statement.  She'd never known her mother to be anything besides straight forward, neither bending the truth, not offering a biased opinion, even to her.  Was it possible?  Could she be worthy of such a challenge?  If her mother thought so, surely that was the case.
 
Hikari stared out into the faces of thousands, each looking back to her.  Her back straightened as her shoulders snapped backwards.  She knew what must be done.
 
"I, Hikari Haeru Serenity, hereby pledge to you, citizens of the galaxy everywhere that I will give myself wholly to your leadership and protection.  I pledge to place your needs above my own, living my life for you," she raised her hand upward, as if trying to grasp something.  "This I swear," she shouted, light flooding into her hand, taking definition.  
 
The crowd grew silent at the sight they were seeing.  What was happening? 
 
Within moments the light coalesced into the form of the ginzuishou, royal heirloom of power, which flashed a strong white light, filling the chambers with its soft music.
 
The last thing Hikari could remember before passing out from exhaustion was an overwhelming roar, louder than any of the previous ones.
 
 
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 
 
 
Hikari woke up rather drowsily, still in her dress from the ceremony.  She pulled it off and got into one of her favorite summer dresses, making sure she was at least somewhat presentable before she left.
 
Leaving her room, she walked down the darkened hallway.  It must have been fairly late in the day for all of the lights to be out.  How long did she sleep for?
 
She tiptoed to her mother's room as quietly as possible, hoping not to wake up any of the other court members or servants whose chambers were along the way.  Coming to the door, she was about to knock when she heard voices within.  She didn't know why, but she felt a desperate need to hear what was going on inside, so she found herself putting her ear up to the door.
 
Hikari heard weeping inside, along with her mother's voice, trying to comfort another.
 
"I'm so, so sorry," the foreign voice whispered, husky from crying for so long.  "I tried.  I really did.  You know that don't you?"
 
"Yes, Beryll-chan, I know," her mothers voice responded, sounding much the same as when it's comforted Hikari in the past.  "I know you tried, but there was nothing you could do.  Is it your fault that you can't control genetics?  Is it your fault that nobody, myself included can control reproduction with magic?  It is too.wild.  I know there is a reason, I just don't know what it necessarily is yet."
 
Hikari's mind reeled at the implications.  All the rumors were true?  Beryll wasn't able to bare a daughter to take over her Senshi lineage?
 
Beryll sniffed once more, then seemed to growl at her mother.  "So that's it, is it?  You think I'm not worthy of having a child to take over my spot in the line?!"
 
Hikari heard her mother's light laughter fill the air.  "There's the Beryll-chan I know."  There was a pause of what felt like several minutes to Hikari, which was ended by a sigh.
 
"What am I going to do, Serenity-san?" Beryll asked.
 
"Oh, we're back to being formal, are we?" Queen Serenity asked.  "After all we've been through?"
 
"True enough.Hiki-chan.  I just don't know what I should do.  Honor and tradition demand something of me that I can't provide.  What are we.what am I going to do?"
 
"Well, has there ever been a written ac."
 
Hikari jumped when she felt a tap on her shoulder.  Turning around, she saw Mokusei within several inches of her, still wrapped in her ninja garb.
 
"What was that?" Hikari heard Beryll ask from inside the royal bedchambers.
 
Mokusei grabbed her wrist and pulled her into a shadowy corner, muttering "kageboushi".  Hikari felt an almost palpable wave of cold dampness pass over her as she was surrounded by shadows.
 
"What are you." she began, but was stopped when a hand was placed over her mouth.
 
"They come," Mokusei whispered into her ear, barely audible to even herself.
 
The door opened revealing both Beryll and Serenity.  Beryll looked around for several moments, coming dangerously close to where they were hiding once.  "I guess it must have been my imagination."  
 
"I'm sure you're quite tired.  The mind can play tricks when you don't get enough rest, Beryll-chan.  Maybe you should go get some more sleep while you can," Queen Serenity suggested.  "I promise tomorrow will be quite satisfactory."
 
"I don't see how that's possible, Hiki-chan," Beryll said, yawning widely.  "However, you might be right about the sleep.  Good night, my Queen."  Beryll curtsied to Serenity, who returned it with the same, then left to her guest chambers.
 
Queen Serenity remained at the door for several moments longer, until she started talking to herself.  "It might be a good idea for all of us to get some sleep."  She let out a yawn of her own, than turned to the corner they were hiding in, letting out a wink, before she entered her room, closing the door behind her.
 
Hikari felt warmth rush back into her limbs and became quite aware of how close she was being held by this semi-stranger.
 
She bound out of the corner, turning to face the princess of Jupiter.
 
"You should be more careful, your Highness," Mokusei said, with the same smirk she'd worn early that morning.  "At least until you have more practice.  Until then."
 
Mokusei leaned against the wall, seeming to shrink into the shadow that it provided.  Knowing something of how it worked, Hikari walked toward the wall and felt around.  All she met with was cold marble.
 
Hikari sighed.  What a day this had turned out to be and tomorrow promised to be more of the same.
 
She felt a presence shadowing her as she returned to her room, but she now had an idea of what, or who, it was.
 
And she was reassured.
 
 
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 
 
 
Hikari woke up to a light thud on her face, as Luna head-butted her.  "Wake up, Princess.  It's going to be another long day for you."
 
Hikari groaned a little before rising out bed and getting herself ready on autopilot.  Today promised to be quite interesting.  She would finally meet all of the other Senshi.  Well, maybe not quite all, but at least the ones that were destined to be her closest friends and advisors.  Were they going to be anything like the currently ruling system?  She could only hope for as much.
 
"Good enough, Hikari-chan.  You don't need to be quite as 'presentable' today as yesterday.  Your mother decided that today's session would be private, since it didn't require any of the citizen's input," Luna admonished.  "True, it will be recorded in case any want proof of the oaths taken, but I doubt very many."
 
Hikari nodded, but continued to mess with her hair, making sure it was perfect.  "You do realize that this will be viewed by billions of people, bare minimum, don't you Luna?" she asked, turning towards her advisor.
 
Luna tried not to let her sadness show.  She'd hoped the princess wouldn't grow up so quickly.  
 
Luna jumped when she felt a light kiss on her forward forehead.  "Thank you, Luna-chan," Usagi told her, lightly rubbing behind her ear.  "I'll be fine, you can go catch up with Artemis and my mom."
 
Luna looked up and gave her pupil a soft smile before exiting the room.
 
Hikari spent several more minutes perfecting herself.  Picking out the right dress was of prime concern.  It couldn't be the same one as the night before, but still needed to be somewhat formal.  Searching through her wardrobe she came across a beautifully flowing green and black dress, which drew her to it.  She wondered why she'd never seen it before, but shrugged it off.  She did have more clothes than she could possibly remember, after all.
 
*Not bad.  Not bad at all,* she thought, inspecting herself in one of her mirrors.  *The green clashes with my hair a little, but Mom should be able to modify that before the ceremony starts.*
 
Smiling, she left for the kitchen, grabbing a pastry from the royal chef before she moved on to the throne room.
 
She sighed as she noted how more and more people tended to curtsy in her presence now.  In order to be more prepared, she gulped her pastry down, barely even registering its sweetness.
 
Once again she stood before the massive doors, but it was different this time around.  There were no longer any doubts after yesterday.  "Open," she commanded, her palm pointing towards the doors.  They opened soundlessly before her, revealing a very different scene then yesterday.
 
There were scattered groups of woman and men near the throne.  As she drew closer she was able to make out the individual features of the different royal families: Mercury somewhat withdrawn, yet sought out by others for her intellectual prowess.  Mars laughing heartily at a joke told nearby, never afraid to be herself.  Venus gliding between groups, eager to please all.  Then, Jupiter.which was nowhere to be seen.  Then again, she didn't really expect anything else coming from Jupiter.
 
All eyes turned to her and she wished she could talk to them, getting to know them all.  She knew there would be time, but it was so hard to be patient, especially with the time drawing so near.  However, she needed to get some preparations out of the way first.
 
"Good-morning, my little Princess," Queen Serenity said, smiling at her child.
 
Hikari blushed, embarrassed that her mother had used such a term of endearment in front of everybody.  However, she knew there was nothing to be done about it, so she forced a smile and returned the greeting before tugging on Queen Serenity's sleeve, causing her to lower her head.
 
After a brief whisper, Queen Serenity nodded and cupped her hand, closing her eyes.  Her hand filled briefly with a very faint white light before shooting out to strike Hikari.  Hikari's clothes became outlined with a glow, white replacing the former green.  
 
Smiling at the effect, Hikari nodded in approval.  "I'm ready anytime you are, Mother."
 
Queen Serenity returned her smile.  "Then let us begin," she said, her hands seeming to cup an invisible wand.  The space in-between filled with flashing patches of light, eventually forming the royal scepter, topped with the ginzuishou.   Once formed, she tapped it once against the ground, causing several tiny crystals to detach from the ceiling and form a perimeter around the throne.
 
At this signal of beginning the various Kings stepped back, deferring to their wives and daughters.  
 
"We gather here, under the light which the ginzuishou sheds, in order to establish the birth of a new era.  Change is inevitable, but we can learn from the past and, by so doing, can hope to create a brighter future.  This is the whole purpose behind having the Senshi.  They are an inner guard for goodness.  They weed out the negative while leaving what is best for everyone," Queen Serenity said, eyes pointing straight forward.
 
"The next generation shows great promise.  I am proud of the current ruling houses of the galaxy, but have high hopes for the newest group.  Although they are still quite young, they have shown discernment beyond their years."
 
"Tonight we see the ritual oaths that bond the Senshi together.  They are very similar to wedding vows and come with most of the same responsibilities involved with such, as you will see by the oaths taken.  Each has been written by the individual members of the group and have not been previously viewed by any, but I'm positive the core will be the same.  They will show their obligations to each other and to the galaxy which they serve."
 
"Without further ado, let me introduce you, once again, to my daughter, Princess Hikari Haeru Serenity, acting leader of the next generation," Queen Serenity finished, beckoning her daughter to step in front of the throne.
 
Hikari curtsied gracefully to her mother, then proceeded to her appointed spot before the throne.
 
"Citizens, I come before you humbled.  I am young and untried, but have been given great responsibility.  Thank you for the chance to prove myself worthy and I promise to do so," Hikari started, eyes forward, the only sign of discomfort being a slight reddening of her face.  
 
"I admit to nervousness during this time.  I am about to start on a journey of magical, physical, and intellectual training very different from any I've seen before and hope to do my best.  In the meantime, I'm meeting the rest of the Senshi for the first time with hopes of becoming fast friends."
 
Drawing the eye of each Senshi in turn, Hikari continued her speech.  "I promise each of you my support and love.  I will stand with you through the good times and will offer a supporting shoulder during the bad.  I will try to protect to the best of the ability and hope only that you do so to the various citizens of this galaxy."
 
Her gaze changed, meeting one of the crystals that slowly spun overhead.  "To the citizens I give a similar promise.  I know that most I will not be able to meet individually, but I promise that I will offer you everything I have.  The years of study I'm about to put ahead are not for my own benefit, but in the hopes that I may be able to better help you.  I pledge to give my life to this promise, for now and forever."
 
She gave a brief curtsy, showing she was finished.  A brief bout of clapping came, causing Hikari to smile.  Today was so different from yesterday that it was unbelievable.  The theme had stayed the same, but the atmosphere was that much more relaxed.  Despite everyone being a stranger, she felt she was among friends."
 
Each Senshi ended up making very similar vows, promising to uphold each other, while standing behind their princess and protecting the galaxy. 
 
Once everyone was done, there was an awkward silence until the Queen stepped forward.  "As I'm sure most of you know, there are usually six Senshi who take oaths on this day," At this declaration, the rest of the royal family's eyes automatically sought Beryll's eyes, only to notice a tear falling while she whispered about how sorry she was.  "However, fate has deemed otherwise this time around.  For the first time in millennia, there is no female child to take over the calling as Senshi of the Earth."
 
"Does this mean that there is unworthiness in the current resident of the position?"  No, it does not!!" Serenity's voice proclaimed, resounding throughout the throne room.  "It does, however, leave a vacancy which must be filled."
 
"Up until now our society has been strictly matriarchal, at least as far as the rulers of our system are concerned.  As I've noted before, this ceremony denotes change and it is under such that I call for a reform.  From here on out, if there is no worthy female child to be presented as heir, a worthy male heir may step forward to proclaim his right for inheritance."
 
A stunned silence filled the room.  Nobody had ever done anything like it before, but it was within the Queen's power.  In fact, very little was outside her power.
 
The silence continued for another few seconds, before Queen Serenity gave a small cough.  "I believe that's your cue to step forward, Prince Shinu."
 
A boy of similar age as the Senshi stepped forward, resplendent in a black uniform and cape.  He fidgeted slightly before bowing to Princess Hikari, then turning to face the crystals overhead.
 
"I." he said in a hesitant voice, gulping audibly.  "I don't know exactly what to say.  I could not be more surprised by what's happened here.  I never expected to receive such a.blessing.  I promise that I will give it my all, though, protecting the princess and her friends as best I can," he finished, giving another awkward bow.
 
Returning to his mother, Hikari noticed that Beryll was crying all the more fiercely now, as she laid a hand on her sons shoulder.
 
"The time has come to bestow the new generation with power.  Neo Senshi, form a small circle," Queen Serenity instructed.
 
The Senshi formed a fairly tight circle, with Hikari in the center, as the ceremony prescribed.
 
"Current Senshi, stand behind your respective daughter.or son," Queen Serenity added with a smirk.
 
When everyone was in place, Queen Serenity closed her eyes.  "To thee, new generation or rulers and protectors," came her voice, sweat appearing on her brow, "we invoke the power given us of old."
 
Pillars of lights shot up from the each Senshi's mother and then dropped over the various Senshi, surrounding them in a multicolored rainbow, golden/ whitish light filling coming from the Queen to fill the center.
 
"We bestow upon you the power of transformation," the Queen finished, opening her eyes and swaying on her feet.
 
Henshin rods appeared high above each of the girls, slowly descending to each.  To Prince Shinu, a sword appeared, shining within the brown/ black light that surrounded him.  When each item was within range, the Senshi instinctively reached up to grab hold, causing their transformation to take place.
 
The hall was filled with color even more brilliant then before, as clothes were exchanged for the classic seifuku of the Senshi, with two noticeable exceptions.
 
Prince Shinu was surrounded by a brief flash of silver before he was revealed to be wearing some very light plate armor over black padded leather.  A black cape, with red on the inside, hung over his shoulders, making him look twice the size he used to.
 
This was no surprise to Hikari.  What did surprise her was Sailor Jupiter's transformation and uniform.  Gone were the dancing lights, gone was the traditional white bodysuit and green skirt.
 
Bubbles of darkness surrounded the diminutive Princess of Jupiter, forming a black mist around her.  A flash of white light dispelling the fog, she was revealed to be wearing a jet-black  leather bodysuit with an accompanying pleated skirt to match.  Her heels were replaced by leather boots that almost rose to her knee, ending with a dark green trim, the boot's heel rising about one inch off the ground, providing a wide pivot point.  Her gloves too were black with green trim, and her bow became a bit more flat and a lot darker of green than before.  Even the tiara on her forehead turned black, its center containing a dark gem with a small lightening bolt in the middle. 
 
Once finished, Hikari caught her eye and raised an eyebrow.
 
"What?  As your mother said, times change.  I decided to make the most of it," Mokusei stated.
 
"I see."
 
A small cough from Queen Serenity ended their conversation.  Citizens of the galaxy, I give you your new Sailor Senshi!"
 
 
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 
 
 
**Three months into training**
 
Hikari fell onto her bed without moving for several moments as her mind continued to wonder at all the changes that had taken place within what seemed to be only a few moments.
 
It seemed that nothing remained the same.  She didn't even live in her own room anymore.  Now she lived in a dorm like room that she shared with the princess of Venus, Princess Aisuru, known affectionately by all the Senshi as Aisa-chan.  
 
All of them had lost any semblance of formality among themselves, becoming something like a family.  Fights had already erupted, but it was equally as obvious that their friendships ran deep.  Hikari found it easy to love all of them, with the possible exception of Shinu.  She still didn't know what to make of him.
 
Hikari tried not to play favorites among her friends, but found it impossible not to. 
 
Princess Insei, the withdrawn princess of Mercury, was looked up to by all for her intellect and kindness.  She was there for any of them whenever they needed help with a particularly rough batch of problems.  Although incredibly shy, she ended up becoming a rudder within the group.  The voice of reason.
 
On the opposite side of the spectrum was Princess Seikyuu, the fiery princess of Mars.  A quick study in the physical department, only Shinu outstripped her from such.  Everything she did was done with incredible passion, devoting herself wholeheartedly to whatever she was doing.  Quick to anger, but quick to forgive and forget.  The quintessential princess of Mars.
 
Her roommate, on the other hand, was the only she hadn't seen get in a fight with another Senshi.  Hikari didn't know what it was about her.  It was like she had some kind of aura surrounding her that made you love her.  True, she was a little too bubbly at times, but that just endeared her all the more to everyone.  In Hikari's mind, it was Aisuru that brought the group together, providing it the energy to move on.
 
Shinu was the challenging member of the group to her.  He was rather withdrawn most of the time and she assumed he felt the same way the rest of them did.  Neither group knew how to act around the other.  Everyone tried to downplay it, thrusting it to the back of their minds, but it remained.  It continued to fester and Hikari knew that if it wasn't taken care of someday soon, it would explode.
 
However, despite all of this, the one person to confuse Hikari the most was Mokusei.  Hikari felt completely at ease with her, knowing she could be herself, but still hadn't figured Mokusei out yet.  Every time she thought she was making progress, Mokusei threw another curveball.  She wondered how she could make the young girl open up as the rest of them had.  *Maybe I should start calling her Moku-chan.*  The thought brought a smile to her as it came to mind.  That'd be the day.
 
"Well, it's good to see you're a little happier than of late," Mokusei said, causing Hikari to jump from surprise.
 
"You know, you really should knock," Hikari admonished.
 
"And where would be the fun in that?  Besides, I just wanted to introduce you to someone."
 
"Okay, who's this mystery girl.or maybe mystery boy?" she asked her friend, relishing the interaction they shared.
 
Mokusei blushed, one of the few times Hikari had ever seen her do such.  "An-ei is just a friend, and she's a girl, if you must know."
 
"Fine, fine, I was just kidding.  I'd be honored to meet her."
 
There was an awkward silence between them for a few moments, broken by a cough from Mokusei.  "That's your cue, An-ei," Mokusei said, looking behind her shoulder.  "Besides, you're the one that wanted me to introduce you."
 
Hikari thought her friend was losing her mind, until something black seemed to slither around Mokusei's neck.  Gaining definition, she could see it was much different from any reptile she'd ever seen or read about, except in stories she'd read as a child.  It turned out to be a very, very dark purple, shimmering slightly within the light of the room.  Its skin seemed to be composed of small scales, arranged in an overlay pattern, broken only by a series of sharp ridges that lay along it's back, folded neatly down.  It had four legs, but what drew her attention was the wings folded along the creatures back.  They looked to be made of a leathery substance and seemed rather small.  Hikari couldn't imagine them actually lifting the creature.
 
"Greetings, Princess," the creature said in a light, girlish voice, causing Hikari to jump for the second time today.  This seemed to amuse the miniature dragon, her mouth curving slightly as she let loose small wisps of smoke through her nostrils.
 
"Forgive me," Hikari said, bowing to An-ei.  "My name is Hikari.  It's a pleasure to meet you."
 
An-ei jumped from Mokusei's shoulder, spreading her wings.  Unfurled, they were about the dragon's height.  The leather in-between them stretched so thin that they picked up a transparency to them while still retaining a light gray.  
 
An-ei flapped over to Hikari, getting within a few feet of her face before floating in the air.  "My name, as mentioned, is An-ei, your highness.  And the pleasure is mine."
 
A wave of dizziness passed over Hikari.  Her knees buckled beneath her, pitching her forward, where An-ei slowed her progress enough for Mokusei to catch her.
 
"Easy there, princess.  Can't have our star pupil getting injured, can we?" Mokusei asked, guiding her back to her bed.
 
"I'm sorry, Mokusei.  Thank you," she said, then turned toward the dragon that was now floating beside her lifelong friend.  "And thank you as well, An-ei."
 
"What are friends for?" An-ei asked, her voice pleading to know whether they were such.
 
"Indeed, An-ei.  What are friends for."
 
"An-ei, could you please leave me alone with the princess for a little while?  I need to talk to her privately."
 
An-ei seemed reluctant to leave, looking to Hikari for acknowledgement on what to do.  "I would like to talk to you more sometime, An-ei, but if Mokusei wants to talk to me privately, we should probably honor her request."
 
"Doesn't deserve a request," An-ei mumbled under her breath, receiving a playful swat from Mokusei.  
 
"I'll catch up to you in a little while, you little drake," Mokusei promised.
 
With a flap of her wings, An-ei left the room.
 
"So, Mokusei, what was it that you wanted to talk to me about?" Hikari asked.  It was quite rare for Mokusei to want to talk with anyone, let alone privately.
 
"I was thinking," Mokusei started, taking a deep breath, "I was thinking that you're pushing yourself way too hard."
 
Hikari's eyes turned downwards, unable to meet Mokusei's gaze.  It seemed like someone else knew her secret shame.  "Yes, and even so, I'm still not able to master even a small attack spell.  I can't even cause someone to feel a pinprick," she said, her voice breaking slightly as she spoke.  She was so distracted by her own thoughts that she almost didn't even notice when Mokusei wiped a tear from her eye.
 
"Did you honestly expect to," Mokusei asked her, all hints of sarcasm and condescension gone from her voice and demeanor.  "You know as well as I do that our magic comes from different sources.  All of the Senshi's powers come from their respective planets and the people within them.  Yours comes from the moon and the ginzuishou.  Ours has an edge to it, coming from the strife within each, as well as the climate and innumerable circumstances within.  Yours comes from a place in such perfect harmony that there hardly isn't any edge to it.  That's why you're so good at healing magic, while the rest of us struggle a lot more with it."
 
Hikari sniffed slightly as she leaned against her.friend.  Mokusei's words rang true within her heart, but surely there wasn't that much strife within the other worlds.  War was ended more than 1,000 years ago.  She knew Mokusei was just trying to make her feel better, so she tried to pull herself together as quickly as possible.
 
"I'm sure that you'll eventually be able to figure a way around it, but don't worry about attack spells for now.  It will come with time."
 
Hikari lifted her eyes high enough to make eye contact, forcing a small smile out.  "Thanks, Mokusei.  I'm sure you're right."
 
Mokusei bit her lip, showing more emotion than Hikari had seen.well.ever.  After a while, she nodded to herself and her eyes seemed to harden slightly.  It seemed like she was preparing herself for something and Hikari couldn't help but wonder what was going on.
 
"I did find a way around your problem, Princess, which is one of the reasons I came in the first place."  Mokusei paused, drawing a deep breathe, her shoulders shuddering slightly.  "It was an ancient spell within a book written over 500 years ago, by one of your ancestors.  It takes 10% of one persons magical powers and gives it to someone else in exchange for 10% of theirs."
 
Hikari's eyes picked up a hopeful sparkle.  Was Mokusei proposing what she thought?
 
"It doesn't come without its drawbacks though," Mokusei said, pushing the sentence out in a rushed manner.  "First off, it wouldn't be a completely fair trade.  I would be gaining much more than you would, since you're a lot stronger.  Plus, there's also the fact that once this is done a bond develops between the recipients.  They are forever linked, having given a part of themselves to the others.  I would always know what you're feeling and an approximate location, while you would feel and know the same."  Having gotten all of that, a weight seemed to lift from Mokusei's shoulders.
 
Not much of this registered to Mokusei.  She couldn't get over the fact that she had a chance to become everything she dreamed of, able to finally live up to the standards set so high.
 
"I'll do it."
 
Mokusei let out a small sigh before smiling to the princess.  "As your highness wishes."  Mokusei held out her hands and muttered "shoukan", causing a heavy leather-bound tomb to fall in them.  Flipping through the book, she stopped on one of the latter pages, turning the book around so Hikari could read it.
 
Hikari skimmed over the page, amazed at the simplicity the spell implied.  It hardly required anything more than concentration.  How could that be, when its effects were so far reaching?
 
"Are you ready, Princess?" Mokusei asked.
 
"As ready as ever," Hikari replied, sitting cross-legged on the floor, placing herself across from Mokusei.  Mokusei, in turn, copied her posture.
 
Hikari closed her eyes and tried to envision everything that she needed.  She tried to become aware of her body, aware of the link to the moon and the ginzuishou.  As soon as she imagined the magic within her concentrating in her hands, forming a small ball she gasped.  It felt as if her life was draining from her.  It felt cold, leaving an emptiness within her.
 
Despite all this, she continued concentrating for what seemed like an eternity to her.  She stopped only when she could not physically carry on anymore.  The limit had been reached.  She could not give anymore than 10%, or she knew she would cease to exist, the emptiness swallowing her.
 
Opening her eyes, she was startled by the scenario in front of her.  Even though the spell had brought about the expected result, it was still shocking to see the whit ball of light in front of her, rippling with a golden hue.  Looking across from her, she saw Mokusei with a very different ball between her hands.  Mokusei's magic was dark green, with black rippling throughout, claiming to overwhelm the sphere.
 
"Let's end this," Mokusei whispered, her voice sounding raspy, sweat evident on her face.
 
Hikari nodded, closing her eyes once again.  She envisioned a magical line connecting between herself and Mokusei, linking them together.  Once she had that established, she thrust her hands out, envisioning her pent up magic traveling along the line until it connected with Mokusei.  
 
No sooner did she envision the impact against Mokusei's chest than she felt a definite impact against her own chest.  Anger and despair flashed through her, burning themselves into her soul.  Those emotions having been cordoned off, she felt a new battery.  Love.  Inexplicable and irrevocable love overwhelmed her, causing her to seek out Mokusei's eyes.
 
Hikari found herself blushing upon eye contact.  Her heart started to beat faster, as Mokusei seemed to blush in return.  Their fingers seemed to intertwine of their own volition.  A part of Hikari's mind seemed to scream, but it seemed incredibly distant, while Mokusei seemed so close.  So wonderfully close.
 
She found herself wrapped in an embrace, not even remembering leaning in.  Arms wrapped around each other and their lips brushed, causing a shiver to go along Hikari's spine, tingling in excitement.
 
Almost before it had begun, Hikari found herself gently pushed back by Mokusei.  "Why?" she asked, almost in tears.
 
"Because, Hikari-chan, this.this isn't the way."  Mokusei's breath came in shuddering gasps, causing Hikari to reach across the present gap, only to have her hand swatted aside by Mokusei, who jumped up.  "No.  This isn't you.  This just isn't."  Mokusei ran from the room, leaving Hikari's emotions in even worse condition than they'd previously been in?  It was almost like a part of her left the room when Mokusei did.  
 
Confusion reigned and her vision seemed to blur.  Blessedly, Hikari passed into unconsciousness within moments.
 
 
 
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 
 
 
**Six Months Later**
 
A sad smile lit upon Hikari's face as she, once again, noticed the pain within Mokusei's heart.  After the initial confusion involved with the spell, Hikari had grew quite adept at separating Mokusei's emotions from her own, even being able to feel her approximate location when she was away.  
 
Such as things stood, she wasn't sure whether or not she would do the same thing over again.  On one hand, she had grown to love Mokusei, although not in the way that Mokusei loved her.  She didn't want to hurt Mokusei, but she just couldn't find love for another girl within her heart.  This was the main downside to the transfer, in Hikari's point of view.  There was no way to hide her true emotions, just as there was no way for Mokusei to hide hers.  This left them with an awkward relationship, drawing them close, yet leaving them nervous within each other's presence.
 
She idly stretched her hands, letting little flecks of electricity cross in-between, when she decided to give herself a workout.  She felt like doing anything in order to get her mind off of such depressing thoughts.  If it took such extreme exhaustion.
 
She hopped out of bed, heading for the gymnasium that all the Senshi used to train.  She preferred training with Aisa-chan, but her roommate was currently out with some of the other Senshi, enjoying one of the first free nights any of them had seen in quite a while.  
 
As she was about to enter the gym, she paused, having heard someone breathing heavily.  Peeking in, she saw Prince Shinu bent over, rubble from one of his spells spread around the area.  His hair was damp from sweat, providing a stark contrast to his magical armor, which seemed to fairly glow.
 
Shinu spun towards the door while drawing his sword in one fluid motion, pointing it readily at Hikari.
 
"It's just me, Shinu-san," Hikari told him, stepping forward.
 
Shinu slowly lowered his sword.  "Sorry, Princess.  I just get kind of jumpy when I'm training," he said, bowing to her.
 
Hikari blushed, responding with a curtsy.  *Why is he always so formal?* she asked herself.  *He's even worse than Moku-chan.*
 
"I was just going to let off some steam, practicing some of my spells, but I can wait 'til you're done, Shinu-san."
 
"That's quite alright, Princess.  I was wondering.well, I was wondering if you might want to practice with me," he suggested, his eyes downcast.  "I know that you don't get as much melee practice as you'd like, and I kind of wanted to practice anyway.but if you don't want to."
 
"No, I'd love to Shinu-san," Hikari interrupted him.  "We haven't really had much a chance to practice with each yet, but I think it'd be great.  You're second only to Aisa-chan with the sword.  It'd be great to learn from you."
 
Shinu looked up at her, making eye contact.  He squared his shoulders and the point of his sword once again rose as he passed one hand along its edge, causing it to turn a dull gray as it lost its magical properties.  "Prepare yourself, Princess."
 
A flick of Hikari's rest left her henshin rod in her hand.  Moments later she squared herself off with Shinu, a metal bo flying into her hands from across the room.
 
Without warning, Shinu fell upon her with a weak thrust, which she easily dodged, bringing her staff down on his backside, causing him to stumble forward.  "I won't learn anything if you don't take me seriously," Hikari told him, gritting her teeth.
 
"But." Shinu started, before he was required to dodge a series of attacks from Hikari.  After getting hit several times, his eyes seemed to harden and he went on the offensive.  Time stood still for Hikari as the practice gained intensity.  Thrust met parry an eccentric kind of dance, causing her heart to race.  
 
Hikari's movements lapsed only momentarily, but it was long enough for Shinu to take advantage of her weak spot, knocking her down with a leg sweep.  Before she knew what had happened she found herself staring along a sword, which was now pointed to her neck.  Looking up, she saw Shinu's face, which showed an unusual conflict within.  He seemed to go from cold and impassive, to embarrassed, to sympathetic, never stopping on one for very long.  
 
On an impulse, Hikari swiped his sword away with her staff and jumped to her feet.  Taking advantage of his confusion, she brought her staff up behind his knees, accidentally knocking him forward.  Shinu grabbed her shoulders, trying to regain his balance, causing Hikari to loose her footing.  Both unceremoniously tumbled to the floor.  
 
Both remained lying against one another, catching their breath from their most recent workout.  As Shinu lay against her, Hikari couldn't help noticing how warm his body was.  How hard his muscles were.  How handsome his face looked.
 
Almost involuntarily, she brought a hand up, wiping away some hair that had fallen over his eyes.  Shinu reached up, covering her hand with his own before leaning down and brushing his lips against hers.  
 
Hikari felt a momentary surge of fear as memories of her first kiss leaped to her mind.  Were these her true feelings, or someone else's?  *Yes, they are mine.but.*  Her thoughts trailed off as she turned her head slightly to the side.
 
The image that greeted her burned into memory just as deeply as Shinu's face had.  There, in the doorway was Mokusei, looking upon the two of them.  Having been so caught up in the moment with Shinu, she hadn't noticed it before, but now she was all too aware of the stabbing pain within her heart.
 
Pushing Shinu off without a second thought, she jumped to her feet as quickly as possible.  However, it was too late.  The last thing she saw was a thin braid of red hair, trailing behind Mokusei as she ran past the doorway.
 
As her fell, with tears threatening to overtake her, Hikari felt a hand on her shoulder.  Revulsion pulsed through her body.  Her instincts took over as she grabbed Shinu's hand and twisted it behind his back.  Shinu fell forward as she kicked his right knee from behind, causing a loud pop as his should disconnected from its socket.
 
Confusion overwhelmed Hikari's mind.  She no longer knew her feelings.  She could still feel Mokusei's pang within her heart, but her own feelings were running amuck.  Could her own pang be because she truly loved Mokusei?  But what about Shinu?  Did her heart lie to her about him, telling her she loved him when her heart belonged to another?
 
Tear streamed down her cheek as she ran out of the training hall.  Walls blurred as she ran, instinctively seeking a place of comfort, bringing her to her old room within the palace.  She didn't even register the servants curtsying to her as she moved along.
 
The next moment she was aware of was after she had thrown herself on her old bed.  She buried her head into her pillow as painful sobs racked her body.  
 
*Why is this happening?* she asked herself.  She cursed the day she shared her magic with Mokusei.  She cursed her moment of laxity in Shinu's presence.
 
Hikari felt someone sit on her bed.  Looking up, she saw her mother with a concerned look upon her face.
 
Not saying a word, Hikari clutched her mother, crying into her dress as Serenity gently caressed her daughter's head.  "It's alright , Hikari," Serenity whispered as she pulled her daughter closer to her.  "You're fine now.  You're safe."
 
The last thought to cross Hikari's mind before falling asleep was whether or not she'd ever be "safe" again.
 
 
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 
 
 
Usagi moaned as her memories started to become incoherent.  Pang seared through her as they tried to surface, but seemed to be pushed back by some kind of force.  
 
She caught enough to see brief moments, both happy and sad.  She gasped as her memory seemed to come together as swiftly as it went away.
 
 
 
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 
 
 
**Six months before Hikari's 18th birthday**
 
Hikari was standing beside her mother's throne, listening to some courtier drone on and on about the trade embargo.  She kept her eye's steady and a smile on her face, even though the subject was so dry and inconsequential to her subjects.  Idly, she wondered when she started thinking of them as "subjects".
 
Her fists clenched involuntarily as anger shot through her system.  Only through years of practice was she able to distinguish her feelings from Mokusei's, but these were so strong.  To feel Mokusei's anger so strongly, when she was on her planet meant that Mokusei's anger was almost unimaginable.  Hikari frowned as she tried to imagine what could possibly cause Mokusei to feel that way.  She'd barely felt any anger before today.  The only other time was when she was discovered alone with Shinu-kun for the first time.  Hikari blushed as the thought of said meeting came to mind.
 
She pushed the anger away without a second thought, cordoning to an area where it could be ignored.  She then let her mind wander, as she continued to keep her eyes on the current speaker placed in front of her.
 
It'd been six long months since she'd last seen any of her best friends.  The Senshi were disbanded one year before the princess' birthday, going to their home worlds.  The theory was that this would spread unity throughout the galaxy, while bringing their friendship closer together.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that.  In her opinion, all it did was annoy her.  Her best friends were all gone, including her fianc�, Shinu-kun.
 
She'd tried to convince her mom to let her visit, but all attempts in gaining permission were quickly denied.  She'd even tried sneaking out, using some of the techniques she'd picked up from Mokusei, but all was to no avail.  Her mother always seemed one step ahead of her.
 
Hikari fell forward, barely able to catch herself before she hit the ground.  She felt her chest, drawing back her hand.  Where she'd expected to see blood, she found nothing, but that was impossible.  She'd felt a definite impact and could still feel the pain within her.  She became briefly aware of her surroundings, the court seeming to be in much the same state as her mind currently was, anarchy.
 
She felt an arm wrap around her, offering her support.  However, all she could feel anymore was a profound emptiness within her.  Her last thoughts before dropping into unconsciousness were of Mokusei.
 
 
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 
 
 
**Morning of Hikari's 18th Birthday**
 
Hikari woke up in a cold sweat.  This wasn't too unusual for her.  At least, not since the incident six months ago.  However, this time the fear within her heart didn't ease.
 
She pushed aside her doubts as she got up, in order to get ready for today's ceremony.  Today, she, and the other Senshi, were to take their place as fully trained Senshi, their parents abdicating their position.  True, they'd need to constantly study and train, in order to continually improve themselves, but all the work they'd put in was finally paying off.  She was incredibly proud of her team, and couldn't wait to see all of them again.
 
Everyone returned from their trips to their homeworlds yesterday.  Everyone, except for the two people that mattered most to her, Shinu and Mokusei.  True, it wasn't unheard of for a Senshi to wait until the last minute to arrive, but she couldn't help wondering what was going on.  Could it be that the time spent away had diminished their love for her?
 
Her hand was wrapped around her henshin rod even before she felt a chill go down her spine.  Within seconds, she'd transformed and setting up for a defense spell when she heard someone clapping from her left side.
 
Turning she saw Jaedite, one of Shinu's bodyguards.  "Sorry, you kind of snuck up on me," she said, blushing slightly.
 
"Well, that was the idea," he told her, his eyes hardening as he drew a sword from his side.
 
Hikari's bo flashed into her hands, coming up just in time to deflect a slash to her right side.  Stumbling backward, she regarded him with confusion.  "What the hell are you doing, Jaedite," she demanded.  "Just wait until Shinu hears about this."
 
Jaedite's face turned red, his teeth clenching as he regarded Hikari.  "Oh, this is just too rich," he snarled.  "Don't tell me the bitch isn't aware of what happened to her "fianc�", he demanded, face turned up towards the ceiling, his voice picking up a maniacal edge.
 
Hikari's heart dropped at thought of something happening to her beloved.  "What?!", she demanded, taking a step towards Jaedite.  "What happened to him?!"
 
"Mokusei, the whore of Jupiter, killed Shinu more than six months ago."  Laughter took him over momentarily, bending him over.  "Now, you die.  Everyone dies," he said, making eye contact with her, "but especially you, bitch.  Especially you."
 
Hikari's world seemed to crash around her.  Her staff clanged against the floor as it dropped from limp hands.   *This can't be happening,* she told herself.  *Mokusei would never do something like.*
 
Everything snapped into place within her mind.  The night � a year ago.  The anger she'd felt within her heart, followed swiftly by the emptiness she'd felt since.  It was true.  It was all true.
 
She curled up into a ball on the floor, repeating "It can't be true" in a mantra, trying to convince herself.  She barely felt the sword as it plunged into her chest, or the scream of her friends as they came upon her.
 
Within moments, she graciously accepted deaths sweet embrace.
 
 
**End of Chapter 6**
 
 
Author's Notes - 
 
Well, as you can see, this was quite an undertaking for me.  Definitely a change of pace.  Sorry for the darker attitude throughout, but it deals with a rather dark subject.  Rest assured, the rest of the series won't be this dark, but it will have it's moments.
 
Thanks go out to BurgerBill, who has offered his support throughout Warrior.  Also, a special thanks goes to Yap Chen Wen, my wonderful editor, who takes my abuse with a smile.
 
As always, emails are welcome, whether good or bad, but please don't do all out flames.  Definitely feel free to critique, though.  Have a good one.
 
Asgeras
http://asgeras.anifics.com

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