Over nine hundred thousand people crowded into the the courtyard and the space around it to get a chance to hear their Queen's speech. Many had jubilant expressions on their faces, and waved around little flags with the emblem of the moon stitched upon them. Others had no expression at all... just dark, vacant eyes that were fixated upon the high balconies of the crystal palace. Both female and male Senshi patrolled the grounds, looking for troublemakers, but the Guards were particular of not straying too near their female counterparts; quite a few fights had been known to arise from the brief encounters. And the women always won.
The Neo-Senshi were the first to appear, each a balcony apart. The crowd cheered and waved their flags excitedly, but the women stayed a ways back, in the shadows. Still, the crowd cheered louder, and some people held up little signs with their favorite Senshi's name on them.
Watching from her position of the third-from-center balcony, Neo-Sailorjupiter smirked, as she saw the thousands of signs with her face on them go up, and portions of the crowd started to chant.
Jupiter blinked in surprise, and looked around for who had spoken, until she remembered the small headset attached to the side of her face.
/Who the hell is this?/ she grumbled, touching the earpiece.
A short, icy laugh could be heard from the other side, and she sighed in exasperation. /Mercury? What do you want?/
/Don't worry. This isn't a social call. Just wanted to let you know to be on your best behavior when Elder Jupiter gets there../
/What?!/ Her mouth twitched, but she tried to control her voice. 'Although, who's going to hear me with this stupid, chattering crowd?' She made a sound almost like a growl. /Don't tell me that that stupid BITCH--/
"Well, hello to you too, Jupiter." Emmeline blanched as the slightly amused voice came from behind her.
'Oh, damn. I hope Lady Hino isn't with her...'
Emmeline cleared her throat, and took her hand away from her earpiece as she turned swiftly around. She didn't miss that same, icy little laugh from Mercury as she shut off her headset, and shot the best innocent look she could muster at the Elder Jupiter who was, thankfully, alone. "Oh.. Elder! I'm sorry, you caught the end of my conversation with, ah, my associate. We were discussing, uh, someone--"
"Cut the load of bull." Makoto made a rude gesture, and walked out to the front of the balcony without so much as another glance.
A louder cheer came up from the crowd as simultaneously, all the remaining Elder Senshi revealed themselves, minus Mars who was down in the courtyard preparing her troops, and the Elders who no longer lived at the palace.
Makoto glanced over in the direction of Elder Senshi Neptune, who stood in front of Neo-Mercury, then at the Elder Venus, then at all the empty balconies, save for the Neo-Senshi, inbetween. 'There are alot of us missing, aren't there...' She sighed, wishing sorely that Rei and the other event planners had allowed her to bring her cigarettes.
A loud gong could suddenly heard from the courtyard area, and the crowd shushed. Rei appeared, flocked by a colorful array of High Senshi, lower class generals and the like, both male and female. They halted some distance from the crowd. Makoto leaned on the edge of her balcony to get a better look, a small part of her wondering bitterly if she should fear getting pushed from behind.
And actually, that was exactly what was on Emmeline's mind.
Back down in the courtyard, a lively tune started playing as Rei led her men and women along a path surrounded by flowers. She stopped them again when they reached the middle of the path, and raised her hands in the air.
"Mars Star Power, Make-up!"
The crowd oohed and aahed as Mars was covered in a glowing red light, and was adorned in her Super Sailor Mars uniform. It was all really for show, Rei hadn't fought a battle in that old uniform in decades. Behind her, the High Senshi fell to their knees and let out a harmonious cry. The tune that had been playing changed abruptly to one of war as Rei's troops filed out the front of the crystalline palace, all adorned in the customary gray and white fukus. A nervous-looking girl stumbled to the front, as Rei looked her over with some annoyance.
'Couldn't that stupid Neo-Moon find someone more reliable? She's just like--" Rei stopped herself in midthought, scowling, and raised her hands to the air. "Ready?"
The girl, who was the newly appointed High Senshi Ioda, raised her hands in the air as confirmation, and shouted, "In the name of Serenity, we are the Senshi of Crystal Tokyo!" A responding call was shouted from the other side of the courtyard, from the High Senshi of the Guard.
"Mars Flame Sniper!"
Rei gathered the energy for the attack, and shot it into the air as the crowd cheered. It felt unfamiliar and awkward, but she was able to pull it off without too much trouble. But as she sank to her knees, as the lower class Senshi shot off their own attacks like a string of fireworks, she felt a twinge of anger and.. something else. "I..-hate- this.. stupid... idiotic..' Pain filled her head, and her thoughts, once again, were silenced.
Neo-Moon, who was all by her lonesome, stayed in the shadows of the balcony like her fellow Senshi, even though she was supposed to make an appearance. Her thoughts were far from the event at hand, all she could seem to think about was her mother, and the Elder Venus' words. She still couldn't fathom what it was that had happened to her mother that could be so bad that Minako wouldn't tell her... she and Minako had been friends ever since her father had died. Her mother had gone slightly.. odd in the head after her father's death, and Minako had been there for her where her mother could not.
Lost in her own sorrows, Daburu didn't hear the call until it was near shouting in her ear.
/Dammit, Neo-Moon! You daydreaming again?!/
/...sorry, High Senshi Tudor./ she whispered as apologetically as she could. /What is it?/
/It's almost time for Neo-Queen Serenity's appearance. You are to announce her presence and jump off the balcony./
/Excuse me?/ 'What the hell is this idiot talking about?' She was used to Tudor's odd sense of humor, but she was currently too peeved to find anything funny in his words.
The man guffawed merrily. /Yeah, yeah, you know what I mean. Jump to the balcony directly beneath the one you're on./
Daburu switched off her headset without responding, and upon getting the signal from Lady Hino, a large burst of flame from her fingertip, she approached the front of the balcony. The crowd once again shushed at her appearance, as the tune from the band slowly died away.
She cleared her thoat slightly, then called out in a loud, clear voice, "Fair denizens of Crystal Tokyo! I, Neo-Sailormoon, greet you most solemnly. We have all gathered on this fine day to hear from our monarch, and most esteemed one, Neo-Queen Serenity. So, without further ado..." She jumped lightly on the edge of the balcony as the crowd gaped. "I give you.. our Neo-Queen!" And with that, she jumped.
A solitary figure dressed in black watched the crystal palace intently from her spot in a nearby clock tower. She was standing in a rather uncomfortable looking position, one foot nearly hanging off into space, the other wobbling slightly on an uneven shingle, but the woman didn't look in the least bit disturbed. The only thing that would truly have worried her would be if one of the Senshi from the palace noticed her presence, but she knew she was obstructed from their view by a large tree that had been planted not too long ago. A tree that was supposed to keep away evil. The woman clenched her hand into a fist absentmindedly, thinking of this. After Serenity.. no, Faustine, she corrected herself bitterly, had risen to power, a new religon had risen along with them. The woman clenched her fist tighter, causing a few droplets of blood to fall from her torn-into palm.
'They are so.. stupid. The people of this reality... are like sheep. Waiting for the slaughter...'
She shifted slightly, trying to get a better look at the palace, and at the same time wiping her bloodied palms on her dark pants. She got a glimpse of Neo-Moon, and cautiously made her way to the far right of the tower to watch the show. Neo-Moon said a few words, then jumped off her balconey with ease, to the one directly below it.
'I wonder about that child. Inheriting her father's powers..'
The woman shrugged away her troubled thoughts, and once again turned her gaze full force on the palace. She caught a glimpse of the bored-looking Makoto standing sullenly in one of the side balconeys, a tall, amber-eyed, silver-haired woman in the fuku of Jupiter skulking in the shadows behind her.
'The moment of truth is upon us.. I wonder how she's going to take it?' The woman mused, eyes flicking over Makoto's tense form. 'Neo-Jupiter..' She glanced at the other woman briefly. 'I wonder...'
At that moment, Serenity appeared.
Neo-Queen Serenity stepped out of the shadows gracefully, her long, billowing white dress trailing behind her. Her silver odangos were the same as always, but she had woven several gems in the shape of crescent moons around them, giving off a glowing, resplendant light. She wore a pleasant smile on her crimson lips, and her cheeks were just slightly flushed, as if from excitement. An air of tranquility, and majesty emanated from her, and she moved with the ease of a feline. Her eyes were the same sparkling, beautiful blue, but....
There was something different.
Apparently, the crowd didn't notice.
At first there was utter, amazed, silence, then a long string of cheers and screams arose from the crowd, many people getting to their knees and bowing to their magnificent Queen. The Senshi all snapped their hands to their heads in salute, but even they had a intoxicated aura about them. Even the Neo-Senshi, who had crept out of the shadows to take a peek, were murmuring to themselves about the Queen's brilliance. Except for Neo-Moon, who had disappeared altogether.
Makoto, now with Emmeline standing next to her to get a closer look, was greatly disturbed. She just felt.. something wasn't right. Even looking at Serenity made her uneasy.
'Perhaps I'm.. jealous?' Makoto frowned, and turned away from Serenity, too lost in her own thoughts to notice the dark, blurry figure caught at the edge of her eyesight.
But Emmeline saw it as well.
'Now, what in the name of Jupiter..' She squinted her eyes in concentration, the Queen, who she didn't find particularly amazing, momentarily forgotten. The thing that she was concentrating on was something that looked like a figure made of darkness... the silhouette of it only barely visible in the half-light it was standing it. 'Who is--'
Neo-Queen Serenity began to speak. "I am so happy to see all of you here, my citizens..."
Over nine hundred thousand mouths shut, their words forgotten, as they listened, entranced, to Serenity's resounding, bell-like voice. Emmeline forgot all about the figure dressed in black, while Makoto froze, her eyes the only thing moving, looking like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car.
"I make my presence known to you this day to profess my deep gratitude towards you fine people for upholding the laws of Crystal Tokyo, and to make an announcement. Many years ago my dearest love, Endymion, passed away," here she paused to touch a hand to her lips in sorrow, causing sympathetic whispers to arise from the crowd, which immediately dissipated when she continued, "and I believed this glorious city would never would never be built. But due to your support, and the support of my magnificent Senshi," she beamed down at the troops below her, "this city has flourished."
Makoto was feeling slightly sick.
Serenity continued, oblivious to any of the mixed emotions around her, "Finally, I can guarantee the longevity of our kingdom. Finally...
"I can promise you an heir."
Cheering came suddenly from the crowd, followed by a volley of 'hip-hip-hurray's'. Emmeline, the trance she had been caught up in evaporating rapidly, blinked and glanced at the slightly green-faced Makoto. 'This was the announcement?' She blinked again. 'THIS is what I had to come up here for?!'
But Serenity was not done with her speech. The black light that wavered behind her expanded suddenly, and the crowd once again was silent. "Yes, fair citizens, I am going to have a child. Yet there is also another, urgent, matter we must attend to. Alas, even our beautiful kingdom is plagued with treachery. Yes," she paused again, seemingly for effect, "there is a traitor among us."
Emmeline could hardly keep from yawning. The crowd, however, shifted uncomfortably, muttering to themselves, looking at one another suspiciously.
"No, this traitor is not among our midst today." Serenity looked down at them gently. "We do not have a reason to be fearful.. yet. Regrettably, this traitor... is one of my former Senshi companions." She sighed heavily, as the crowd gasped collectively in horror.
Emmeline nudged Makoto in the ribs, now suddenly interested. "Well? Know who it is?" she whispered gleefully. Makoto stared at her blankly.
In a clock tower far from the crystal palace, a dark-haired woman twitched uncomfortably. 'What is going on here? He didn't foresee this..'
Serenity held up her hand for silence. "This has come as quite a shock to me as well, but my dear Advisor, Lady Faustine, has shown me all the proof I need."
'Advisor, now, is she?' The woman atop the tower frowned, her nails once again biting into the palms of her hands.
"Setsuna Meiou must be found, and sadly... eliminated."