Irina                                                                                                                                             

The Outer Soldiers Saga

 

Part Two. Soldiers.

 

 Next morning Chronos went to the Moon Kingdom. He wanted to inquire about the one last planet, Earth. The Queen’s face, when she was listening to him, looked like she knew something he did not. Finally, she said: “I was expecting this question. The planet of Earth is the most inhabited planet so far, so it doesn’t have enough energy to give birth to a sailor soldier. However, some time ago a boy was born who is to be the integral part of the sailor team.” With these words she went to the Silver Crystal. Prince followed her.

 As they approached, the light above the Crystal changed into a vision. Prince saw a black-haired little boy of about five sitting in the rose garden. He didn’t have any particular marks but Chronos could feel his power and importance. “This is Prince Endymion. People on Earth take care of him.” The boy put out his little hand and grabbed a red rose beside him, by some wonder its thorns did not harm him. “He is really fond of red roses,” smiled Serenity.

 In a few seconds Prince heard the laughter. Immediately after this five little girls of three or four came running through the Throne Room. The inner soldiers and the Princess were chasing each other around the Palace. He was watching them with a strange look in his eyes. After yesterday’s evening when Setsuna said she loved him and agreed to marry him, he realized the meaning of the visions he had. They were of the future and were to become true. He didn’t want these little laughing girls to die, never. He swore to himself he would protect all of them at any cost. He left rather quickly.

 

                                                                                      *

 

 Haruka and Michiru have grown again. When he came back two young girls of sixteen were sitting at the dinner table. Haruka’s rather male than feminine appearance bewildered him slightly. She was dressed in the same manner as he: in trousers, boots and a short, back-length cloak. She was going riding. Michiru blossomed into a gentle creature with beautiful figure and wonderful blue eyes that seemed to fill half of her face. Her aquamarine curly hair was falling down to her waist. “They need different rooms,” thought Prince to himself. For some strange reason he felt the necessity to separate them though it seemed natural for two girls to live together. They did not object when he offered it: Michiru looked surprised and Haruka’s grey eyes suddenly became cold and she nodded in agreement.

 

 

 During the night he was turning in his bed, sweat was rolling down his face. In his dream he saw the planet of Saturn glowing with purple, rather dark light. When the planet exploded he saw a little girl enveloped in the purple light, with a Saturn’s sign shining on her forehead, standing in the center of the ruins. She stretched her little hands to him and it was so touching a gesture that he saw himself running to her and taking her in his arms. When he did this he felt something dark and menacing coming from her body. He wanted to drop the girl but she was holding him tightly. He looked into her purple eyes and saw fear in them. It looked like she was pleading for help. He lifted his eyes to see the pieces of Saturn but to his amazement the planet was shaping itself back into the big purple sphere. Little child in his arms was grinning at him. “I am the soldier of destruction!” he heard the triumphant voice in his head. “But it is not my fault, it is a destiny I did not choose!” a desperate voice of a little girl was crying in his mind.

 He woke up suddenly realizing somebody’s presence in his bed. He turned his head and saw a little girl from his dream, enveloped in the purple light, looking frighteningly at him. Prince understood that she was afraid of him pushing her away. “Her very existence is already a torture for her,” he thought to himself. ”During her life she will be living in constant fear of someday destroying something or somebody she was loving with all her heart.” He felt deep sympathy for the creature in this body who seemed too small to bear such a heavy burden within her. Chronos took the girl in his arms, wrapping her in the blanket he was covered with. She looked gratefully at him, wrapped her arms around his neck and quickly fell asleep. As he was going around the room with the girl in his arms he decided not to tell anyone about his dream. He wanted her to be as happy as he could make her. Finally, he was dozing himself in the big chair.

 

 

 Queen Serenity came to visit them next morning. She smiled to Princess Hotaru, nodded to the other girls and looking worryingly at the Prince asked him for a walk. She was gazing at him questionably for a while then broke the silence: “This night there was an earthquake on Saturn but, surprisingly, nobody was harmed and there were no damages.” Prince was silent. Serenity waited in vain for him to say something.

“Now you have the last of the outer soldiers with you.” She tried again.

He bowed his head in agreement.

“Is there anything you want to talk to me about?” she finally asked. Chronos shook his head. “Still if there is anything I will always listen to you.”

“Thank you, I hope we will always be good friends.” Serenity smiled to him confirming his statement. “In the light of this,” he continued, “I would like to inform you about my wedding which is coming really soon.”

 The Queen smiled a little: there was the only person he could have proposed to without anybody knowing about it. But their wedding was a more serious matter than any other marriage. Serenity frowned: she didn’t want to upset him but she had no choice. 

“I am happy for you and Princess Setsuna. But you will have to wait for a while. You see, she must accept her fate as a soldier before bounding herself by something so serious as marrying you. Once she will be understanding her responsibilities completely, she will be able to make more conscious decisions.”

“Do you suggest that I made her agree to marry me taking advantage of her immaturity? She is not a child if you failed to notice that.” Prince was getting rather irritated at such an intervention into his privacy. Serenity put her hand on his and said in a calming voice: ”I am sure her feeling is as sincere as yours. But as she becomes what she is to be, she will more clearly realize the risks and dangers of her future life.”

“I will do this for her.” Prince of Time slowly uttered in answer. But, though unaware of it yet, he was doing it for himself as well.

 Queen was looking at him for some time then stood in front of him and, to the Prince’s surprise, bent to him and he felt her silky silver hair touching his cheek and a faint sweet smell of a rose slowly spreading in the air. Chronos felt energy radiating from her body, she was weaker than him but still very powerful. “Do you feel sometimes that she is different?” he heard her soft voice.

 Prince was silent for so long that Serenity thought she had made a mistake. At last, he nodded and answered almost in whisper: “She has the perfect feeling for Time.” The Queen was looking into his black eyes, her face was inches from his. “May be…” Prince paled slightly. “The Guardian of Time?” he said slowly. Serenity nodded.

 He shook his head. “Such a burden is heavy even for me. Loneliness. For millennia. Infinite knowledge. She is weak. She is not prepared for any of it.” The Queen was still looking at him. “She is not prepared but she can be one. It’s up to you to make her strong enough. She is a sailor soldier. But being the Guardian of Time is another matter. You have to help her.” Chronos frowned. “I am guarding the Time. There can never be two Guardians of Time.”

 Serenity was oddly looking at him and he felt as if she was expecting something from him but he was failing her expectations. The Queen bent down her head and began looking at her silver shoes. “It is very rare when someone has a perfect feeling for Time. There is a possibility of it becoming her duty someday. So she has to be ready. Duty is more important that anything.” she slowly said. Prince was watching her beautiful face with interest. “Yes, duty is important. But what about love?”

 She was still looking at her shoes then raised her head and looked straight at him: “Love? Love is stronger than anything, even death. And I would teach my daughter and my girls to believe in this. It will make them strong.” She was silent for some time. “Everyone has his destiny, Chronos. They are yours and you have to make them strong enough for them not to be afraid of themselves. Their strength would be different. I told you our task is not easy.” Serenity was looking at him for a few seconds: “If you love her you would make her strong enough. Love would forgive anything.” She turned around and holding the skirt of her long silver gown with one of her hands walked to the Palace. Prince frowned. He didn’t like her words, he felt she had said something very important that he failed to understand. Everything had just begun and she was already talking about death. He smiled: it seemed that being in love left you with the only emotion in your heart and the only thought on your mind. All his other senses blunted. But really, he didn’t mind.

 

 

                                                                                  *    *    *

 

  Now everyone was waiting for the Moon Princess to grow up. She and the inner soldiers were now of approximately the age of twelve. Serenity taught them properly, taking her two most devoted and close subjects Luna and Artemis to help her. Though the three of them were having some problems from time to time.

 During the serious lessons Princess Minako could suddenly begin giggling at something known only to her, distracting everyone’s attention. She was winking at every representative of the stronger sex she came across, making most of them blush as such a behaviour was improper for a Princess. All her textbooks were drawn all over in the differently colored and shaped hearts. She was constantly falling in love and telling about it everyone around the Palace. Though often annoying, her easy temper was a salvation during the quarrels. But when her attention was really captured she put all her time and abilities in fulfilling the task.

 Princess Ami was the absolute opposite. She was paying attention to every word, all her homeworks were made to the highest possible standard, the reading she was doing by herself was overwhelming. She preferred mind to force, thinking first and only then suggesting a solution. Her disposition was calm, though she became really irritated when distracted during her studies or reading. One day they noticed books from the library disappearing in the unknown direction. After some research was made books were discovered heaped in Ami’s room. She innocently declared she needed all that to calculate the way the flowers on the Pluto planet could grow for twice as long. “They are so beautiful.” And her innovations were accepted.

 The Jupiter’s girl was decisive and often too fast-tempered in reality having a sweet disposition. Though she was only twelve she was almost as fast and strong as Haruka. Princess Makoto was the incarnation of true friendship. She was ready to protect everyone and everything she cared for, sometimes not even asking the object’s agreement. Thus, one of the Minako’s sweethearts paid a really high price for coming to the date she asked him of. He was kicked out of the Venus Princess room rather high-handedly by Makoto, not even given any chance to explain the situation. The Jupiter’s Princess explained later that she simply took him for an intruder and was not prepared to put up with such disrespect to her friend. All the Palace was laughing their heads off as Minako was trying to bring him back.

 The black-eyed Princess Rei was determined and clever girl and had two most favourite occupations. She spent a lot of her time meditating, sitting near the fire all alone. Nobody dared to disturb her, even her Queen. Her second favourite occupation was going around and teasing the Moon Princess. She did it really well, grinning at the blue-eyed girl mischievously. The latter almost broke into tears but didn’t have enough wit to answer in the same manner.

 The Princess’ disposition was disturbing everyone beginning with the Queen and the Prince and ending with the inner soldiers. She was growing into a kind and loving girl but did not understand the simplest things. She was not wishing to strike back when offended or show someone their proper place. Instead she was looking at people with her filled to the top blue eyes as if pleading to excuse her for exposing the bad in them. Almost no one was able to bear this gaze for a long time, the person became scarlet with shame realizing the mistake and asking for an apology. She preferred playing with flowers and chasing butterflies to lessons. They could not perceive how she ever would become a fighter.

 

                                                                                       *

 

 “This is ridiculous,” Haruka’s cup was placed on a saucer with a loud rattle. “She is not even able to put two words together in a sensible manner,” she said disdainfully. “How can she ever protect us from whatever dangers are about to appear and give us the powers we should have?”

 The five of them were sitting at the dinner table. They were silent. Michiru was stirring the tea with perfect composure, though inwardly she shared the same point of view. Setsuna and Prince glanced at each other, holding hands under the tablecloth. Hotaru was sitting staring in front of herself, her little fists clenched tightly. The cup in front of her was untouched.

 

 The morning Chronos presented her to the others she was accepted as a smaller sister, though they were surprised at her being almost ten years old. Setsuna, Haruka and Michiru were taking care of her, teaching her and playing with her. She appeared to be clever, polite and contented, liked sitting near the fire-place, liked looking at the stars during the night, went swimming with them but sometimes suddenly left without any warning and they knew that she needed time for herself. When it happened for the first time they searched every inch of the Time Palace but failed to find her. She later explained that she needed to be alone and apologized for scaring them so. For some strange reasons she never injured herself, was never ill, never had any bruisers if fell, never even cut her finger. The girls were surprised but after some time got used to it. They thought she was absolutely happy with them. But during the nights she came to the Prince’s bedroom standing in the doorway silently until he woke up and went to take her in his arms. She cried at his chest lifting her ancient purple eyes filled with pain, despair and determination to fight her destiny although she knew it was impossible. He knew she grew to love them all and was already weeping over their deaths that she was seeing in her dreams involuntarily caused by her. He was comforting her as well as he could sometimes being mad with his own helplessness. Finally, they were falling asleep, her little body near his.

 

 Now as Prince was trying to catch Hotaru’s gaze, she lifted her eyes and looked straight at him. He was sinking in their deep purple light. Suddenly he saw a girl with two beautiful white swan wings at her back, dressed in a white gown floating at her feet. The crescent golden mark was shining in her forehead. Her yellow hair was made into two long tails with two knots on the tops. She lifted her hands above her head and powerful white and golden shine extracted from her body. The darkness around her was slowly fading, the light filling almost all the Space. And when she opened her huge blue eyes filled with love so much it seemed she was going to cry, Prince knew her at once. “I am the fighter for love and justice. Sailor Moon.”

 Hotaru’s fists clenched even more tightly though it seemed impossible, she looked straight in front of her somehow managing to look at Haruka, Michiru and Setsuna at once. “Her strength is inside her. She is pure love. And this is why she is the saviour.” The grown-ups were watching in amazement as she jumped from her chair and run away from the dining room.

 

                                                        

                                                                                  *   *   *

 

 Haruka was sitting on the sill of the window of the Chronos Palace. She was looking at the planets and the light of the stars and thinking about what she finally came to. She was a good rider and a good runner, sometimes even winning the solar system competitions, being the best. And she was really happy. She had people who loved her and took care of her and who were willing to deal with her troubles though she rarely asked for help. And she had a best friend whose friendship she was cursing sometimes. She didn’t need this friendship, no, she needed it but it wasn’t enough. It was strange, stranger than anything that could have been. Michiru was the only girl she ever felt passion to. The only person at all she ever felt passion to.

 When did it begin? She did not remember. Just one day when they were the girls of eleven and used to live in one room and sleep almost in one bed because their beds were too close, one day when she was watching Michiru fixing her aquamarine curls at the back of her head to prepare herself for swimming and was asked to help, she suddenly wanted to bend her head a little and kiss the white thin still childish neck. And she did so without any second thought. She had the pure mind of the child then. And Michiru turned round and smiled at her and the sight of this smile suddenly made her feel as if she had done something impermissible. She felt cold sweat on her forehead and hot waves inside. Only later when she grew up she realized the meaning of that smile and why it scared her so much. It was smile of a woman, though Michiru was a girl then, of a woman who accepted the kiss and was waiting for another one. But she didn’t understand any of it then she just froze and silently watched her friend leave the room.     

 Was it the beginning or was it just the first showing of the feeling that appeared long before? She could not find the answer. But after that day she realized that she was different. Luckily, she had two people for her parents who were wise enough to teach her to accept others as they were without paying any attention to their sexuality. And after some time, when she grew up almost over night into the girl of sixteen, she accepted her difference without any uneasiness.

 But later she realized with some surprise that she was absolutely indifferent to all the other girls. Except for Michiru. Sometimes she was wondering how she could ever coherently answer her, how she could sit by her side every day at the table, how she could go swimming with her, how she could hear her heart beat right in her head and still be alive.

 Her dreams were becoming nightmares, very pleasant nightmares. She called them nightmares because she knew they would never come true. And she was not of those people who deceived themselves because every single time when she was looking at Michiru’s face with its high forehead concealed by the turquoise curls, long thin turquoise brows, huge soft blue eyes with long turquoise lashes, delicate nose, tender curve of the lips and creamy skin she knew again and again that she didn’t have a chance. Michiru was too beautiful, too clever, too gentle, too kind, too talented, too… well, she was perfect. And it wasn’t just her opinion, it was the opinion of everyone who ever laid an eye on her or spoke a word with her. It was better to be her friend than to know that she didn’t love her. She was scared of that.

 

 Haruka felt a hand on her shoulder. She came back to reality to see Michiru beautifully garmented standing by her side. Her face was worried. “Haruka, you should be dressed by now. Of course, we will wait for you but this is not very polite.” The blonde suddenly remembered that today they were supposed to be presented at the Moon Palace. “Yes, I’m sorry.” She left the window sill and went to her room. Michiru followed her. She just wanted to make sure her friend would put on a dress that she was supposed to wear for tonight. Haruka was indifferent to dresses and rarely wore them just because, in her point of view, they were uncomfortable. She froze for some time looking at the silver long gown and silver shoes waiting for her. They were beautiful.

“Chronos chose it for you. He insists for you to wear it. He says you shouldn’t embarrass the girls in the Throne Room. They should know once and for all that you are a girl. You know yourself for how many times all those boys wanted to give you a good hiding because their girls were ogling you. And all of them were absolutely sure you were a boy.” Michiru laughed a little. “In place of those girls I would be doing the same, I guess.”

 Haruka felt cold sweat on her forehead. “I would wear the dress.” She came closer and having a better look suddenly realized she needed help with putting it on. The thought of Michiru’s hands touching her bare skin made her want to storm out of the room. If she would be able to bear this torture she would have no nerves left for the coming evening that promised nothing pleasant to her. She would ask Hotaru, yes, it was a good idea. She didn’t like the servants to dress her. Haruka took the dress, shoes and the accessories in her both hands: “I would ask Hotaru to help me to put it on.” With these words she left the room. Michiru was watching her in puzzlement: sometimes Haruka’s actions were mystery for her. But she never wondered. After all, everyone had the right to behave the way one wanted if others were not harmed. And it made no difference at all who helped with a dress.  

 

 Each one of them had a number of rooms in different wings of the Time Palace that was rather big. Haruka reached Hotaru’s room in a few minutes. She wanted to knock but the door unexpectedly opened and she saw the Saturnian Princess watching her with calmness. It was absolutely impossible to surprise Hotaru though the content of Haruka’s hands was making any words unnecessary. She smiled and entered feeling the familiar smell of lilac. The blonde took off her clothes in one of the rooms and in front of the big mirror put on the dress. She wanted to say she was done and needed help when she felt Hotaru’s warm soft hands fixing the gown. Her touches were quick and light like the flaps of the butterfly’s wings. Haruka’s tension left her and she sighed with relief without knowing why.

 After the dress was done silver shoes and finally jewelry were put on. Blonde hair was properly combed with one of Hotaru’s hairbrushes. Haruka turned from the mirror to face her assistant. Purple eyes were looking at her for some time then slow smile appeared on Hotaru’s lips. “You look beautiful.” The blonde smiled back. She needed to go but Hotaru was still looking at her and she couldn’t move, the purple light was hypnotizing her.

“You cannot understand how lucky you are to feel love, Haruka,” she heard calm voice. It was so unexpected that Haruka even forgot to be scared. She suddenly felt Hotaru knew her thoughts, her feelings, simply saw through her. She managed to say “Thank you” and left the room in some mist. Sometimes she was frightened by this girl of twelve who seemed so fragile and harmless. While she was going to the sitting room to join Michiru, Setsuna and the Prince she suddenly felt pleasant odor and with surprise realized that she was perfumed with lilac.

 

                                                                                        *

 

 Haruka didn’t like the court at all. Her expectations proved even worse. She was oblivious that her face with big slightly slanting grey eyes with long fair eyelashes under thin fair brows, clear lines of nose and cheekbones, determined chin and a bush of short blonde hair was in its own way beautiful and the young men who were asking for a dance and were telling her compliments made her feel ill; the touch of their hands around her waist made her uncomfortable; the conversations about clothes, love affairs and intrigues made her want to close her eyes, block her ears and run away as far as possible; the sight of smiling Michiru in somebody else’s arms was slowly killing her. She bravely endured the appropriate time and then almost begged Prince of Time to take her back home. He agreed with laughter: the look in her eyes was absolutely desperate. Michiru on the opposite was very pleased: she was already engaged for all the dances. She and Setsuna waved their hands to them and said they would stay in the Moon Palace and would come back later…  at breakfast.

 

 Haruka was grimly eating. She didn’t like at all the idea of Michiru liking the Moon Palace that much. She would fall in love with someone there and she would lose her. “But you can never lose what is not yours,” she reminded herself. But it didn’t help much. Chronos too wasn’t very pleased that Setsuna stayed and finally asked:

“What you two were doing there for the whole night?” Setsuna was silent. Michiru looked at him with a strange smile. “If you think I was given a chance to dance or flirt you are wrong. Setsuna mercilessly refused everyone and finally dragged me out of the Throne Room. But, well, it was even better in the Moon garden. We spent the whole night there. You know it is very nice and you never want to leave.”

“And what were you doing there?” Haruka was bewildered. Michiru looked at Setsuna, she was for some time motionless then nodded. “Talking,” answered the former at last.

“About what?” Prince was as bewildered as Haruka. What could be there to talk about for a whole night? Michiru looked mischievously at him.

“About you, of course. I was listening for the whole night about how wonderful you were and finally was so jealous we had to go back. Do you happen to have a twin brother by any chance?”

 At the sound of her first words Prince froze with a glass in his hand. The girls were the only ones, except for the Queen, who knew about them but still he was not prepared to discuss it like that at the breakfast table. “No,” he finally said, “I am exquisite.” Haruka couldn’t take it any more and laughed. Hotaru was smiling. Setsuna blushed but because of her tanned skin it was hardly noticeable. Chronos was looking at her for a few seconds then suddenly smiled. He stood up: “I have things to do. I don’t know when I would be back. Don’t wait for me.” The outer soldiers nodded. Now when they were already grown-ups he went back to his regular duties and rarely had free time.

 

                                                                                         *

 

 Prince was walking to Setsuna’s rooms. It was evening already but he was very busy during the whole day and only now managed to come back. The journeys to the other solar systems were tiring but he was pleased: he got what he wanted. He looked at the square rather big box in his hand. She would like it.

 Setsuna heard the light knock on the door, she left her book and wanted to open it but the Prince’s figure appeared before she reached it. He looked at her for some time then closed the door holding a box in his hand. “So, I am wonderful?” The Plutonian Princess nodded. “Not unfriendly and arrogant?” Setsuna smiled. “This is too but it doesn’t matter.” He was silent for some time. “You know, kissing you vaguely reminded me of something and only this morning I finally realized what it was.” Setsuna’s eyes widened. Prince sat her in the chair then opened a box and with his two fingers carefully took out a neat brown little piece. “You have to eat it. But first, close your eyes.” She nodded and the garnet eyes closed.

 In a moment Setsuna felt something sweet, it was slowly melting in her mouth becoming sweeter and a little bitter at the same time but it only made it taste better. She swallowed with her eyes still closed then half-opened them and looked at him. Chronos was smiling at the expression of complete bliss on her face. “More?” The garnet eyes closed. In an hour the box was empty. Prince was looking with some wonder at the empty box in his hand. “I never thought you liked sweets so much.” Setsuna smiled. “Me too, till tonight. We don’t have anything like that. What it was?” “Chocolate.” She blushed slightly.

 He was looking at her high forehead, straight long dark-green brows, garnet eyes with long thick dark-green lashes that seemed enormous at a closer look, perfect lines of nose and lips, gentle tanned skin, tresses of greenishly black hair and wondering how it could be possible that she was loving him. Before when he looked at her strict face that still was beautiful how she could blush or smile the way she was smiling now was beyond him. She was always serious, clever and distant. And though he brought her up he couldn’t say that he knew her. And now things were so different. When he told her that they would have to wait with their wedding she was upset but then decided that Queen Serenity knew better.

Prince sat on the floor beside her chair. “You know, I was told you were my destiny.”

“And do you believe in destiny?” He looked down. “I don’t know. But I am ready to face it. The four of you changed my life. Now I have people to live for and care about and I’ve never had them before.”

Setsuna looked with sadness at him. “It must be terrible to be alone for so long.” Chronos glanced at her. “May be, but I don’t regret it. Now I more clearly realize the difference you’ve made. And then I had my duty.”

“And you were able to live just for your duty?” Prince smiled. “When you have nothing but your duty to live for you get used to it.”

The dark-green brows frowned. “I’m not sure I could do this. This is so hard, you must be a very strong person.”

“Sometimes you don’t know yourself how strong you are and when you know you _have to_ do something nothing else matters.” Setsuna was silent. She was thinking didn’t it really matter or was he just calming her and himself down. Sometimes she did not understand him.

 Prince got up from the floor. “It’s late. I better go.” The Plutonian Princess stood up as well. She was looking at the carpet for some time then raised her head and looking straight at him suddenly said: “Tell me, why you never stay?” Black eyes widened, Prince was silent for quite a long time. He never thought this problem would appear and now was not prepared to deal with it. Finally, failing to find any coherent answer to the question he asked: “And do you expect me to stay?” She nodded. “And why is that?” Setsuna was looking at the floor but he heard her soft voice: “Because from what I was told about you how you are acting now is unusual with you. And I want to know why.” Prince sighed and nodded. He understood what she was talking about. “And what else did they tell you about me at the Moon Palace apart from me being rude, arrogant and… what else it was… yes, unfriendly?” His voice was a little teasing. Setsuna looked like a little girl who had been found out.

“Well, they told me that someone like you would never get married because no woman would do that at her own will. Because you like your books so much that would never even notice her, that your duty is always in the first place and you would never have any time for her and that your disposition is unbearable. But I know it is not,” she added as if frightened he would be angry with her. But Chronos was listening with a calm smile on his face. So she went on. “And they told me that you… well… that you like beautiful women. And that if you want it’s nothing to you… to make them like you as well.” Every word was pronounced with great difficulty. Prince wasn’t smiling any more. He never liked the court and now had another reason for loathing it. But all of that was true and he was always honest with himself and now he had to be honest with her. “I never thought my private life is of such an interest to someone else but, yes, it’s true. Was true, before you. Are you disappointed?” Setsuna was silent for some time. “At first, when I was thinking about you and someone else beside you I was very unhappy. But then I decided it didn’t matter. Though it took me a long time to come to it.” Prince’s face was serious. He was wondering sometimes why it was her he fell in love with so much that was prepared to ask for her hand right after he first kissed her and now was prepared to wait for the wedding day. And knew it could not have never been in any other way. But the answer was nowhere to be found.

“Setsuna, listen to me. I am living for several millennia already. And during all this time there was no necessity for me to get married. I’ve heard people get married sometimes for the sake of children. But the four of you were the only children I could have ever had. And I don’t need any position because mine is high enough, I am independent. I was always looking for someone who would understand me but was failing until I knew you. So don’t worry, I have no intentions of letting you go. We just have to wait for some time. And Hotaru said that the day when you would accept your duties is very close. And you know Hotaru’s never wrong.” Setsuna was listening to him with great attention.

 When he finished she raised her head and smiled a little: “You were never showing any attention to me, were always so cold, so reserved but still one day I understood that I was loving you. I am thinking sometimes it is your coldness I loved you for. Though it is so strange.” Prince smiled at her. “When I would melt you would see that there is nothing special in me.” Setsuna shook her head. “No, you would always be special. For me.”

 Chronos was looking straight into her eyes and was leaning to kiss her when he suddenly saw a woman in the white suite with black short skirt and a bow in front attached to the black sailor collar standing in her place. In her gloved hand she was holding the silver carved almost her height staff with the garnet orb on the top. She was looking at him with her deep garnet eyes and at that moment he understood what Queen Serenity was expecting from him and what she meant when she was talking about death. Prince paled so much that Setsuna was scared. “May be you would really stay? You look terrible. May be you are wounded? Were you fighting today?” The garnet eyes were looking concernedly at him. Prince never told her about the visions he was having and now she was frightened by his white face and strange look in his eyes.

 He was still looking at her as if not understanding who she was. “Love would forgive anything,” he heard Serenity’s words. So the Queen knew and was warning him. And now when he knew too would he forgive and accept this woman he loved? It wasn’t even her fault. Nobody chooses his destiny. Was _he_ strong enough? Strong enough to see her every day and every night beside him for the rest of his life because now he knew that it was only for the rest of his life that they were supposed to be together. He could hardly stand, the realization struck him so unexpectedly it seemed to him as if suddenly the ground disappeared from under his feet but for some strange reason he wasn’t falling. Setsuna was waiting for him to say something but he was still staring in front of him and being silent. It lasted for half an hour already. At last, she took his hand and to her surprise he went to where she led him to without any objections. She had a number of rooms like all of them and now brought him to one of the bedrooms and said that he would sleep here tonight . He nodded without any emotion on his face. She stood for some time waiting for him to say or do something. At last, after another half an hour he smiled faintly at her and said that he needed to be alone. Setsuna obeyed though the strange look in his eyes was still worrying her.

 For the whole night Prince was thinking about Serenity’s words and about the vision he saw and in the morning decided that the rest of his life was enough to make her strong and to prepare her for her real duty.

 

 

                                                                                     *    *    *

 

 Prince was looking into his silver orb. The silver sphere was changing colors from grey to black and he knew it meant danger. He saw grey shadows flying towards their solar system but at approaching it they turned and went back from wherever they came from. He was trying to chase them through his orb but did not succeed, as the shadows seemed to melt into the darkness of Space. Now, however, he realized why they were turning back after some time. They were watching, learning about them to make it easier to capture them. Finally, he managed to trace them to their home. It was a long lost uninhabited star, all dark and wrapped in the grey mists. He didn’t know why they had chosen his solar system. After all, in Space everyone was always trying to get something that wasn’t his.

 He knew he had to go there and destroy them. Now he was protecting not only his home, but his friends, his new family and, of course, his beloved. He took his staff and went to the Watching Post room. There he found the star he needed and using his long, carved, greyish friend opened the Time Gate and stepped out into the infinity of Space. He heard the Gate closing behind him. Prince turned his head and saw the space corridor he needed. As he was approaching the star he felt the icy cold coming through him but he wasn’t afraid. During his existence he faced and witnessed many strange things.

 The shadows sensed him approaching. As they flew towards him he lifted his staff. “Meteorite Rain.” The silver sphere parted from the staff, it turned red and collapsed into millions of pieces each one growing quickly to the size of the meteor. The burning red balls were falling through the grey mists and making holes in the dark substance of the planet. Shadows were easily escaping his attack. He saw with some surprise that meteorites were coming through them.

 Prince realized who they were. Those were the lost “souls” that were demanding peace for eternities as a punishment for the crimes they had committed during their lives and could not find it. One of the shadows flew to him and he heard a voice echo in his head: “We know there is a place where we can rest and you can bring us there.” Chronos knew what they were talking about: a place of infinite peace in one of the corridors of the Universe. But it took a great power to open it. “If you grant us what we want you will be helped.” Prince smiled in doubt. Now he knew that they could not harm him and he may simply go away. “Help us! Please!” Chronos bent down his head. He was thinking that probably they would wander around the Universe for centuries and centuries looking for someone else who had enough power if he would refuse to help. Prince felt pity for them, he shrugged his shoulders. “All right.”

 His staff glowed with the silver light almost blinding Prince of Time. The tiny dot in Space was approaching them growing, a blue hole appeared out of nowhere. The shadows flew to it with relief. In a few moments the corridor disappeared leaving him absolutely alone. “Why I could never refuse hearing a sincere voice?” he thought to himself. In a few seconds he was back to his Palace. As he came out of the Watching Post room, he saw Setsuna running to him. He tried to smile but collapsed in her arms almost immediately, both of them falling to the floor.

 

 He was lying on the soft white bed covered with warm white blanket and feeling warm waves caressing his body. Suddenly he saw the darkness filling his solar system, the planets exploding, the sailor soldiers gasping with helplessness as their bodies began melting into nothingness. He wanted to lift his hand and push it away but couldn’t move.

 Out of the blue light a young man of about seventeen appeared before him. His calm grey eyes were filled with infinite knowledge and infinite kindness. His short hair was silver and reminded of the soft glowing cloth. Blue shirt with wide sleeves fixed at his waist and blue trousers were put on his body. He was barefoot. Young man smiled at Prince. “The word will be kept. I was sent to help you. Only love and sacrifice can prevent destruction and bring salvation.”

“Love and sacrifice,” thought Chronos, ”but this is not enough to stop the darkness.”

“You don’t know the real power of love and sacrifice because you never loved truly,” was a harsh answer. Chronos wanted to tell him he was wrong but the white shine blinded him and he fell asleep. When he opened his eyes he was lying in his bed, Setsuna was sitting in the chair near him. She smiled. “It is good you are awake. The Silver Crystal healed you.”

“I need to talk to Serenity.” 

 

 

 All of them were gathered in the Throne Room. The inner soldiers and the Princess were now of fifteen years old. Prince of Time told them what happened. When he mentioned love and sacrifice as their only salvation, the Moon Princess lifted her blue eyes and said in a soft voice: “Of course, love and sacrifice. The very essence of creation and infinite light.” Everybody turned to her in amazement. Her eyes somehow changed, now they glowed with knowledge and wisdom, but still were full of simplicity, their warm light enveloping everyone. She went to the Silver Crystal, her voice echoed in the big room. “It is time. You need our help, Prince of Time. We will join you very soon.”

 With these words she took the white stone in her arms, the room vanished. The Crystal shone and melted inside the Moon Princess. Her body was extracting white light, its power seemed enormous. Prince and Serenity were watching in wonder as all the other girls were brought around her in a circle. Their bodies were shining like when they were born. They were completely nude. Slowly the light around them began taking the form of ribbons wrapping around their bodies. A bright golden shine went through them: beginning with their feet, coming up to their heads. In front of every girl a little sphere appeared shining of the respective light. The white shine began fading, finally all of them were back to the Throne Room. Everyone, except for the Princess, were wearing tiaras on their foreheads. Thin ribbons with golden stars wrapped their necks. White suits were outlining their figures. Short skirts with long bows behind, sailor collars with little bows in front were completing their outfits. White elbow-length gloves covered their arms, though Sailor Uranus and Neptune’s gloves were shorter, till the middle of their elbows. Spheres in front of the soldiers faded and became little sticks that were beautifully embellished.

“These are your transformation wands. You should ask your planets and their powers will be granted to you. I will not be fighting with you: I have the Silver Crystal to protect.” With these words Moon Princess smiled at everyone. The sailor soldiers smiled back, finally accepting their duties and realizing the true power of their mistress. The Crystal appeared from the girl’s body and flew to its place. 

 

 

 After a while when the Prince and the outer soldiers were about to leave, a messenger came. “There is a Prince from Earth wanting a meeting with Your Majesty.” Serenity and Chronos looked at each other. The Queen nodded. Almost immediately they saw a young man entering the Throne Room.

 He looked about sixteen or seventeen years old. His black hair was shortly cut, black eyes looked straight at everything before them. His clothes was black and shone dimly. Long black cloak, red on the inside, was floating behind him. As he approached the Throne Chronos realized where the dim shining came from: above the black shirt of the Earth Prince he saw a thigh-length dark mail, to his belt a long sword in the dark sheath was fastened. He was prepared for war! Serenity’s smile also died as she perceived the way Endymion was dressed. While Prince was walking towards the Throne he bowed to every Princess in the room, except for Haruka. She was as usual wearing male clothes and if not for her gentle skin and beautiful hands she would have been indistinguishable from a man. Prince bowed to the Queen and Chronos. “Your Majesty. Prince Chronos. I have a serious matter to discuss with you. In private, please.”

“Of course.” Queen stood up from her Throne. While she was descending the little steps, she halted as if remembering something then stretched her hand and, pointing out a girl in a white dress, pronounced: “This is my daughter, Prince Endymion, Princess Serenity.” The girl blushed as Prince bowed and taking her hand pressed his lips against it. He lifted his eyes and while they were watching each other for a few seconds the Moon Princess’ face became scarlet at the cheeks. Minako began giggling looking at the scene in front of her, Rei pulled her sleeve and made wide eyes trying to silence the Venus Princess. Haruka grinned in amusement as the two of them seemed to forget about the others.

 Prince of Time was looking at the girl with crimson face and at the young man holding her hand and suddenly his vision blurred. A woman in a long white dress and a man in a purple tuxedo were standing on the hill. A glorious shining city lay in front of them. A little girl came running towards the two. Her big garnet eyes were smiling, her pink hair was put in two short thick tails. She stopped herself between her parents. ”Small Lady, we were waiting for you.” The girl put up her hands and man took her in his arms.

 

 

 “Private” meeting consisted of exactly twelve people. Endymion came to tell them about the rebellion on Earth. It seemed as if someone was taking people’s good and bringing everything bad out of them. Men and women unexpectedly became irritable, ready to fight each other at the first chance, angry with everything they saw. When some of them were brought with great difficulty to their senses, they explained that someone else was using their bodies and their will. It was so strong they could not fight it. The Earth people needed help. Thus, the life of the inner soldiers as warriors began. Shortly after this rebellions on the other planets broke out. The great dark balls came flying from the outer Spaces. Chronos and the outer soldiers went out fighting.

 The silver orb and the deep aqua mirror were showing the same pictures. Many stars and planets away a great war was going on. Creatures there were so much filled with hatred and desire to destroy each other that these feelings finally materialized and took the shapes of great dark balls. Black winds blew through Space and brought hatred with them. Chronos traced the black winds and the outer soldiers spotted the spheres. Now they were always on guard, expecting another attack. The war continued for quite a long time ending with nobody’s victory, as there was no one left to declare it. Finally the madness on the planets stopped and black balls ceased coming.

 

 

 During this time Endymion became an integral part of the inner soldiers and a good friend to the Chronos Palace inhabitants. They accepted him as their equal because he was a good fighter, talented strategist and the Queen’s loyal subject. The Moon Princess and he grew close, talking and walking together in the gardens. He was wishing to listen to her chatter and pick flowers for her, to chase butterflies and look at the sunsets.

 At first, everyone was surprised and Haruka even suggested with a grim look on her face that he was probably fooling their Princess. On which opinion she was joined by Rei who, when things turned serious, was ready to do everything for her at all the other times mercilessly teased friend. However, later they realized that he somehow did not see that she lacked wit. Rather, he didn’t consider it too important. He had enough wit for both of them. He was admiring her kind heart and pure soul, wishing to protect her from all the world. At last, he became an acknowledged fiancé and a husband to be.

 

                                                                                      *

 

 As for another wedding, it was finally settled. Prince and Setsuna both realized as they were fighting by each other’s side that their feelings changed. They risked their lives and shielded each other in the battles and the love they shared became deeper and more mature. Now they knew what they were coming into: a constant threat of your beloved being wounded or even killed before your eyes. But their bond only became tighter, they were wishing to take the risk of pain and loss; were ready to become each other’s consolation and support.

 

 The wedding took place on the lawn in front of the Moon Palace. Queen Serenity sealed their union. It was a great event. And although Prince and Setsuna wanted for it to be modest the whole Moon Kingdom was finally invited as well as the rulers of all the planets and stars. It was decided to make this day a feast. After all, in several millennia the guardian of their solar system finally managed to find a wife for himself. Mostly people he for so long cared about were happy for him and their congratulations were sincere.

 Prince of Time was as happy as he had never been in his life. He was looking at the Queen smiling at them; at Hotaru, now almost fifteen, standing by his side, holding a bouquet, her eyes shining with happiness; at Michiru and at Haruka, dressed in a gown especially for him, who were standing behind Setsuna; at the four younger girls, shining with smiles and forming a group just near Hotaru’s side; at the Moon Princess holding hands with Prince Endymion and finally, he was looking in the face of his love. She was dressed in a beautiful white gown with little sleeves outlining her small waist and falling in a fluffy cloud to her feet provided with white silk shoes. Her heavy hair was left falling down her back because Hotaru, Michiru and Haruka found it impossible to make a hair-do out of it even with six hands. Prince was dressed in an all-silver suite, black shirt and black shoes. When he leaned to kiss her out of nowhere white rose petals came flying, gently touching their faces.

 

 For this night Hotaru, Haruka and Michiru were staying in the Moon Palace, they agreed to it long ago. Servants were granted a day-out. When the celebration ended, the couple returned to the Chronos Palace. They were standing in the corridor a little embarrassed. Then Prince came closer to Setsuna, put his arms around her back and knees, lifted her from her feet and carried through the corridors. He felt the heart of his wife beating so fast her body was lightly trembling. Prince smiled. He stopped in front of the high, double doors. Setsuna stretched her hand and pushed it, the doors opened without a noise. Prince entered with his precious load and carefully put her on the bed. He stood for a moment watching the young woman who has become everything for him. If in the beginning he was thinking about himself being happy, now he wished for her to be happy even at the cost of his own happiness. He knew such a sacrifice wouldn’t be necessary but by offering it he reached one of the heights of feelings a person could reach: deriving his happiness from the happiness of his beloved one. He leaned and kissed her gently on the lips feeling her kiss him back. Then he went to the high doors and closed it shutting them off from all the world.