Shades of Darkness
A Sailor Moon Fanfic
By: Aaron Nowack
Prologue: In the Hall of the Dark Queen
"Darkness over Sodom
Darkness in the light
Darkness over yonder
Darkness never ending
The absolute destiny: apocalypse"
- Revolutionary Girl Utena, "Absolute Destiny Apocalypse"
Disclaimer: Sailor Moon is owned by Naoko Takeuchi, whose creative talents far exceed my most humble own. Distribution and other rights to Sailor Moon belong to lots of different companies that I do not own. I make or imply no claim to ownership of Sailor Moon or its characters. However, the text of this fanfic is mine, and should not be used without permission. Thank you.
"Sometimes I can't believe things worked out so well."
"I never doubted they would."
"Of course not." The speaker laughed, his fingers drumming on the stone table. "You wouldn't."
"You shouldn't have either." One hand caressed a well-worn tome. "The prophecy foretold our victory."
Nyxan grinned toothily. "The prophecy foretold our Great Leader's return. Of us it said nothing. There were others who might have taken our place."
Ishamanar shook his head. "Who? Jadeite? The Dragons? None of them had any wish to bring about Great Metallia's return. They were only concerned with picking scraps of flesh from the bones of Beryl's kingdom."
"Perhaps. The matter is of no import now." Nyxan's own hand lightly tapped the cover of the Metallian Codex. "Is there a new prophecy to guide us now?"
"No." Ishamanar picked the tome up from where it lay in the center of the table. "The time for prophecy is over. Now, Great Metallia herself guides us to our final triumph."
"So may it be." Nyxan settled back into his seat, but a worried look still marred his face. "It has been three weeks. Three weeks, and we have done nothing."
"Hardly nothing. All the Overlords, even those from the West, have come to pay homage to our Queen. Thousands upon thousands upon thousands of youma gather now, waiting for the time to strike. Not a soul stirs in this land that does not do so to serve Great Metallia."
"What of the Air Dragon?"
Ishamanar waved a hand. "Kyrien? He must be dead. Loriel has scoured the four corners of the world for him, and found no sign."
"Perhaps. But what could have slain him?" Ishamanar did not answer, and after a moment Nyxan sighed. "It is Terra I speak of. Three weeks, and not even a single drone has passed through the portals. I would not question our Queen, but I must wonder why we wait so long. We are ready to strike, and have been since days after her return."
"You say you do not question, but it is questions I hear in your voice."
"You know me too well, I fear. I suppose I worry overmuch."
Ishamanar shook his head. "No. We would not be good Generals if we did not worry. Nonetheless, we must trust in Great Metallia, as we always have."
"So we must."
"It does irk me, though," Ishamanar continued. "Those Senshi must think me a coward, for I fled when they first saw me, and I have not shown my face to them again since."
"If they think you a coward, all the better." Nyxan smiled. "The two of us have always been underestimated, and it has always served us well."
"You are right." Ishamanar paused. "I too worry, though. All the armies gathering here cannot stay for long before they turn on each other for energy. These wastelands are not fit to house such a host."
"I suspect that may be why Beryl built the palace here, so none could bring an army large enough to siege it." Nyxan fingers resumed their drumming. "You are right though. Some Overlord may do something rash. I will set some of my youma on ensuring none does."
"It is not only Overlords we must worry about," Ishamanar said.
"Neither Dragon would even breathe, should it displease Great Metallia, but Jadeite I am not so sure of," Nyxan stated. "He seems loyal now, but I wonder how deep that loyalty runs."
"Asphara is watching him," Ishamanar replied. "So far, he does not plot against our Great Leader. If he should, he will die before that scheme can be realized."
"And then there is... her." Nyxan hissed out the last, and his red eyes glowed softly.
"The Senshi." Ishamanar's words hung in the air heavily.
"Great Metallia keeps her too close for my comfort," Nyxan said.
"And yet too far. Twice she has vanished, and Great Metallia said not a word." Ishamanar paused. "Still, our Queen's silence tells me those disappearances were according to her plan."
Nyxan noticed his claws had extended, and he slowly retracted them. "I suppose. Yet, Queen Beryl thought Prince Endymion her loyal servant. I understand she learned otherwise, at the end."
"Beryl was nothing but a shadow of our Queen."
The door of the small chamber suddenly swung open, revealing Jadeite, who strode into the room. Nyxan rose, making no effort to hide the fact that his claws had re-extended. "It is hardly polite to enter without knocking, Jadeite," he said, somehow managing to shout the lack of a title before the human's name.
Jadeite's face remained impassive. "Great Metallia requires the presence of her Generals in the throne room."
Ishamanar rose. "Why?" he asked, even as he pushed his chair aside.
Now a smile appeared on Jadeite's face. "It is time."
"Time?" Nyxan asked. "You mean -"
Jadeite nodded. "Tomorrow, we strike."
"Well, fancy meeting you here again." It was a weak joke, and Meno sighed even as he said it.
Ami merely nodded curtly, settling herself into her seat. The small cafe where they had met the day after the battle on Pluto had become their standard meeting place. Their agreed-upon weekly meetings, of which this was the third, were close to the extent of the contact between the Champions and the Senshi now. There was too much blood, ancient and recent, between them for that too be at all surprising.
"Motoki asked me to ask you how Mamoru was doing," Meno said after taking a small sip of his drink.
"He is out of the hospital now," Ami said. "Usagi says he's planning to go back to school next week."
"That's good," Meno replied, and for a few moments the two were silent.
"To business, then?" Ami asked.
Meno mockingly raised his drink, as if to answer a toast. "To business." Ami sighed, and Meno shook his head. "Sorry."
"I assume your scans haven't found anything interesting?" Ami said after a few second's awkward silence.
Meno shook his head. "I'm using the same scanning equipment as you. Any youma that have shown up in Tokyo for the past three weeks have been heavily cloaked and very careful to not create any disturbances."
"So it seems. I wonder what they're up to," Ami said.
"I wish I could tell you," Meno said with a shrug. His expression quickly became grim. "I can tell you one thing. Whatever Seren... Metallia is planning, we aren't going to like it." He rubbed tiredly at his eyes. "But I almost think I'd prefer it to waiting for the hammer to drop like this."
"Is it possible that she was killed at Castle Charon, and the reason there haven't been any attacks is that the Dark Kingdom has fallen into chaos again?"
"You don't really believe that, do you?" Meno asked.
"No." Ami frowned. "I suppose not."
Meno idly stirred his soda with his straw. "Has Pluto shown her face yet?"
Ami shook her head. "Not even Haruka or Michiru have seen her since Castle Charon."
"Why am I not surprised?"
Ami opened her mouth to speak, then shook her head slightly and shut it. Meno raised an eyebrow. "What?"
"It's nothing." Ami paused. "At least, probably nothing. Usagi thinks she saw Hotaru a couple days ago."
"Saturn?" Meno asked, almost hissing out the word.
Ami nodded. "But it was from a distance. I doubt it was really her."
"You're probably right. I can't imagine Metallia not keeping her on a short leash." Meno watched as Ami took a sip from her drink. "Anything else of interest?"
"What about the fleet?"
Meno shook his head. "No luck. I'd have to guess that the destruction of the Great Seal somehow disconnected the fleet's prison from this world; I can't even find it, much less open it."
"What about the Dark Kingdom, then?" Ami asked.
"Seren... Metallia probably anchored it somehow. After all, it was... her agent that did the destroying."
Ami paused, considering. "That seems likely. Anything else?"
"No. Not about this," Meno said after a moment.
Ami nodded, and suddenly downed half the remainder of her drink in one gulp. "What about... your brother? Have you talked with him yet?"
The transformation that came over her when she shifted to that subject always astounded Meno. One moment, she was cold and calculating, the next moment she was... well, not quite a lovesick schoolgirl, but very much a nervous, confused one. Meno sighed. "I take it he hasn't talked to you then?"
Ami blinked. "What?"
"I managed to get in touch with him after our meeting last week. I didn't tell him that you were," Meno paused, glancing around to make sure nobody was in earshot, and then continued in a slightly quieter tone of voice. "Sailor Mercury, of course, but I told him I had met you and gave him your number."
Ami frowned. "No, he hasn't called." She glanced at Meno, who was looking somewhat distressed. "What's wrong?"
"Last night," Meno began, only to hesitate before continuing, "I got a call from my parents. Ryo never came home from school yesterday. I was hoping that maybe he had told you what he was doing."
"He's gone missing?" For a few moments, Ami seemed to think over something. Then her face went very pale. "Tell me, has Motoki been in touch with his old girlfriend at all? A... Reika, I think. I don't remember the family name."
Meno blinked at the sudden change of subject. "What... how would I know? What does that have to do with anything?"
Ami began to quietly curse under her breath. "Who were the others? I knew I should have kept an eye on -"
"Will you please tell me what's going on?" Meno asked, exasperated.
Ami stopped muttering, and took a deep breath. She was silent for a moment, obviously considering where to start. "Your brother already knows I'm Sailor Mercury," she said finally.
"What?" Meno asked a little too loudly.
"Let me finish. This is important," Ami said in a quiet tone of command, and Meno subsided. "It all began when we were fighting Zoicite for the Rainbow Crystals." For the next several minutes, Ami told the story of those battles, and Meno's face grew cold.
When she was finished, he uttered a soft, viscous curse. After a moment, he said, "Sorry. But... this is -" He stopped suddenly, breathing deeply. "I'll ask Motoki about... Reika. You find out about the others, if you can."
He rose suddenly and walked out, leaving his unfinished drink behind.
The throne room teemed with monstrosities. It had not been long since it had been dusty, nearly abandoned. Even more recently, it had been half-empty, the stronghold of an embattled former General with dreams of far greater power. But now, it was restored to the
state in which it had spent most of its long existence. The sounds of hundreds, if not thousands, of youma echoed perpetually through the throne room and the adjoining chambers. Messengers slid here and there through the crowds, carrying news of the countless plots and conspiracies that seemed to occur naturally whenever so many powerful youma were brought to one place.
Most importantly, the throne room once again served the unchallenged sovereign of the Dark Kingdom, whom all served. There was no fear of an enemy army finally taking the citadel by storm, for every army in the Kingdom served the palace's new owner. And most of those were now gathered outside the dark stone walls of the palace, waiting for their Queen's commands.
Inside the throne room, the sea of youma parted, even though the room seemed so full that such a maneuver should have been impossible. Through the gap this made, Loriel and Scalae, the two surviving Dragons, passed. Loriel fidgeted with his ornate blue robes as he walked, causing the Dragon of Fire to smirk. "Nervous, Water Dragon?"
"Should I be?" Loriel asked with a snort.
"You have failed in finding Kyrien."
Loriel barked out a short laugh. "Only because there is nothing to find. He is as dead as Mordrangar."
Some strange emotion showed in Scalae's featureless red eyes, but she said nothing as they reached the empty throne and took up position behind it. Instead she began to scan the gathered crowd, briefly noting the position of her loyal servant Chresk. She also noted a number of Overlords who had loyally served Jadeite, released from imprisonment when their master had agreed to serve Metallia. They would not dare plot against Metallia, but Scalae was a much less dangerous target. Still, she thought with a smile, she was more than dangerous enough to handle any of these second-rate demons.
The constant murmur of the crowd began to quieten as Metallia's three Generals entered the room. Scalae resisted the urge to growl as she glanced at Jadeite. She ached to finally kill the pathetic human, but her Queen had forbidden it. Worse, Scalae had to agree: Jadeite would be useful in the days to come.
A minor disturbance caught her eye and shook her briefly from her thoughts: Chresk seemed to be on the verge of starting something rather nasty with General Nyxan. Scalae frowned and almost imperceptibly shook her head, and Chresk calmed himself, bowing and apologizing. That would have to be dealt with. Chresk had, quite rightly by youma standards, taken offense at Nyxan fleeing their brief duel, but it would not be helpful to have him antagonizing one of Metallia's two favorites.
As the three Generals slowly walked up the stairs that led to the empty throne, an expectant hush began to fall over the crowd below. Once they had taken their positions by it, the already pale light dimmed further, until even youma eyes could not penetrate the darkness. When light returned, Metallia sat upon the throne, one hand resting atop the head of Sailor Saturn, who now knelt slightly beside and before the throne. Though no few youma shrunk back from the Senshi's dull, violet eyes, all bowed deeply to Metallia, and a smile graced her aristocratic face as she accepted the homage. The golden crescent moon on her forehead shone brightly, but somehow its light seemed to merely deepen the darkness.
The silence was complete, hardly even a breath able to be heard as the crowd waited for their goddess to speak. For some moments she did not, savoring the heady feeling of expectation. Finally, though, she did speak, and though her voice was quiet and the crowd vast, all heard it as though it sounded inside their own heads.
"It is time," she said, and even the deep fear and respect the youma had for Metallia could not keep the crowd from erupting into cheers and roars of triumph. Metallia raised her hand from its perch on Saturn's head, and the noise instantly ceased once more. As she lowered her hand, Metallia continued. "It is time at last. For ten thousand years you have waited for this moment, when the victory you once held in your grasp would return to it. For ten thousand years you have rotted in this prison, while the humans who locked you away stole all that should have been yours.
"No longer." Once again, the youma's discipline broke, and this time Metallia allowed the cacophony to die a natural death. "I have returned to you, and by my will you shall know vengeance! By my will, all who would oppose you shall be broken. By my will, Terra shall be yours!
"Now that our forces have begun to gather, the time to strike draws near. It is your duty to go to your armies, to work to hasten the coming of that hour. Let no youma fight another, for soon we will have humans to slay. Let those whose forces tarry hasten their journey here, so that when I open the portals they will be ready to step through. So is my will; so it shall be done!"
Even as Metallia finished, the crowd began to thin, and surprisingly quickly she was left alone with her Generals and the Dragons, who moved to stand before the throne. For a moment Metallia eyed them silently; then she spoke. "How long will it take, for all the armies to be gathered?"
"No more than a week further, Great One," Jadeite said. "Already, though, all but the tiniest fraction has arrived.
Metallia nodded. "Very well, then. Soon, I shall put an end to my accursed descendant's wards forever. Until then... I would that we make a strike, a small raid, to test the Terran's defenses."
Nyxan bowed. "Your will, Great One. Where shall we strike?"
Metallia smiled. "At this... Tokyo, where my Senshi and the cursed Champions are. They deserve to taste my wrath. General Ishamanar?"
The four-armed youma bowed. "My Queen."
"I believe you have been there before, so you shall lead the strike. One thousand of your finest youma should be sufficient for this test. Take them, and let us see whether this Tokyo can survive half a day of their attentions."
Ishamanar bowed again. "Your will, Great One."
After Metallia dismissed her Generals, Jadeite quietly slipped into one of the many small antechambers adjacent to the main throne room. There was hardly any light, so he summoned a small ball of flame and set it to slowly circle the room, though this seemed to do more to strengthen the shadows than to banish them. After a moment's search to ensure that he was alone, he settled into one of the chamber's few chairs.
As always after his meetings with Metallia, he shook, and he could not understand why. She was his goddess, his Queen. So long as he served her loyally, he had nothing to fear. Yet, every time he left her presence, he trembled with emotions he could not bring himself to name. His head throbbed with a terrible pain, and he shut his eyes, willing the ache to subside.
When it did, he brought out the Flame Diamond and stared into its depths. For some reason, its beauty could comfort him, and as he gazed into it his trembling body calmed somewhat. Though he channeled no power into it, he thought he could see some spark at its heart, and slowly his gaze sought it out. He could not say how long he sat there, entranced by the gem's depths.
"Seek the Diamonds, Fire Guardian."
Jadeite started. He rose, and the Flame Diamond blazed in his hand, sending the shadows fleeing to the farthest corners of the room. "Who dares disturb me?"
Laughter sounded in his ears. "None who fears you, Guardian."
Jadeite's eyes narrowed. "I will not be called that."
Another soft laugh. "Very well, General, but you would do well to heed me."
"Why should I?" Jadeite's eyes darted throughout the room, unable to find the speaker.
"I can grant you what you most desire," the voice said.
"I desire only my Queen's will," Jadeite replied.
"Truly?" The speaker laughed again, and Jadeite's head throbbed in time. "I think not. Be healed, for the moment."
Jadeite stumbled back into the chair as his mind filled with unbelievable pain. Something shattered... and it was a very different Jadeite who rose from the chair a few moments later. Fury raged in his mind, that Metallia had dared to toy with him like that. He was no one's slave! "Who are you?" he hissed.
Again, laughter. "A friend, it seems."
"You will aid me in my vengeance?" Jadeite asked.
"Then show yourself. I will not plot with thin air."
"I cannot," the voice replied. "This is the domain of Serenity the Dark - the one you call Metallia. I cannot come here, but I will come to you when the time is right. Until then -"
Something... pulsed in Jadeite's mind, and he could feel familiar bonds snapping back into place. "What did you do?" he asked angrily.
"I cannot break Serenity's hold on you entirely, General, not for long. I have granted you some measure of freedom. Be grateful for that."
Jadeite snarled, and the strange voice laughed again. "I must leave you now, General, lest Serenity become alert to my presence. We shall meet again." Jadeite cursed, and yelled at the dark walls, but the presence did not return.
In the Dark Kingdom, the drums of war beat furiously. Armies converged on Beryl's palace, waiting for the time to strike. Ishamanar gathered his chosen legion to him, readying them to return to the unsuspecting city of Tokyo. Jadeite raged in impotent fury as he carried out the orders of the Queen he now knew he hated. That Queen studied the wards that separated her realm from Terra, preparing to sunder them for good.
On Earth, life continued as it always had and, so far as most were concerned, always would. Life and death, love and hatred, war and peace, billions of repetitive yet unique dramas. They all played out, the actors unaware of the danger that now threatened to prematurely end them all, the darkness that even now rose to swallow them.
And on distant Pluto, a figure stood on a hill over the ruins of Castle Charon, the tiny sun to its back. A smile appeared on its face as it watched Sailor Pluto pick her way through those ruins, searching in vain for either of her two charges. "Finally." The word hung in the air. "At last. It begins."
Author's Random Ramblings
1) Here we go again... This is of course the sequel to Shades of Gray, the latest version of which can be found at http://www.mimiru.net/
2) Angus MacSpon has once again taken up the task of prereading this story. As ever, my thanks to him. Thnaks goes to Michael Chase for catching a particularly glaring omission.
3) I'm not totally happy with the title quote, but I haven't been able to come up with anything better.
4) I tried to write a "What Has Gone Before" section, but I stopped when it was only up to Chapter 7 or so, already far too long, and had left out far too much detail to be useful.
Started: October 19, 2003
Draft Finished: October 24, 2003
Draft Released: December 22, 2003
Final Released: January 16, 2004