"Moon Tiara Boomerang!"
The projectile flew through the air, flying past the monster to which it had been targeted before turning around and, on its return course, impacting against the creature's back. Knocked off balance, it collapsed to one knee as the projectile landed back into the gloved hand of the female who had thrown it, transforming back into the gold tiara with inlaid red jewel that had been on her forehead only moments before.
The girl was clad in a white leotard, blue skirt and knee length pink boots adorned with yellow crescent moons, red bows affixed to both her chest and the small of her back; her blonde hair done up in two decorative pigtailed buns, with barrettes and white ringed red circles decorating those buns. She raised one arm, calling forth her next weapon, a pink wand decorated with jewels and topped by a silver crescent moon. Affixing a battle pose, she spoke the phrase that would cause the tool to deliver one of her most powerful attacks.
"Moon Twilight Flash!"
Bursts of light emerged from the crescent moon on the wand at the command, slamming into the monster with enough force to cause it to howl in pain, each successive impact knocking it further back until at last it collapsed to the ground and disappeared in a flash of light.
Nodding her head, the girl turned to leave, only to stop short as she saw two people above her. One had platinum blond hair done up in a ponytail and wore what appeared to be a white military uniform with very little decoration other than a silver cape held on his person by epaulettes on his shoulders that were inset with green jewels. The other was a slightly older man with long red hair the same shade of his uniform, cape and jeweled epaulettes. The look on his face was the type she had seen in predators who had their prey in sight. Not an inaccurate description, given the fact that both he and his comrade were holding swords in their hands that they were currently pointing directly in her direction.
"You may have defeated our latest monster, Sailor Moon," the red haired man said. "But this one defeat does not mean that you have won the war. You cannot hope to halt the advance of the Dark Kingdom. We shall find the Mystical Silver Crystal and free Queen Metallia from her imprisonment. And when we do, no one on this planet shall be safe from us."
"That's what you think," Sailor Moon replied as the males leapt to the floor, swords in hand. Using the momentum of their fall, they propelled himself towards Sailor Moon, who ducked and rolled to avoid their first attack, turning to deliver a kick to the back of the blond that momentarily caught him off balance. Turning and letting out a snarl, he flexed the fingers of his left hand and sent a bolt of green energy towards his attacker.
Cartwheeling out of the way, Sailor Moon stole a moment to look around, hoping to see anyone that could help her deal with these people. Not that she expected anyone to show up. As far as these types of situations were concerned, she wasn't exactly on speaking terms with most of the people who were supposed to help her, and even if they were, they didn't know that she was here.
She was on her own.
Or so she thought, for just when she had given up hope of finding rescue, she saw another person leap from the second floor to join the fight. This person was a female clad in a tuxedo, a cape affixed to her shoulders, long blonde hair flowing across it. Her identity was obscured by the top hat on her head and the white mask over her eyes. She held what appeared to be a walking cane in one gloved hand, which she twirled like a baton and pointed at both enemies. "She's correct, fiends. As long as the two of us live, the Earth will be defended from the likes of you."
The blond snickered. "Then...I guess that will have to change, won't it?" Raising their swords, the pair moved to attack the newcomer, the blond in the lead. His attack was blocked as the blonde raised her cane, stopping the strike that would have bisected her. Bringing the sword down to one side, the tuxedo clad figure slammed an elbow into the stomach of her opponent, crumpling him in half. Before he could recover, she brought her cane down across his back, knocking him head first into the ground.
Taking advantage of the opportunity afforded to him by the failure of his comrade, the one in red charged forward, shouting at the top of his lungs a howling fury of rage. Getting up off her knee, the blonde parried the attacks of the male like an expert swordswoman, which only served to increase the fury of his attacks. But it was all for naught for, as with his companion, he too was sent to the ground with a series of well placed blows to the gut and chin.
"Go back to your master," she said, pointing at both men as they got to their feet. "And let her know that her quest for the Mystical Silver Crystal will not go unchallenged."
Getting to their feet, swords in hand and snarls on their faces, the pair swept their capes up and disappeared from sight. Once they were gone, the tuxedo clad female turned to look at Sailor Moon, tilting her head in silent approval. "You fought well."
"I have to," Sailor Moon replied. "My friends...the ones I'm supposed to lead...we haven't been getting along that well lately. At least, not as far as the whole ‘save-the-world-from-evil' destiny thing goes. I mean, we all still get along well as regular people in school and everything. And it's...it's my fault that we can't get together on this mission. I'm supposed to be their leader, and I can't find it within myself to be the kind of person that sort of role requires me to be."
"But you must," the blonde replied with a nod. "I know you can be that sort of person. But you have to believe it yourself, Sailor Moon. Otherwise you will never be able to find the strength to convince yourself of this." Moving off, she turned as she reached the open window. "But rest assured. No matter what happens, you have at least one friend in this fight."
And with that, she leapt out the open window. Sailor Moon stood rooted to the spot for some time, watching the empty space where her rescuer had been. She soon found her attention drawn elsewhere at the sound of a very familiar voice.
"I thought that I would find you here, Willow."
Sailor Moon looked up as a bright light shone from her body, fading after several moments to reveal a young woman in her mid-teens, wearing a red t-shirt, faded blue jeans and sneakers, her elaborately designed blonde hair now a chin-length red. She took in the newcomer with an indignant stare, actually surprised to discover that she would come at all.
"So how long have you been here, Anya?"
"Long enough to see you talking to our enemy," Anya retorted.
"She's not our enemy," Willow insisted, the tone of her voice as she said this showing the strain of one having done a task repeatedly and without end. Which was, in a sense, exactly what she was doing, for ever since the others had found out about the one who had saved Willow during her first battle, the five of them deciding to call her Tuxedo Mask for lack of any other means by which to identify her, they had begun to question whether or not she was really looking out for their best interests.
Although all were resistant to the idea of considering her as a potential ally, Anya was especially adamant about refusing Willow's attempts to convince them to see her as an ally, saying that, for all they knew, she could merely be a part of the enemy's plans against Earth, useful to them only as a means to lull the five of them into a false sense of security where they would come to depend on her presence whenever they battled, and then choosing to remove her from the equation when they decided that things needed to start getting serious.
Willow, being the good natured person that she was, took exception to this, trying to convince them all, and especially Anya, that if Tuxedo Mask really were an enemy, then she wouldn't have gone out of her way to risk her life the countless times that she had done so while helping them to battle the evil monsters the Dark Kingdom sent their way. While the others had at least been able to agree on that, Anya stated plainly that this information didn't negate the fact that she always seemed to wait until the last possible minute to make her appearance, and had never decided to reveal her true identity to them, which were valid enough points, at least in her opinion, to counter any argument to the contrary that she were anything other than an unknown factor in their fight, and could potentially be harmful to their mission.
That had been, if not the main thing, one of many that had driven a wedge between the five of them over the course of the past month. The sense of camaraderie that they had shared when they had first met, pledging to fight the enemy under Willow's leadership and the guidance of Luna and Artemis, the feline companions of the long dead Queen of the Moon Kingdom that were sent with them to the future to guide them along the path to their respective destiny, had long since faded, with no real discussion about where to go with regard to their mission to find the Moon Princess and the Mystical Silver Crystal she carried and only the barest hints of the friendships they had made before that day not so very long ago remaining.
It was almost as if the entire sense of friendship and bonding that had occurred that day had become a wool sweater, and the various arguments on how to find the Princess and the Silver Crystal, figuring out how to deal with the Dark Kingdom that seemed hell bent on finding both and using them in their plans for world domination and how the mysterious tuxedoed female fit into the whole thing became the curious person that had pulled at a loose thread on that sweater for so often that it had all but unraveled, leaving behind only a mess of string that would be nearly impossible to put back together again.
Luna and Artemis had tried the best they could to keep the five of them together and on task, but Willow had explained to them that what had happened between them was exactly the sort of thing that occurred when you got five different people together in a room and gave them a problem to solve: each person ended up having a different opinion on what to do about the situation that completely clashed with what another person had thought, which in turn clashed with the ideas that the others had. Eventually you would start to argue about what was the best course of action, to the point that you might even begin to just argue for the simple sake of arguing, completely forgetting the original reasons that you started arguing to begin with. Willow told them that all that could be done about it was to simply let the tiff that had developed between them run its course, in the hope that they could come to some consensus before anything bad happened.
"You keep saying that as if you're absolutely convinced of what you say," Anya said, bringing Willow's thoughts back to the present. "It's little wonder why we can't work together as a team when our leader is blind enough to miss the obvious."
"Like what?" Willow asked, her voice rising in frustration. "Do you really think that the person who's saved us more times than I can remember could be an enemy?"
"Yes, I do," Anya replied with a straight face. She turned away from Willow and began to walk away. "And if you truly wanted to be our leader, you would be willing to at least consider that."
Watching Anya walk off, Willow came to realize that she was right. She had never once been open to the idea of considering Tuxedo Mask as an enemy. But that was because, unlike the others, she had been there when the blonde had made her first appearance, saving her from an attack by one of the enemy, much like she had done not only tonight, but whenever she went up against the forces of the Dark Kingdom.
Walking off, Willow thought to herself, "If she were truly the enemy, would she have saved me then? Would she have saved me tonight? Would she have saved me all those times in between tonight and that first time?"
One final thought burned itself into her brain. "And if she were the enemy, would she continue to save me?"
Faith knelt on one knee in front of the pulsating purple form that was Queen Metallia, her arms outstretched; a large blue orb in her upturned hands. This orb contained the energy collected during her warriors' latest attempts to gather energy from the people of Earth, a task that was being done in order to accomplish the Demon Queen's rebirth; a task had been going slowly over the past month, but had been progressing quite well, in her opinion.
It would, however, progress much better and faster had her underlings managed to find the Mystical Silver Crystal, but after nearly a month of fruitless searching, they had appeared to be making no progress in finding it. How could it be possible that an object like the Crystal would be that difficult to find, especially when they had so little territory to traverse?
Even as the question crossed her mind, Faith realized that she knew the answer: those four warriors to whom she had entrusted the task of finding the Crystal, their combined power making them the strongest of all of those who loyally served Queen Metallia and herself, seemed to be more willing to spend their time and energy squabbling amongst themselves on how to accomplish the task of finding the Crystal than in actually doing it. This was one of the unfortunate side effects of the manipulation she had enacted on their emotions and minds, both through her words and the spell she cast over them in order to make them more subservient to her control. It made them loyal to her, yes, but it also made them more than willing to do whatever they thought was necessary in order to accomplish whatever goal she gave them, even if it meant stepping on the backs of their comrades and preventing them from accomplishing the very same thing.
Faith let out a small sigh as she spoke, "Oh, great Metallia, Demon Queen of the Dark Kingdom, I, Queen Faith, you most humble vassal, do offer you this energy we have collected in your name, in the hopes that it shall bring you power."
The contents of the orb made their way into the purple mass, which began to pulsate more quickly as it absorbed the energy. A face then began to form within the mass, its features becoming those of a creature that would cause untold horror and fright to those who gazed upon it.
Faith bowed her head to the face, mostly out of subservience to the true leader of the Dark Kingdom, but also to hide the fact that she was frightened to gaze into that face, its cold eyes and unfeeling features a manifestation of soulless being to which it belonged. This was an event unto itself, for there were few things that could frighten her as badly as an audience with Queen Metallia.
"Your gift pleases me, Faith," the deeply feminine voice of Metallia intoned. "But I must admit that...I grow concerned about your lack of progress towards reviving me."
"I know, my Queen," Faith admitted, knowing that to lie within Metallia's presence would not be wise. "Our best efforts to gather energy for you have met with...some resistance."
"I am aware of this, Faith," Metallia replied. "The Guardians of the Princess have been reborn on Earth, and seek to thwart my plans to rule this planet. This greatly displeases me, Faith. I thought that you would have done better with the powers I offered you. Perhaps I was wrong."
Faith bit her lip in order to keep herself from commenting on this. This was the game the two of them played. Faith may be ruler of the Dark Kingdom, but she was still answerable to Metallia in all things. She had to be, of course, for it was the Demon Queen who had granted her the abilities she had used to bring that destruction down upon the people of the Moon, especially the Moon Princess.
Faith gritted her teeth as she recalled the features of the Moon Princess, whom she greatly despised with every nerve and fiber in her being. The heir to the Moon Kingdom was the living embodiment of all that it stood for and all that made the people of Earth despise them: natural beauty unbecoming of any mere Earthling, near eternal life thanks to the powers of the Mystical Silver Crystal, and total ignorance to the thoughts and feelings of the people of Earth as they meddled in their affairs. Faith knew that Queen Serenity had decreed that, despite their people's mission to watch over the people of the Earth, they should not directly get involved with them, since it would only serve to cause the seeds of distrust that had always existed between the two cultures to bloom into something terrible that would eventually bring about their mutual destruction.
But she had apparently decided to make an exception in her daughter's case, as it soon became known among both her people and the Earth Kingdom that there was a relationship between Princess Serenity and Endymion, Crown Princess of the Earth. Faith had known from that moment on that she had a perfect opportunity to take her revenge on the Moon Kingdom, knowing that the hatred the people of Earth would have upon learning of the union between one of their most prominent members and the Princess from the Moon would be the spark that would ignite the confrontation between them that would see her fondest desire, that of Queen Serenity and her daughter dying at her own hand, come true at last.
Faith had indeed been the one who led the people of the Earth in their attack against the people of the Moon, and now led the Dark Kingdom, the remnants of that once mighty army, in their attack on the people of Earth during this time. But she knew that it was only because of her meeting with Metallia, who had come to her saying that she also sought the destruction of the people of the Moon just as much, if not more so, as Faith did, that she had able to do this. This bound Faith to Metallia, just as her command and control over the Shitennou, who had, during the Silver Millennium, been Princess Endymion's best friends and guardians, and whom she had manipulated to serving her, bound them to her. She forced them to serve her and do her bidding, just as Metallia forced Faith to serve her and do her bidding.
Faith would put up with this subservience for now, because, as most things that annoyed her did, it worked to her advantage, at least for now. But like most things, her amusement about the situation would fade, and she would seek to use Metallia's power for her own personal gain. For if there was one thing she craved, it was power. And Metallia's power was greater than any she had ever seen before, the offering she had been given merely a sample of the deep well the Demon Queen drank from.
That power would be hers, whether or not Metallia would want to freely give it away.
"Fear not, Great Metallia," Faith said, knowing that her pause wouldn't bring down the wrath of the Demon Queen upon her. Until she was at full strength Metallia could not strike out in force against anyone. And by the time that happened, she hoped to have it under her control. "My greatest warriors are even now searching for that which will bring you to full strength. And once you have it, we shall rule over this planet together."
"I shall rule this planet, Faith," Metallia's voice boomed, a sound that sent a shiver down Faith's spine. "And when I rule, those who have served me faithfully will be rewarded. And those who have disappointed me...or have betrayed me...or have stood in my way...shall be destroyed."