~A Story About The Soul Hunter
A dark, golden shadow falls across the galaxy, cold and all encompassing. The planets that are engulfed in this shadow flair briefly, and then, blink out, as if they never even existed. The number of the dead explodes into figures the human mind isn’t powerful enough to comprehend.
This is the will of the strongest Soldier, the strongest star, in the galaxy.
And, this is the will of that which could never become a star at all.
In the center of the universe, a grand castle looms in the darkness, a stronghold of the strongest Soldier.
It is guarded by a desert river, engorged on lost memories.
Beyond the desert river is the graveyard.
This is the place where remnants go to die. The funeral processions are exquisite and mockingly cruel.
From the mounds they ascend, these final bits of light, collected from the galaxy’s far reaches. As they do, they take on the forms of butterflies.
The last lights, the last remnants of the dead, flutter away into the darkness, heading nowhere but only on instinct.
They are collected by her, the Soul Hunter. The very last of the Sailor Animamates. Sailor Heavy Metal Papillon.
She stands on the edge of the graveyard, observing the new lights flickering into existence above the freshly dug tombs of fallen Soldiers.
All those who died by the might and the will of her master, the strongest Soldier, Sailor Galaxia.
Her beautiful wings of gossamer quiver from a slight, unexpectedly cold breeze coming from the direction of the desert river. She places her hands, the nails perfectly manicured, on her shoulders. The golden bracelets on her wrists are cold as well, but she has gotten used to them.
A faint red butterfly, glowing like an ember, floats towards her. She extends her palm towards it, and the red butterfly seems to dance upon it. The red butterfly was then joined by three others, colored in shades of gold, blue, and green. They were drawn to one another, it seemed.
“Even in death they’re drawn towards each other.” Papillon spoke, in a cold, even, melancholy voice. “Even in death, we’re all just lonely stars.”
She swiftly closed her fist, and in angry motion, swatted the four lights away. Briefly frenzied, they regrouped, and floated away and above, into the black space.
On the planet Cocoon, she had no one, except for him.
They weren’t poor, but they weren’t rich either.
She made a living by dancing, and it was a living she would’ve preferred improved in several different ways. The dance hall, the musicians, the clothes she wore, her employer, the other dancers, the hours…
They had enough to live day by day, for food and for house. Heat and water were struggles, but not life or death kind of struggles. Their clothes were worn out and faded from overly repeated usage, but once in a while they could afford new things.
Of course, most people were too focused on certain other aspects when she danced.
Dancing was one of the things she lived for, and she made it into a career, but the life of that career was slowly being sucked out of her, and it was becoming a job.
It would be cliché to talk about how “the music moved through her” or “how her body became one with the rhythm,” but that’s how she would’ve put it as best as she could. The exhilaration and the release it brought her. And the escape, of course.
The way dancing could say everything and nothing without moving her lips or opening her eyes. Everything else is blotted out except the music and the movement.
Not just men, but women as well, and those who identified as both, or neither. She didn’t judge. But she never really formed any lasting relationships. Unless they had money.
She wasn’t a gold digger, but it just made things a little easier.
But even then, when she did try to hold on, these relationships, if you could call them that, never lasted for long. Once the spark was gone, she floated towards someone else who happened to shine a bit brighter. Now she was finding it very hard to care.
As time went on, she just started to… wind down. The music was slowing down, losing its soul. The musicians didn’t care. The people who came to see here didn’t care about her, or her dancing. All that mattered to them was how much skin she would show them. And she found herself being paid less and less for her work. She would be lucky to still have her job come the next day.
Despite all of this though, there was one thing that remained constant in her life.
He was five years old. She couldn’t remember his father’s name. It didn’t matter. He had a gap in his teeth, and he liked to draw things in the dirt. His favorite story was “The Butterfly Baby.” It was the favorite of all children. But he loved it so. He loved to ask questions she couldn’t always answer, and always, they danced. So much energy in the dance. He gave her life. He gave the dance life.
The only things she had.
Then the stranger came.
The first thing she noticed about her was her hair. It was magnificent. A shade of gold that somehow faded into a striking shade of red, that went all the way down to her ankles. She sat in the back of the establishment, in a dimly lit corner. But she could tell this stranger was looking at her. Everybody was looking at her of course, but this person, they, they were looking at her. In a way that she had never felt before.
After two dances, she went up to this stranger.
“I’m going to kill you.”
“I will destroy this whole world, and everyone on it.” The stranger spoke so calmly, so surely. She had to be insane.
“W-what are you-“
“You think I’m joking.”
And then the stranger, this, this lunatic, moved her hand, and revealed a beautiful, ornate brooch with a large golden jewel in the center. It was mesmerizing. And then, in a flash, she’d seen it.
So many worlds gone.
So many people dead.
The strongest Sailor Crystal in the universe.
The Shadow Galactica.
The Soldier of Solitude.
It was hard to take in, and then, her breath shallow, she quickly turned to the others around them. No one seemed to have noticed.
“What was that?” She whispered.
“My proof to you.”
“Because I will give you a choice. But I know you won’t refuse.”
“A choice about what?”
“I have seen you. Studied you. I’ve seen how you dance. I’ve seen how you’ve stopped caring. You’ve gone through motions. You’re empty inside. I want you. I have others who were like you. They were empty, or scared. They wanted something. And I gave it to them.”
The stranger opened her other hand, and two golden bracelets materialized in the air.
“Become one of my Sailor Animamates.”
“Sailor-like Sailor Cocoon?”
Sailor Cocoon. The guardian of planet Cocoon. Born with amazing abilities to defend their world against evil. One who shines brightly. One who shines with purpose.
“No. Even stronger than Sailor Cocoon. My Soul Hunter, Sailor Heavy Metal Papillon.” The stranger spoke. “You will have much more than Sailor Cocoon ever dreamed of. You will be one who stands guard over that which lingers after death. The last shards of life from the stars.”
Stronger than Sailor Cocoon?
“Of course, you can always say no. And I’ll just find someone else. You, however, will die much earlier than the rest. And then, after Sailor Cocoon, so will the rest of this planet.”
The stranger’s cold, wicked smile never disappeared during this conversation.
She knew she was telling the truth. The crystal had shown her that. And she wanted another purpose. She was tired of flitting through everything like, like a butterfly. Oh God. And if she said no, if, if she said no then that would mean-
“My child,” she whispered.
“Yes?” Galaxia asked, but it wasn’t really a question. She knew what she was going to say.
“I have a child. He’s, he’s the only thing that means anything to me anymore.”
“Does he mean so much you won’t-“
“No. That’s not it.”
She blinked, trying to fight back the tears she often shed.
“If, if I say yes, if I kill Sailor Cocoon. Then, you have to spare him. He has to live.”
“Even if I kill everyone else?”
“…I don’t care.” She spoke through gritted teeth.
“I’ll do what you ask me to, and I will leave with you. Without question. For the rest of my life. But only if you spare my child.”
“Very well.” Galaxia replied, in a rather offhand manner. As if it was no big deal. Of course, for someone of her abilities, it wasn’t. One life didn’t matter.
What came next was a flash of golden light and excruciating pain. Like something being ripped out of her chest. And then she felt something cold and heavy seal itself on both of her wrists.
Just like that, she was the devil’s property.
What came afterwards was something of a blur.
She remembered ambushing Sailor Cocoon, but just the sounds. Cries and screams, fires blazing, a sound like sand in the wind, and then she held something bright and warm. A Sailor Crystal. Everything that was and could have been Sailor Cocoon, in a single crystal. And now it was hers.
She went home, just this one last time. He was asleep in her bed. He must have had a bad dream. Whenever he had a bad dream, he’d sleep in her bed. Even if she wasn’t there. He said it felt okay. It felt like her.
She was glad he was asleep. She didn’t want him to see her like this. For all intents and purposes, his mother was dead now. But still, she gently cradled him in her arms. She lifted him out of bed, and as she was just out of the door, she felt him stir a little.
“It’s okay angel. I’m right here. Go back to sleep.”
“Hadda bad dream…” he mumbled.
“Don’t worry. I’ll make sure you never have any more bad dreams.”
“Kay.” He yawned. “G’night, momma. Love you…”
She didn’t cry. She was never going to cry again.
“I love you too.”
And then the world died.
Such a liar.
“I, can you make him forget?” She asked. “So he’ll never ask for me. Never worry about me?”
“Of course I can.” Galaxia said.
She was brought to a dry river. Like a desert. She met an oarswoman who held the key to forgetting. She was told to make the boy drink the water from the river, and he’d never remember anything. One little handful.
She brought him to a small, rural planet. It didn’t have a Sailor Crystal, so Galaxia ignored it. She left her on the doorstop of a family that had three boys, but seemed to do alright.
She didn’t kiss him again.
She didn’t say “I love you” again.
He wasn’t her child.
She didn’t have a child anymore.
She never danced again.
But she cried.
Oh, how she did cry.
The four butterflies had disappeared among the revenant hordes that fluttered above the cold stone and freshly dug Earth.
She didn’t sigh.
But, she knew they were here now. The three. The Fireball princess. The little soldier. And the Moon Princess.
They’d reached her stage.
It was time that she revealed the fate of ill-suited messiahs.
This would be the most beautiful funeral pyre she ever created.