That night, after the orphaned children had left, after dinner had been served, and after everyone was deep into slumber, Serena stole away from her chambers. She walked soundlessly down the corridors and out into the garden where the earthlight bathed the Moon in soft, blue light.
The flowers twisted past her, urged her forward. She came to the vine covered door, and opened it. She left it ajar behind her. She would not be alone in the garden tonight if she could help it- and if Helios would help her one more time.
Darien felt like he was everywhere at once. The Earth's fields, the Moon's seas, the stars, the planets, the galaxies; he was in every singe one of them. His soul was stretched across the Universe, with no direction, and no hope of finding out just where he wanted to go.
Then the Universe pushed him towards a small galaxy called the Milky Way.
And pushed him towards an even smaller solar system.
And then, finally, towards a moon, glowing the brightest of all the moons, silver and warm. It seemed to call to him, beckoning him to come visit. The stars rushed past him as his feet found solid ground. A sapphire planet glowed in the sky, the Earth twinkling at him, wishing him good luck.
Flowers bloomed in the bluish light, and even they whispered to him. The wind pushed at his back, towards the winding paths hidden behind the convolvulus blooms. He knew this garden, the cold, stone path beneath his feet. He knew the soft wind, and the way to his destination.
He knew what would be at the end of the path, behind the walls where very few people had stepped before.
Darien was jerked from his dreams abruptly, only to find out he must still be sleeping. For the garden was stretched out in front of him, laughing melodiously and somehow so alive. He followed the cobblestone path once more, knowing the way now as if he'd walked it a million times. And as he came to the secret garden he found the door open, and he did not hesitate to walk in.
There the goddess stood, eyes so beautifully shining in the night. She was a star, a light, a hope.
Quietly, she spoke to him.
"Were you ever going to free me, your Highness?" she asked him. She could not keep her gaze from his lips. His body was visible beneath the light shirt and pants he wore.
"That depends, your Majesty, were you ever going to free me?"
"You? You have always been free."
"That is not true. You held me captive since the moment I saw you."
She could not speak and all the unsaid words built up between them. The words pushed against them, forcing their mouths to open, and making their vocal chords tremble.
"I love you, Darien."
"I love you," Darien said, caressing her cheek. "I don't think I'll ever be able to stop loving you. And as of this very day I release you from slavery. You are free, Serena. We are free."
A silver tear streamed from the corner of Serena's eye and she hugged his neck.
"Thank you," she whispered. "Thank you so much." Her breath tickled his neck.
Darien hugged her back and closed his eyes. He'd remember every moment of this, the rose smell in the air, the sound of her voice, the feel of her silk nightgown. But all of what he was trying so hard to remember was swept away, and replaced by a new memory as Serena pressed her lips against his.
Her arms wrapped around him, drawing him closer to herself. His hand brushed against her cheek, wiping the tear away, then slowly stroked her hair before resting on her waist. Serena's fingers traveled through his raven hair, leaving tingling sensations behind them. She lay down on the grass, and pulled him down beside her.
"Don't stop loving me," she whispered to him.
"Never," he swore.
And he kept his promise.
Six months passed quickly until the time when the Abolishment act was put into law. There were parties everywhere and Serena was busy getting things ready for the Celebration to take place that night.
"Hold that end up higher," Serena said to the maid holding the other end of a strand of glittering dark blue and silver tassels, hanging down to form a curtain of night in the main doorway. The maid did and she tied the streamer into place. She climbed down from the ladder and looked at her handiwork. The ballroom was sparkling clean. A bandstand stood to the left of the thrones, one for herself with four smaller for her Court to its left, and another for Darien with seats for his Generals to the right. Plus one for Kyrina.
Maybe tonight he'll finally ask me, Serena thought. With such atmosphere it'd be a perfect time.
Darien and Serena had been courting each other for the past six months, going from one planet to another, visiting each other whenever possible. Their first official date (aside from the garden, which no one ever found out about) could be remembered well. They'd sat alone in the garden gazing at the stars while a fire burnt in front of them. Fueling that fire was Serena's slavery papers which had only one use at the time. Making sure the marshmallows were thoroughly warmed.
After that date there were dinners, balls, dances, private strolls, and more. And if they were separated for long periods of time it was common for crowns of roses to come for Serena along with long letters. And for Darien there came sketches and even longer letters.
Their love was strong and sure, and both of them knew that. But still Darien had not asked her the question burning at both their minds.
"Serena!" Reily called. "Come on! We've got to get ready."
"Oh, yes!" Serena said blinking out of her daydream. She ran after Reily, anxious to try on the new dress that had come fresh from the seamstress today. Hopefully it'd look as beautiful as she wanted it to.
And it did. The ball started quickly after the announcement of Serena's arrival, but many eyes still lingered upon her. The dress was red (Serena was growing sick of silver) and had only one sleeve. It drifted around her as she walked, from her waist to her feet. She wore a slender silver chain around her neck and a single red rose in her hair, carefully placed in the single bun. It was a new style of dress soon to be all the rage on the Moon.
But one hour into the ball, Darien still had not shown up. Serena sat with her chin in her right hand, tapping the fingers of her left hand impatiently. It wasn't like him to be late, especially when it involved seeing her. What appeared to be impatient anger was actually worry. What would keep him so long?
The trumpets blared, announcing the arrival of royalty. Serena stood up quickly, smiling as she saw Darien finally stride in. He bowed to her as was expected then kissed her on the cheek.
"Sorry I'm late," he said as the violins continued playing. "There were a few complications with putting the Abolishment into law."
"Really? What?" Serena asked. They sat down and he gave her hand a squeeze.
On cue the trumpets blared again and a voice announced loudly.
"Lunarians of Honor! These are the free!"
A group of ten walked in proudly. Serena recognized the old woman who'd called her Princess.
"They're from the Earth!" Serena gasped. She stood up and rushed forward to hug them one by one.
"So you hadn't given up hope," the old woman said.
The woman grinned and gave Serena another hug.
"This is wonderful," Serena said to Darien, returning to her throne. "The more people home the better."
"I promise," Darien said, grinning mysteriously, "the night will get better."
"Really. But let's dance first."
And so they did. Four dances to be exact and Serena grew more nervous with every one of them. What was going to get better and how could they possibly? Darien was finally there and they were together, dancing so closely their breath mixed into one.
At the end of the fourth dance Darien took Serena's hand and led her to a private balcony overlooking the giant gardens, full of their memories together. Magic bloomed there, and stories would be passed down centuries later, of the garden being enchanted with a spell of love. And the balcony was about to become special as well.
"It's been almost a year now," Darien said, "since I met you. And every day that I couldn't see you was too long, and every day I was with you was never long enough. I wish those days could last forever."
He bent down on to one knee then, and pulled a small box from his pocket. A diamond glittered up at Serena, as he opened it.
"Will you grant me that wish, Serena?"
Tears welled up in her eyes as she nodded, unable to speak. He took her hand and kissed her gently, smiling.
Then they walked into the ballroom, ready to announce the joining two kingdoms, two lives, two souls, two dreams.
Author's Note: Last chapter is always the hardest to post. Thanks to everyone who waited so long for updates and thanks for all the reviews.
Until the next story,
Ai No Senshi