On a Raven Wind
Author:Abigail / Pikari / Drive Me Mercury
Disclaimer: Sailor Moon and all characters and settings belong to the one-and-only Naoko Takeuchi. All created characters and plots within this story are my own.
-Dinner and a Monster-
After waking pleasantly late (though not as late as that lazy-ass Seiya usually did) and taking a satisfying breakfast downstairs, Yaten decided she might as well finish unpacking her luggage. Her clothes were probably wrinkled by now, but she hadn't felt like digging into all the suitcases last night after Luna had left. Shrugging the thought aside, she figured there was sure to be a maid somewhere in the palace who would be more than happy to be blessed with the job of ironing. And Yaten wasn't one to deny anyone such a joy.
A soft knock sounded, and she looked up to see Luna poking her head through the doorway. The former cat gave a bright smile. "Ready for that tour I promised?"
Yaten beamed in reply. "Definitely."
It had been a long time since she'd enjoyed herself as much as she did just wandering around the gilded halls with Luna, laughing and talking about the old days, and marveling at the things that had taken place over ten years, and the things that hadn't changed a bit. Luna showed her the fine gems of the palace, like the lavish and breathtaking throne room, as well as the more hidden luxuries deep in the heart of the structure that most people didn't know about, such as the hot tubs and full-size gymnasium. As they strolled through the cavernous main hall where the Starlights had first touched down upon their return to Earth yesterday, Luna noticed Yaten peering over her shoulder for what was probably the fifth time that morning.
"Are you expecting someone?" Luna inquired curiously.
"Er... sort of. But not really. I mean... Ever since I got here yesterday I've been expecting every minute to get hit by a blonde nuclear bomb. But it hasn't happened yet. It's kinda starting to make me nervous."
The other woman laughed. "I'm pretty sure Venus is out on duty today, monitoring a protest that's going on in one of the Tokyo districts. So, I'm sorry to disappoint you." She followed the Kinmoku woman's gaze down the hallway and frowned for only a moment when she caught a glimpse of not blonde, but white, quickly disappearing from view.
"Hey, it's not like I was wanting to see her at all," Yaten shrugged, tipping her head back to study the crystal chandeliers. "I just wanna get it over with so I don't have to look around, expecting her to jump me at any second. I get the feeling that someone as annoying as she was isn't going to change in just ten years."
"Just as you haven't, either, Yaten-kun." Luna found herself being very amused. "But I think you're right, she hasn't changed. Actually, I can relieve your anticipation if you'd like. Ami-chan suggested this morning that we all go out to dinner tonight. 'All of us' meaning the Starlights and the Earth Senshi, of course, plus Artemis and I. It'll be nice to see everyone all together again."
"That sounds great. I'll mention it to Taiki and Seiya. I'm sure they'd love to come." Yaten turned to her tour guide with a grin. "Now, there wouldn't happen to be a shopping mall inside this palace, too, would there?"
"C'mon, I wanna take you to the shopping mall, too!"
"Alright, alright," Seiya let herself be dragged down the sidewalk deep inside one of Tokyo's many commercial districts. "But you know I have no money, right?"
"I bet if you tell them you're an alien senshi they'd give you free stuff, ya think?"
Seiya chuckled. "How's this? You tell them you're half alien, and we'll see how much free stuff you get, okay?" She glanced around curiously at the neon lights and blaring advertisements of the buildings surrounding them. Why did this street seem so oddly familiar?
"Heeeey!" Miya's eyes widened in revelation. "I never even thought of it like that before. I'm half alien!" She paused as her mind took several long moments to process the idea. "That's so cool!"
"Yeah, I guess it is..." Seiya agreed distractedly. Her eyes had fallen on a glowing pink sign in a window across the street. "Jump Luv Grill... no way..." She tugged the younger girl's hand toward curb. "Let's go in here first."
It was so different – it was a freakin' restaurant now, after all – but Seiya still laughed as she walked inside. It was probably partly because of the crazy decor. The high warehouse ceiling remained, along with the balconies that looked down at the customers below, although the dance floor was now filled with tables, chairs, and waitresses in hot pink. Colored orbs of light hung from the ceiling in place of the old blinding strobe lights, though the room's main source of light came from where the entire front wall had been knocked out to install a huge two-story picture window. The walls were still the same white-washed cement, but now they were splattered with colorful graffiti, completing the establishment's retro/industrial/urban look, which was either very hip or just very tacky. At the back of the room, the bar no longer served up alcohol and drinks, but sushi instead. Seiya could still picture that silly dance as the girl waved her arms to the music, her face still glowing with embarrassment. And then the power outage, and the press of her small body against Seiya's own inside the blanket of darkness...
"Um... Seiya-papa? Why are we here? We already ate." Miya wrinkled her nose at the vivid art splayed across the walls.
"Table for two?" a waitress inquired with a bored smile.
"Ah, no thanks," Seiya waved her aside. "I just wanted to look." Miya was giving her a very strange look once the waitress had left – one of those should I be checking your temperature? looks. "This place used to be a dance club," Seiya explained, leading the girl toward the exit. "I took your mother here once."
She watched the girl's face brighten at the mention of that person, and then it was replaced by a wise, suspecting smirk. "Of cooourse!" she declared with a scholarly air. "I should have known. You're always happy like that when you talk about her."
"Happy?" Seiya was genuinely taken aback by the notion. Thinking of those years after Earth, this morning's conversation... happy wasn't exactly the word she'd choose. But yet the tacky little club-turned-restaurant had brought a smile to her face.
"Yep," the nine-year-old affirmed. "And I think I know why." Her mysterious grin said she wasn't going to let go of her secret bit of information just yet.
"Is that so?" Seiya regarded the girl with playful suspicion before her eyes turned slightly distant. "Well... I guess you know something I don't. C'mon... let's get some window shopping done before we're late for dinner."
Dinner turned out to be served at a very posh traditional Japanese restaurant not far from the palace. The lyrical notes of a stringed instrument floated in the background as the eleven of them knelt around the low table laden with gourmet dishes. With the exception of Setsuna, the Outer Senshi had been excused from the invitation for business purposes, narrowing their reunion into a slightly smaller group. ("Figures..." Yaten had snorted. "They always were too good for everybody but their own egos") Also obviously missing was Usagi, who claimed a headache and excused herself, saying she wanted to wait for Mamoru to finish his meeting with the European ambassadors. But between the five Earth senshi who remained, the three Starlights, and Luna and Artemis, they were hardly a sparse group. Miya was also present, and while she gained many polite yet curious smiles from the others, no questions were asked. If Setsuna had extended the dinner invitation to this young girl as well, she must have a reason. Most of the senshi were aware of the child's friendship with the Time Guardian, so nothing seemed unnatural about her presence. Minako was the only one who sat at her corner of the table wearing a mysterious secret smile as Seiya and Miya took their seats. (After, of course, Luna and the girls had managed to peel the blonde off of Yaten when the Starlight had begun to scream for air.)
Seiya ended up at the end of the table with Taiki to her right, so Miya took a spot across from her between Yaten and Rei. Luna and Artemis occupied the other end of the table, with the remaining senshi seated in between. The conversation drifted naturally as the food was served, as the topics ranged from domestic politics on Kinmoku to Minako's latest encounters with the spiders in her shower.
"I've been reading up on some of the events that have taken place on Earth since we were last here," Taiki spoke up at a break in the conversation. "It's quite amazing. Although I admit there are some points I didn't completely understand."
"There are some points that are not yet resolved. It gets quite complicated," Setsuna explained.
"I do understand that," the brunette replied, "judging from the vagueness of some of the texts."
"I think it took a long time for most of us here to get used to the changes," Makoto laughed. "Even after eight years, I still find it strange to be called 'princess' and live in a palace."
"Yet the rest of the city doesn't seem to have changed much," Yaten pointed out.
"Yeah, what's up with that?" Seiya looked up from the fugu she was spearing on a pair of chopsticks. "You'd think in ten years you guys could have invented something useful… like flying cars or something."
"Technology has advanced quite far," Setsuna smiled coolly. "It just isn't as visible as your flying cars."
"We wanted to interrupt the citizens' lives as little as we could when Crystal Tokyo came about," Ami offered to answer Yaten's question. "That is why so much of old Tokyo seems the same, to keep a smooth transition from the old society to the new one."
"Yeah, that plan backfired."
"Minako…" the blue-haired girl shot her friend a warning glance, though their short exchange was too low to be fully heard by the others at the end of the table.
"The archives mentioned something about problems with the Silver Crystal," Taiki spoke up again. "That was the part I didn't quite understand, and there wasn't much explanation given. I thought the Silver Crystal was one of the most powerful Star Seeds in the galaxy, with only powers to purify."
An uncomfortable silence fell over the Earth senshi as no one seemed to be willing to speak up to answer the question, and several suddenly concentrated intently on the plates in front of them. "The Crystal has always been pure, so you're correct," Ami finally spoke up. "That hasn't changed, and I don't think it ever will. Problems with the Crystal… well, that's a popular rumor that has been going around for years, but there's only a little truth to it, and even then, we can't say for sure. One of the biggest problems we faced immediately after the creation of Crystal Tokyo was the sudden appearance of… the dark creatures."
"Dark creatures?" All three Starlights and even Miya were fully interested by now.
"Atervos," Luna continued, "or by translation, the Dark Ones. Youma-like humanoid creatures that attack cities and villages and feed on living humans. They showed up suddenly all around the world after the purification occurred. From what we know, they usually attack alone, finding an isolated victim, but they are much bolder when they are desperate. Fortunately we've managed to banish them from central Tokyo and most of Japan, but they are still a big problem in many parts of the world, especially since they have learned to organize and ally themselves together."
"But where did they come from?"
The women exchanged glances. "We think the Atervos may have been created during the purification, from people who resisted the power of the Crystal. The Crystal cannot purify anyone without that person's acceptance. Normally the power of the Crystal is simply so overwhelming that the receiver simply accepts it, but if they were somehow able to resist the purification, it could have brought out all the darkness in their soul, banning any goodness they possessed in their own soul along with the Crystal's, and literally consuming them with evil. That would have caused them to turn on other human beings as these creatures are doing now."
Each Starlight listened with intense surprise and concern. Earth had seemed completely peaceful since their arrival, so they'd had no idea such serious things were happening across the globe.
"But they're being defeated," Minako spoke up, making a point to inject optimism into an explanation that she felt was already becoming too dark than the reality as she saw it. "We're winning," she stated solemnly. Her comrades nodded in agreement. Each quietly understood the hardship and the controversy of the battle they had fought so far, but they knew they were winning. Setsuna merely lifted her chopsticks to her mouth in sage silence.
After a sober pause, Seiya's voice broke in. "Sure, but that's still no excuse for not having flying cars."
"Seiya…" Taiki groaned, and Miya giggled a little. Soon a few of the other girls joined in, and she'd effectively turned the conversation back to lighter matters.
"Are micro-sized computers advanced enough for you, Seiya-kun?" Ami countered.
"Do they fly?" Seiya grinned.
"You're hopeless, idiot," Yaten declared, serving herself another helping of vegetables.
"When is your princess coming to visit us?" Minako inquired eagerly. "We're all dying to see her again."
"She promises to be here as soon as she's finished her visit to Centauri," Seiya explained. "Which could be centuries, knowing the Centaur diplomats. I've been there, and they can ramble for hours about virtually nothing. I don't know how the Princess keeps her sanity."
"She doesn't," Yaten stated. "Last time she ranted to me for fifteen minutes about how she despised interplanetary diplomacy and brainless suits like the Centaurs." Remembering the caring, refined princess they had met ten years ago, the Earth senshi could hardly imagine Kakyuu ranting about anything, much less using a term like "brainless suits".
"Even I can ditto that," Taiki said, "Although water trade negotiation has never been my area of interest."
"I really doubt it's anyone's area of interest, Taiki," Seiya rolled her eyes.
"I'll bet its Ami's!" Minako declared loudly.
The blue-haired girl nearly choked on her mouthful of rice. "Minako! How can you say that?" The soft-spoken girl protested. "You know I still haven't forgiven you for dumping me on those American ambassadors last month."
The blonde winked. "But that cute red-haired one had a crush on you, I could just tell."
The other girl's face was quickly turning red, but she held it up haughtily as she turned back to her plate. "That's no reason to leave all the boring diplomacy with me while you're off shopping."
"I think someone's jealous, huh?" Makoto smirked.
"But boring stuff is what you do, Ami!" Minako drawled. "Did you ever get his phone number, by the way?"
"That's none of your business!" Ami countered, quickly shoveling another bite into her mouth, although it wasn't doing much help to disguise her cherry-colored face. The whole table laughed.
The conversation drifted on merrily after that. As Seiya glanced toward Miya, she noticed the girl had fallen strangely quiet, pushing food around her plate but not really eating it. Maybe she didn't like fugu? Snagging a biteful of sweet shrimp with her chopsticks, she held them out. "Hey, what's wrong? If you don't like that, try the shrimp, it's excellent." She punctuated her words with a wink.
The reply wasn't what she expected. The girl squirmed a little, eyes never lifting from her plate. Her voice was barely audible. "I'm scared."
Seiya was taken aback and baffled. Her eyes darted quickly toward the other occupants of the table, who were caught up in conversation as Artemis and Minako bickered over some story they were trying to tell. "Trust me, they don't bite," she confided softly. She nodded toward Yaten with a smirk. "Except for her. But you got nothing to worry about." Seiya smiled reassuringly at Miya.
"Isn't that right, Seiya-kun?"
She looked up at the sound of her name being mentioned. "What's that?" She hadn't been paying attention to the current thread of discussion.
"We were just talking about what a lame monster you made," Makoto giggled.
"Huh? Me? A monster?" Seiya gave a final look back to Miya, who was hesitantly scooping food into her mouth again, to her relief. She focused her attention back toward the other girls.
"Don't you remember the camping trip? Your little joke?"
She grinned easily as the memory came back to her. "Of course. I scared the crap out of you guys."
Giggles erupted across the table. "Oh, come on! Now you're just taking credit for the youma," Minako jabbed.
"Oh – was that the youma?" Seiya continued the kidding with feigned ignorance.
"As if your toy chainsaw was really going to scare anyone, Seiya," Yaten smirked.
"By the way, Rei-chan, how is your cousin doing?" Luna spoke up.
Rei looked up. "Kengo? He's been doing well. He married last year and still makes his pottery."
Miya stirred the remaining scraps of food around her plate, not really listening to the conversation around her. The weird feeling in her stomach kept getting stronger; she wondered if she were coming down with a flu or something, though it really didn't feel like that. But she knew… it was making her scared. She wished now she had gotten a seat beside Seiya or Setsuna instead of where she was.
Rei looked down in surprise when she felt a small hand pressing into hers under the table. The black-haired child beside her never lifted her eyes from her plate. Without entirely understanding why, Rei curled her fingers around the hand, squeezing it gently.
Everyone continued to chat as laughter and stories drifted easily around the table. Rei was pushing the last bite of her rice together on her plate when an all-too-familiar wave of nausea struck her, causing the chopsticks to slip from her fingers and clatter to the table.
"Yeah, that's exactly what I was saying to Rei-chan the other day, remember?" Minako paused when she noticed her friend's face. "Wow, you look pale? Are you alright? Rei… chan?" She stuttered the last words as the violet-eyed girl suddenly stood up.
A loud crash of porcelain dishes broke the atmosphere, followed by a chilling, unearthly scream that most occupants of the table recognized all too well. In seconds every soldier in the room was on her feet. "Atervos," Ami muttered.
Yaten whirled on the soldiers of Earth. "You told us you'd banished them from Tokyo!"
"So we thought." Setsuna's face was set toward the source of the uproar, her eyes quickly hardening into a determined battle gaze.
Rei glanced down in astonishment at the child beside her, who was looking frightened and unsure about what was going on. This girl… felt it as well? And earlier than I did?
A pale-faced waiter burst through the sliding door of their private room just as screams began to rise from the main restaurant outside. He arrived just in time to witness a chorus of transformation calls from the women around the table as the room lit up with their energy. Seiya planted a foot firmly in the center of the table and stepped across. She crouched and cinched an arm around the pigtailed girl who was trying as best she could to disappear under the low table. "W-what's going to happen?" Miya managed to force out through her rising fear as she felt herself being lifted from the floor. Another crash of glass sounded, nearer this time, as Seiya's eyes scanned the room urgently, searching for somewhere…
She hurried toward the back of the room, dropping the girl in her arms behind a tall potted plant. As her eyes locked with Miya's for a single moment, Seiya's voice was hard and firm. "Don't move. Got that?" Miya could only nod silently. But she couldn't help peering around the pot in front of her as Seiya ran off to join the battle, and a familiar but strange voice rang out:
"Fighter Star Power, make up!"
Miya pressed her fists to the floor and silently prayed.