Happyfuntime disclaimer: I own not that which is Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon, which is the property of the wonderful mangaka Naoko Takeuchi. However, I DO own this fic, which took my many an hour to think up, so if you take it, I take your head. Cheerio, then!
A/N: I'm so pumped. SO PUMPED. Firstly, because I felt like posting up this first chapter to tease y'all. Secondly, because I'm still on my Dir en Grey concert high. A-and Shinya waved to me after the concert! FREAKIN' A! Let's party, y'all.
And GAWD having two different elderly men referred to as 'grandpa' in here became difficult, so I refer to Rei's grandfather merely as 'grandpa' and Kagome's as 'gramps' to lessen everyone's headaches.
.:Chapter 1: Family:.
It was a cloudy day; the humidity was high and it looked like there would be rain, but this was only to be expected during this time of the year. Barely anyone was wandering around town, probably due to the dreary weather, and the day felt oddly empty.
Of course, all of that was of no concern to Rei Hino.
The raven-haired woman was busy attending to her normal duties as Shinto priestess: her day had started out with a scrubbing-down of the temple floors, followed up by a rigorous cleaning routine through every room. Now, she was winding her afternoon down by sweeping up the multicolored leaves that had started to litter the ground.
This was all normal for her. This was the life she had become accustomed to: a slow-paced, nothing sort of life. Despite the fact that she sometimes longed for the days when she was Sailor Mars, this was everything that she needed right now. Just whiling away the days with her grandfather and getting to know Yuuichiro better was all that she cared about.
Life felt perfect. Sometimes, nothing like this was everything.
Footsteps started to approach her from behind. She recognized them as Yuuichiro's after a moment.
"Yes?" she asked, not even pausing in her methodical sweeping.
"How did you--" Yuuichiro trailed off. "... never mind. You've got some mail."
"Anything unrelated to spam?" she asked, finally pausing to look at him.
"Uuhhh," he seemed dumbstruck for a moment before regaining his wit. "Oh, uh, one from the Higurashi family?"
"... Higurashi?" she pondered lightly. The name rang a bell; it felt very familiar. It was only after a moment of thinking that it hit her. "Oh, the Higurashi family."
"You don't like them?" Yuuichiro had easily picked up on the disdain in her voice.
"They're relatives," she answered. "Family of my mother's brother."
"Your mom had a brother?"
"Yeah. I almost forgot it myself, that's how rarely I hear from them," Rei answered. "In fact, come to think of it, the last time I heard from them was just after the services for my mother."
"That's a shame," Yuuichiro remarked.
"You don't need to tell me that," she said, sticking out her hand. "Well? Give the letter to me."
As soon as the envelope was placed in her hand, she quickly tore it open along the seal with her finger, pulling out the letter and unfolding it. Her eyes quickly roved across the paper, and she was done in no time flat.
"... jerks," she muttered, crumpling up the sheet.
"What now?" Yuuichiro asked.
"They've invited me to visit them."
"They want me to help teach their daughter how to manage her responsibilities."
"Daughter? You have a cousin?"
"Yes. She's way younger than me." Rei practically read his mind, answering the unspoken question. "And no, I don't know by how much, so don't even ask me."
"Hey, who said I was gonna ask?" he responded, waving his hands up in defense.
"You were thinking it," she glared.
"So, you uh, gonna go?"
"I'm not sure," she shrugged. "I'll think about it over the next few days."
Rei found herself staring down Yuuichiro and her grandfather.
"Don't use the prayer room. Ever." She waved her finger at the two. "Really. The sacred fire is not to be used at all."
She was desperately trying to do some last minute rule reinforcing.
"You do remember the last time I let you run the shrine, right?"
"Yes," Yuuichiro replied.
"Well, don't let that incident repeat itself. I'm not coming home to that ever again."
"Got it," he sighed.
"He doesn't," Grandpa whispered, winking.
"ANYWAY," Rei boomed, "do a thorough cleaning of the shrine at least once a week. Make sure grandpa here doesn't do anything perverted to the poor school girls. And NO PARTIES."
"Alright already," Yuuichiro grinned. "We understand. Your taxi's here, so get moving!"
He had to practically shove her into the cab.
"AND STAY OUT OF MY ROOM!" she gave a final bellow as the cab's door was closed in her face.
"Well grandpa," Yuuichiro grinned. "Looks like Rei's finally getting a vacation!"
"And I get free run around here again ..." the old man smiled deviously.
"..." Yuuichiro had the odd feeling that this vacation for Rei would become some wacky babysittting adventure for himself.
Rei stared up the long flight of stairs before glancing down at her baggage. There wasn't much; she'd only need to make one trip. It was the problem of getting her three bags – they weren't exactly light – to the top of the stairs.
With a sigh, she hefted the backpack on and swung the dufflebags over her shoulders. Maybe all those years of being Sailor Mars would finally come in handy.
It took her ten minutes to reach the top of the stairs (she'd taken a breather halfway up), and when she did, she realized how Yuuichiro felt the first few months he lived at the shrine and had to lug groceries up the stairs. She would never tease him about that again.
She took a moment to catch her breath and survey the area. The layout was different from her shrine, but that was only to be expected. It seemed about the same size and was also surrounded by a mass of trees. It would definitely be no problem for her to settle in.
Rei shifted her attention to the building when she heard the door opening. Out stepped a dark haired woman, who didn't immediately notice Rei's presence. When she did, she performed a double-take before approaching her.
"Rei! Oh, it's been so long!" The woman grabbed at Rei's hands and pulled her into a tight hug. "Dear, you look so much like your mother I was a little confused for a moment!"
"Really ..." Rei didn't return the gesture, feeling awkward from the familiarity of the greeting she'd been pulled into.
"Well then," she finally released Rei, "we should go into the house now and get you settled in. Here, let me help you with your bags ..."
Her room was small. Not tiny small, but more of a cozy small; the kind where a person could just fall into bed without any qualms and feel right at home even if it was their first visit.
Of course, Rei wasn't the sort of person to just collapse into bed in a dead sleep after just arriving (unlike a certain dumpling-head she could name).
She didn't bother to unpack; for now she could live out of her bags. Besides, it wasn't as if she'd be here for more than a few weeks.
Downstairs, unbeknownst to Rei, there was a touch of worry going around.
"What are we supposed to do? Kagome said if she wasn't home by this afternoon then she'd most likely be gone for another few days ..." Mrs. Higurashi worried.
"Well, we'll just have to make up some excuse for her absence, aren't we?" Gramps replied.
"Oh, and how are we supposed to lie to someone who's living under our roof?"
"... simple. We say she suddenly got permission to go on a class field trip."
"A field trip that lasts several days?"
"It's been known to happen," the old man smiled. "We'll pull it off."
"When you put it like that ... I think we might just be able to," she smiled back at him. "Well, I guess I should start deciding what to make for dinner."
Rei noticed that her aunt and great ... whatever were looking oddly anxious about something at the dinner table. She wasn't blind; their odd behavior was definitely leaning a bit towards her, but she just couldn't figure out why.
Of course, as she subtly surveyed the table, she noticed one thing missing: her female cousin. Maybe that was the cause: the two were waiting for Rei to ask where Kagome had gone.
"... so, where's your daughter?" she finally asked.
"Oh, she was suddenly approved to go on a class field trip for the weekend," Mrs. Higurashi replied in a way that was almost too smooth.
Something fishy was going on.
'I didn't fall off the turnip truck yesterday, people,' Rei mused, slightly narrowed eyes masked behind a slight smile. "Ah, I see. Where to?"
"They're on a visit to some of the oldest monuments just outside of the city," Gramps replied.
"Really ..." The fact that the old man had jumped in so suddenly when Mrs. Higurashi didn't immediately respond only added to Rei's suspicion. "Sounds fascinating."
"I'm sure it is. She's been looking forward to it for a while now," he smiled at her.
"Well, that's good," Rei answered, her tone normal. "I hope she's enjoying herself."
Silence hung over the table as Rei tried to pick apart what was happening. Something felt like it was under what her relatives had just said, and yet she couldn't quite find out what it was. There was some huge secret being kept from her, and it seemed even the little brother was in on it.
There was one simple disadvantage to the group though: Rei was an expert at sleuthing out secrets (it did come with the territory after hiding her own for so many years), and she would drag this one out of them even if it took her a lifetime to do it.
It was three in the morning and Rei felt ready to throw a fit due to the fact that she couldn't fall asleep.
With a growl, she sat up in bed, throwing the covers off and swinging her legs over the side of the bed. She silently made her way to the window, carefully opening it and letting the cool night air rush in.
'Now that feels good ...'
As she stared off and into the distance, admiring the serene view, a slight shudder went up her spine. She wasn't even remotely cold, though.
Slowly, she carefully scanned the area. If she didn't know any better, that shiver was caused by the very faint detection of an almost monster-like presence ... but surely there weren't any remaining around here? The sensation was gone by now, but it still left her on edge.
'Maybe I'm just jumpy from the new environment,' she decided. That had to be it; there was no other reason that she would feel that odd sensation. The feeling was too faint to be anything to worry about ...
Unless there really was a monster in the area.
But she knew better than that. The chances of that happening were slim to none. Even if there was one, she didn't need to worry – all the small fry left over from the presence of any and all evil on earth were easy to kill. And more over, the enemy would not be here, since it was almost always Usagi the bad guys were after.
Thoroughly convinced, Rei walked back over to her bed, leaving the window hanging wide open. She curled up beneath her covers and tried to fall asleep.
The hairs on the back of her neck continued to stand on end.
Despite her lack of sleep, Rei was awake at ten and ready to face the day by eleven, having taken a long shower to get her going.
After all, she was not like Usagi and Minako and did not want to waste a perfectly good day by sleeping through it.
She walked downstairs and into the living room, where Sota was already lounging on the floor and watching some cartoons.
"... what are you watching?" she squinted her eyes at the cartoon.
"Sailor Moon." Rei practically snorted. That was still on after all these years?
"Have fun with that, perv."
"I'm not a-"
"The only reasons boys like Sailor Moon is because all the girls wear skimpy clothes," she answered, wagging a finger at him. "Trust me, I know. The rest of the male audience is gay. So tell me, which side of the demographics do you fall on?"
"I figured. So, who's your favorite?"
"Well, since you watch the show, I assume you have a favorite ... which sailor is it you like the best?"
"I dunno," Sota shrugged.
"Everyone has a favorite. You have to really like one of them, so who is it?"
"I guess ... Mercury."
Rei's eyebrows rose in amusement. "Oh, now really? How cute. What do you like about her?"
"... I dunno." Rei snickered, taking a seat next to him on the floor to see what the show was all about.
"Aw man, Sailor Mars doesn't look anything like that," Rei frowned. She'd never actually watched the show before, having just assumed it was terrible. Now she knew she was right.
"How do you know?"
"Uh, y'know, news coverage. I live in the area where the Sailor Soldiers did most of their work, after all," she replied smoothly. "You just start to learn their faces after so many stories."
"Man, that must be awesome," Sota muttered. "Didja ever meet any of them?"
"Nope. But a friend of a friend has been saved by them many times."
"Yep. She's either very lucky or unlucky, depending on your view of the matter." Now that Rei thought of it, poor Naru was probably more traumatized than anything else by all the terror she'd endured while being friends with Usagi.
"Man, that's so cool."
"Right. Well, you never know, maybe someday you'll find yourself in danger and be saved by one of them, right?"
"Pffft, I don't think that'll ever happen."
"You never know," she shrugged, standing up. "Well, I don't think I can take much more of this, so ... I'll just go and ... do something."
Shaking her head, Rei walked out of the room and into the kitchen, where Mrs. Higurashi was washing dishes.
"Good morning," Rei greeted her aunt.
"Morning," she chirped in reply. "How are you?"
"Awake," she answered.
"Well, that's always good to hear," Mrs. Higurashi laughed. "So, any plans for the day?"
"Not really. I might just wander around to see the sights."
"Ah, you should have grandpa show you around the grounds so you can become familiar with everything."
"... or that," she said, "whatever comes first."
"Well, you could check out the area for yourself if you want."
"I think I'll do that," she answered.
"Oh, don't you want some breakfast first?"
"Nah, I'm good. Maybe when I'll get back I'll eat something."
"Alright, then. Have fun looking around. If you have any questions, just ask Grandpa. He'll be more than happy to answer them for you. And remember to be back by one, otherwise your lunch will get cold."
"Right," Rei waved her hand over her shoulder and she slid the doors leading out to the grounds open. "I'll be back in a while. If not, send send a search party."
She slid the door shut, pausing to look around and admire the area again. She was happy it was a nice spring day (unlike the dreary weather last week); it made this the perfect opportunity to leisurely explore.
Rei tapped the toes of her shoes on the ground a few times (habit, she acknowledged) before beginning to look around.
As she idled about, the hair on the back of her neck rose. She rubbed her hand across the area, trying to ignore the feeling. It was the same thing she had felt last night, but stronger by just a touch.
She closed her eyes, letting her senses survey the area for her. Carefully, she tried to pick up the source.
When Rei opened her eyes, she spun around to look back at the house. It wasn't possible; not even remotely.
But there were remnants of amonster-like presence everywhere in there. She just didn't sense it before because it was all so old and weak. She actually had to focus to pick up on it. However, that didn't help her figure out why she couldn't sleep last night.
That wasn't all, she realized, turning back around to face a large shed pushed slightly back and into the trees. That shed was emitting an odd feeling and she was getting a sense of deja vu from it. It felt like someone or somewhere she'd been before; it gave off the same feeling as that, but she couldn't stick her finger on it.
The word was on the tip of her tongue. It hit her after a moment of careful contemplation.
"... no," she muttered. "It can't be ..."
Definitely, it felt similar to her, but it couldn't have anything to do with the dark-skinned woman. She'd retired back to the Time Gates years ago and hadn't been heard from since. It was impossible for her presence and energy to be around here even if she had been making herself available.
She'd have to check this out more once night hit. Right now, there was the possibility of being seen, and Rei always did prefer to work without prying eyes on her.
She glanced down at the watch strapped to her wrist. It was half past eleven. She decided to do her investigating once she had the cover of night on her side.
"Ah, Rei!" She turned around to find Gramps approaching her.
"Oh, hi," Rei greeted. "Good afternoon."
"I see you're enjoying the shrine grounds, yes?" his eyes twinkled with glee. She nodded. "Good, good! Here, let me explain the history to you ..."
Rei was very grateful that lunch would be soon.
"So Rei, tell us how you've been," Mrs. Higurashi smiled sweetly at her niece.
It was dark out and everyone was still sitting at the dinner table.
"Fine," Rei shrugged.
"How's your grandfather?" Gramps asked.
"He's getting on in the years," she began, "but he's still as spirited as ever. He's got as much spunk as any kid you'll ever meet."
"And your father?" Mrs. Higurashi asked.
"I haven't talked to him for a long time," Rei explained, "because we came to the mutual decision that I would be far better off without him in my life. Things were getting too complicated and there wasn't much left for us to try and mend." It almost sounded like she was talking about an old flame.
"That's a shame," she 'tsk'ed. "He was always such a nice man, but after you mother passed ..."
"You don't need to tell me," Rei said.
"Well, anyway," Mrs. Higurashi perked up. "Are you attending college?"
"No, I'm not," she responded. "I've devoted my full time to running the shrine. Business is good, and it's enough to make a living off of, so there's no worries."
"Oh, but isn't it hard, running the shrine alone and all?"
"Like I said, Grandpa is still as spunky as ever. I also have a full-time assistant working at the shrine."
"Oh, really? An apprentice?"
"No, a friend. Without his help, I admit that I would've had issues maintaining the place still. Grandpa may still have his energy, but I've made him stop doing many things because they're just too tough for someone his age. Yuuichiro has taken on some of those responsibilities to lighten my load."
"A young man, hm?" An odd glow formed in Mrs. Higurashi's eyes.
"... there's nothing between us," Rei resisted frowning, "as we decided it would make things too complicated." She wasn't about to confess to the fact that they had ceased dating two years ago after coming to that decision.
"What a shame. But are there any other boys in your life?"
"None," she replied smoothly. "I'm at a point in my life where I'm happy being single." More like 'I have no choice but to be single because it's my unavoidable fate,' but the family didn't need to know that.
"Well, how about your friends, then?" Rei didn't see the point in being asked that, but decided to humor the woman anyway.
"My best friend recently got engaged," she said. "I'm very happy for her and her husband, who's another good friend."
"Oh, really? When's the wedding set?"
"They haven't quite decided yet," she replied, "but they intend it to happen within the next couple of years."
"Any other friends?"
"Well, they're all very busy. One's attending a prestigious medical school, another's attending culinary and business schools, and the other's working on becoming a scouting agent," - she then recalled that she was missing a few - "and my other two friends have settled down with an adopted daughter. Another friend is out of the country doing business and has no intention of returning any time soon."
"That's quite a lot there," Gramps remarked after the explanation.
"I know," Rei answered, taking a sip of her tea. "It's a trick remembering everything, but it's something that comes naturally after a few times of hearing everyone talk about their lives."
"So, do you see them often?" Mrs. Higurashi asked. She was asking more questions than Rei preferred to answer.
"We arrange a weekend each month where we just get together and hang out."
"That's wonderful," she nodded. "I'm glad you're doing so well." What had she expected? It wasn't like trying to survive out in the big bad world was a chore or anything like that. It was something she'd been doing for so long that it was no longer difficult.
"Well, if you'll excuse me, I've got some unpacking to do," Rei stood up. "I'll see all of you tomorrow."
Really, she was more eager to start investigating than anything, and needed some time to formulate a plan on how to go about the feat of sneaking around the property without being noticed.
She went up to her room and locked the door behind her.
... I would just like everyone to know that I managed to beat my computer at a game of chess while typing this chapter after five tries in the easiest mode XD Yes, I fail at chess, and that is why I play against my computer. I'm also not a big strategist, so I'm playing chess to work on that. And I am also very cold right now – a piece of chocolate I've been munching on for ten minutes now hasn't even begun to melt between my cold fingers ...
Man, I really do wonder how I managed to sit at my computer for hours at a time and just type up fics. Really, did I not have that much of a life or was my attention span just way better then than it is now? But anyway, I surpassed my goal of ten pages for this chapter, so I hope everyone appreciates it (yes, that's my goal per chapter – ten pages of goodness).