Written by: Tenshi no Nozomi
Contact at: tenshi(underscore)no(underscore)nozomi(at)hotmail(dot)com
Warnings: Same as last
Disclaimer: Standard; I don't own the characters, just the plot. Not making any money off of this.
Thanks to: All of the people who took the time to review the last chapter; you guys are the best. Also, special thanks to my friends and betas Usa-chan and Pokahydee, who always encourage me to do my personal best.
Author's Notes: (NOTE: EDITED!)
Previously posted up in this position was an accusation of plot stealing for a challenge. I am currently RETRACTING that statement–it was a huge error on my behalf, that should have been solved long before this ever became public, which would have been easier if it weren't for a mistake in her email address listed on her bio. So now onto the apology, because I owe one to a lot of people!
Those of you who have read the second chapter of Cruel Angel are probably aware of the fact that I accused Jay Ficlover of plot theft for her challenge. That was only two days ago. I was unable to contact her at the time, and between the last 48 hours there's been a lot of fallout, and a lot of discussion between the two of us and alot of name calling and yelling and those sorts of things between her and alot of my reviewers.
We have, however, managed to lay to rest the issue, or at least I do believe at this point in time that the conflict is over. After having finally seen the challenge in its entirety--and not the simple snippet featured on Heroine's first chapter, which sounded ALOT like my story--I can say that without a doubt that I was wrong, and that while there are some basic similarities in our stories I do believe that in the long one they're trivial in comparison to the rest of the story.
I want to offer an apology to Jay and Heroine specifically--I'm sorry that I dragged your good names through the mud, and I'm certainly sorry that you, Jay, believe that I think you're incapable of originality because that is obviously not true. I want to apogize to my friends and the other people here who came to defend me--it turns out that I made an extreme error, and I'm very, very sorry, because now I've cried wolf, though entirely by accident, I assure you all. If you can no longer respect me as a fellow author, I do understand, though I regret that's so. I still feel that I have a lot to offer.
I do also hope that we can all forgive each other for the mean things we've said in the last two days (as trite and Disney-esque as that sounds) and just go on, because this is still a community and in order to grow as a community and as people and as authors, we need to be able to depend on each other for support and advice, not just in cases of actual plagiarism (which this one was NOT) but all the time as we try to develop our abilities.
Thank you all for listening to what I have to say. Again, I cannot express through words just how sorry I am that I involved so many incredible people in this.To Jay... I hope you realize that alot of the people who've gotten upset over the past days have yelled truly ARE talented--I consider most of them my equals, if not my betters. These are the same people that, someday, should something like this happen to you, will defend you too (believe it or not)--so try not to hold this experience against them.
Tenshi no Nozomi
Suspicion and worry had, by now, given way to alarm. Rei and the others had been watching Usagi very carefully for almost a month now, since Usagi had begun to act so strangely. It wasn't that her behavior was outlandish, but it was... abnormal.
Over a month's time ago Usagi had stopped going out with them on casual occasions. At first they'd still met at the Crown Arcade, probably because the odangoe head simply couldn't resist, but the situation had digressed over time. Now they only saw her at school and at the sparse scout meetings at Rei's temple–sometimes she didn't even show up there.
Usagi was spending less time with them, and apparently for no reason at all. She wasn't even spending the time with Naru and Umino, her old friends, and Luna had reported that Usagi spent most of her time in her room, locked away. That kind of behavior might have been expected from Ami if there was some giant test coming up, but Usagi was far too social for that kind of act at any point in time. Aside from that, she had no desire to be studious, and she avoided writing at all costs.
She didn't seem to be mad at them, either. She would talk to Ami and Makoto cheerfully at school, and at Senshi meetings she would laugh and joke with them like she always had. And yet every day after that bell rang, Usagi was one of the first students out the door if she could help it. And only to go home!
Strangest of all, perhaps, was that she no longer seemed to moon over Mamoru. Yes, she seemed pained when she saw him, but now she was able to smile and greet him casually without bursting into tears or trying to reinstate his memories. This was unusual, if not impossible. Usagi's feelings for Mamoru had run deep, and Usagi had not so long ago sworn that she'd love Mamoru forever. True love or not, the vibes coming from her at the time had reflected very strong emotions. Now it was all but gone. It made Rei suspicious.
Then there was that feeling. That awful sensation she got sometimes when Usagi came around. It only happened occasionally, but it was a feeling similar to throwing up; her body went cold and clammy, her throat seemed to close up, and her stomach rolled uneasily like a stormy sea. Rei couldn't explain it, and she hadn't mentioned it to the other scouts, mostly because when she tried to look into it, the Great Fire couldn't tell her anything.
Another first, or almost first. Typically, if Rei asked the Great Fire a question, it would answer her, if there was an answer. Every time she asked what it was that made her feel crippled with sickness, though, the fire came up with nothing, simply crackling as though it were some everyday flame with no magical properties.
Whatever it was, Rei decided, it had to have something to do with Usagi's changing habits. Rei bit her lip, contemplating what she ought to do. Usagi obviously didn't know that she was in danger, because she acted fine, aside from her streak of reclusiveness. If only they knew more...
She would talk to Luna, the raven haired priestess decided, for all the good it would probably do. Maybe the guardian cat would know more them, would be able to spy. There was no other choice, and if Rei was right, they couldn't afford to ignore the problems anymore. Something had to be done now before things truly got out of control.
The only way to get a hold of Luna, though, without having to go through or see Usagi was to speak with Artemis. Rei didn't want to pass the information on to many people–especially not the other scouts, seeing that nothing was confirmed yet–but she had to know. For now, it was just the question of Usagi's safety. But if it wasn't handled quickly, it could become a much bigger problem. (1)
Rei left her meditation stance and went inside to change out of her formal clothes. She hurried the process along and was out the door in another five minutes. Rei prayed that their luck would hold out long enough for them to help their princess.
Usagi sat at the table in the café, feeling conspicuous and uneasy. Not to mention exhausted, a state she'd been in most of the week. It was because of the many times that Tom had requested to use her body. Usagi didn't mind, if anything, she tried to be compassionate; she couldn't imagine what it was like to be trapped in a book, paralyzed and blind and deaf. But even so, when it was over she felt exhausted, like she hadn't gotten any sleep.
Tom had requested that Usagi go to this place to meet with someone that he'd once known–someone, he claimed, who could help him. It had only taken a minimum amount of begging to get her to agree to it. In fact, he'd really only had to mention it, and Usagi had given way.
She touched the leather bound book, as though she could absorb security and courage from it just by being in contact with it. It felt smooth and cool to her touch, just like it always did. She looked up at the clock again, removing a stray strand of hair from her face–it was 12:05. Whoever it was that Tom wanted to meet up with was late by thirty five minutes.
Usagi fidgeted, nervously. Tom had asked her to let him take over her body, but only after their guest had arrived. Usagi wasn't even sure how she would recognize the person; Tom hadn't been able to tell her what he'd be wearing or even what he or she looked like. He'd simply requested that when the time came he be allowed...
"Excuse me," a deep voice asked Usagi from behind. She turned her head to look at the speaker–it was a very tall man dressed in drab, black robes with white-gold hair. "You wouldn't happen to be Tsukino Usagi?"
Usagi gulped, heart hammering in her throat, and stood up, nodding. This man was obviously a foreigner–how else could you explain his dress?–but he spoke like a native Japanese citizen and there was an air of nobility around him. "Hai. You're the one Tom spoke of," she said, not really asking, just confirming.
He nodded, and Usagi took a deep breath. It was time. "Please, take a seat," she said, her voice wobbling like a drunk trying to walk the line. She invoked the spell that she had taken the time to set up earlier, and it began.
There were no flashing lights or glittering and there was no sound of music. Nothing to signify the change to anyone who wasn't supposed to know. But Usagi felt that strange, disconcerted feeling–like she was drifting away, perhaps to sleep, but she couldn't quite bring herself to care. Her vision became fuzzy, and she felt lightheaded and weightless.
Before she blacked out, she could hear his voice in her head–rich and fairly deep, for a boy that she'd imagined to be her age, perhaps a little older. Just two simple words, but she marveled over them–amazing how he could make two words like that sounds like lyrical, melodious notes of music. And stranger still were the fluttering emotions those sounds elicited from her.
And then Usagi was gone, as though she'd never existed. Her body swayed like a tree dancing in the wind, and Lucius actually considered reaching out to steady the girl when she righted herself. But when Lucius looked in her eyes, it was like her personality had transformed before his very eyes.
Before she had seemed timid and uneasy–foolish, weak. Now... she looked completely confident. The small smirk on her face was one of recognition. And the glint in her narrowed azure eyes wasn't one of happiness, but of clever consideration. "Hello, Lucius," she said. He stiffened; it was his name, but how she knew it... and the way she said it...
"Just who are you?" he asked, hand reaching inside his cloak for his wand. Perhaps this had been a trap after all. Instead of anything explosive occurring, she simply sat back down in her chair. But her posture was different; she was lounging comfortably, confidently... arrogantly.
She smiled. "Don't you know?" She was mocking him, enjoying this. He gritted his teeth, wanting to blast her with the Cruciatus curse right there and then–that would wipe that smug look right off her face. He'd make her beg him to kill her, to end the pain, to put an end to her pitiful meaningless existence–
"How many men do you know of by the name 'Tom Marvolo Riddle?'" she drawled. Lucius froze; this must be a trap. He'd expected the ministry or Dumbledore to try something, anything, after he managed to escape from Azkaban. He had certainly kept his head down for a long time. He had taken an extreme risk in responding the anonymous Owl Post to come to Japan–even with the Death Eater's insignia at the bottom, he remained suspicious.
The waitress came and asked them for their order–the girl ordered both of them tea and small, sweet pastry cakes. She smiled courteously at the young lady, and Lucius could see that the young woman was easily charmed by the blonde's attitude despite the fact they were both obviously girls and he doubted the waitress was interested in the same sex romantically. What was going on here?
"Do you remember that diary?" she asked him, spinning a lock of her golden hair between her index finger and thumb idly, watching him with those dark blue eyes glittering. Was it intelligence he saw there? Or cruelty? "The special one? Whatever happened to it, Lucius?" she asked sweetly, leaning forward, all smiles and sweetness, voice light and cheerful.
He could tell, though, that despite the "sunshine and bubbles" sound in her voice she was not pleased at all. It sounded too forced, and her grin was too wide, showing too many teeth to be friendly. Lucius could not believe that he was being threatened by a small girl–a Muggle or uneducated witch at the very least. And yet, there was something eerie about it, something that he couldn't quite put his finger on...
"I have no idea what you're talking about," he finally bluffed. How could she know?
Her smile was gone in an instant, and the look on her face threatened death or something far worse. She recovered a moment later, though, and smiled just as sweetly as before. "It's not nice to lie," she told him, almost sing-song. "But perhaps you just need a reminder?"
She leaned over in her chair and reached into a large canvas bag, from which she pulled out a thick, leather covered diary. Lucius felt the blood run right out of his face–he was certain that he'd gone as white as a sheet. There, in her hands, was his master's book. The diary that blasphemous brat Harry Potter had nearly destroyed, an intricate creation, the fusion of cunning and magic–a horcrux. The one that had been stabbed deep with the poisonous fang of the fabled serpent of the secret chamber. He had thought it ruined–he had thrown it away.
"How did you get that?" he hissed, his hand actually on his wand now. He was prepared to charm her, shoot her, curse her, whatever it took to get the answer–but whether he'd haul her off to torture her or simply disappear with the book, he hadn't decided quite yet–
"Well, I don't know how she did," the girl said, dropping her ultra-friendly tone. "She said she found it on the street–it was raining. However did that happen, Lucius?" she asked, her voice cold. She sounded as though she'd frozen over–her true colors seemed to be showing now, and she was ice-white and frigid cold. Her eyes held his, deadly serious.
A slow realization dawned on him. "You... You're not really this Tsukino girl, are you," he asked.
She smiled, amused. "I am–but I'm not. Care to take a guess? If you haven't figured it out by now, I'll admit it–I'm a bit disappointed in you. I suppose that age truly does slow one down." Lackadaisically, she began to flip through the pages of the book, although it didn't appear that she was really looking for anything to read on any one of them. It was just as well; the book was blank without its master in it.
"My master," he said, shoving the chair back and taking a steep bow, lowering his forehead to the floor. He was sweating now; what would happen to him? He'd been completely incompetent. He'd simply assumed that the diary had failed and been destroyed—how could anything recover from such a wound without a miracle?–and now he was going to pay for it.
Furthermore, this meant that he had two masters. Twice the amount of punishment to suffer.
"Enough," she snapped at him quietly, bringing him back from his panicked thoughts. "You're drawing too much attention to us." Their food arrived, and she began to drink the tea, eating the tiny sugar coated pastries in between sips. Lucius took one sip of the bitter stuff before putting it down and setting it aside. "Now, now. Seeing that my host has been most generous to provide for this occasion, I expect you to drink your tea. All of it." Her eyes flashed a warning.
Lucius had forgotten the way their leader had been in his younger years. Bossy and cocky, mostly. And he'd always had a penchant for giving strange orders–the consequences to disobeying them had been merciless and torturous. Lucius began to drink the vile stuff, wishing for English tea already on his second sip.
"I ought to reprimand you quite thoroughly for your callous and reckless disposal of such a valuable item. However, I suppose I ought to thank you. If she hadn't found me, I don't think that I would be in any kind of condition to speak with you today." Lucius bowed his head respectfully, as was par for the role he was playing currently. He knew his place well.
"May I ask, sir, how it is that you are doing so well, then?"
She smiled again. "How? It's her... talent, shall we say."
"Then she has healed you somehow?"
"Somehow," he said, not bothering to really explain it. "Frankly, this isn't something I want to discuss here and now, Lucius. However, I thought it appropriate for you to know that I am not dead or gone by a long shot."
"Your... other self isn't, either, sir."
"Him? How's the old geezer doing?" she asked, lightly. Still, Lucius could tell that Tom–no, Voldemort–wasn't nearly so blase as he would like to appear. He was listening carefully under the guise of eating another cake and sipping on his hot tea. Was it possible that the one from the diary had intentions of usurping his older self? "Well," he prompted when Lucius failed to respond.
"Him? He is... much better now than he has been in years," Lucius said. The truth was that they both knew that for years upon years Voldemort had been nothing but a wraith, if at all alive, wandering the earth in search of vengeance and power. His younger-self–Tom, the diary self–had always seemed unconcerned by his older self's disappearance, and had only told Lucius that he doubted it would be so easy for the world to be rid of him.
"I see." Tom didn't say anything else for some time–he was considering things. There were, indeed, many things to think through. If his older, perhaps wiser, but certainly more... simian self was around, and back in a corporeal body, then it was doubtful that his followers would flock to them the way he had hoped. Whether he was completely foiled, though, depended on several things–his followers and his current host. Ess.
"I see," she murmured again, and drank the remainder of her tea. This would take much more thought than he'd originally counted on. Now it seemed that he was the one without a body and his other self was the one not lacking. And it was all bound to be that damn Potter boy's fault.
Tom had a headache, though. And he could feel the body beginning to reject him. That same magic that had rescued him was forcing him from her body back into the diary. But he would not allow Malfoy to see him like this. The last thing he wanted was for his one follower–the link back to his position–to see him weakened.
"Very well. I will call again on you, sooner or later," he told Malfoy, rising. He smoothed out her skirt–he was not so presumptuous as to think of it as "their" skirt; this body had no intention of allowing him to stay–and paid for the meal with her money. "Do not speak a word of this to any of the other Death Eaters unless you receive orders from me–do I make myself clear?"
To emphasize his seriousness, Tom concentrated on the brand located on Malfoy's arm. It was clear from the way he clutched at his arm and his sharp intake of breath that it hurt him quite a bit. Tom was pleased; the rust was slowly wearing off. "Shadow" or not, he still laid perfect claim to his powers.
"Of course, my lord." He bowed just a little bit, not enough to attract undesirable attention, but enough to show reverence. Recognizing a dismissal for what it was, Lucius hurried off to transport himself back to his manor–he had much to consider himself.
It took all of the energy that Tom had not to stagger out of the café. Not even a block away, his control slipped entirely and he was thrown back into the diary. Usagi resumed control, but not before falling onto the concrete. Even after she picked herself up, she wished she'd just lain there, at least for a little while–she was so tired. So very, very tired. Perhaps she'd go home and take a nap. Just a small one.
Yeah. That's what I'll do, she told herself, picking herself up off the pavement. Home wasn't so far. And she could make it up the stairs with the promise of a nap in mind, no problem. So Usagi trudged home, like the weight of the world rested on her shoulders, feeling like she hadn't slept well in weeks.
Luna regarded the book with suspicion. This was what Usagi had been reading–and writing in, it seemed–so religiously for the past month. Like an obsessed creature, she spent hour after hour writing into it, occasionally laughing, sometimes aww or cooing over it. Luna had not informed Rei about the book just yet–she had nothing to confirm her suspicions.
So Luna had decided that when Usagi wasn't around and got careless and left the book out, she would go through it. Until now, she had always carefully put the book back in its place in her dresser drawer–a place Luna could not get into, what with the lack of an opposable thumb. Or fingers, for that matter. Today, however, Usagi had been so exhausted before dropping into sleep–fully clothed–on her bed that she had left the book in the canvas bag she'd carried it off in.
Luna had not had an opportunity this entire time–only Usagi's fatigue had given her an opening. So despite her guilt in taking advantage of Usagi's moment of weakness, she took it.
Digging her paw into the bag, Luna managed–with quite a bit of effort–to drag it out, despite the clumsiness of her paws. She then flipped the cover open with her nose. She expected something, anything, after watching Usagi record notes in it, reading for days on end. She was greeted with the view of a blank page.
Luna's eyes narrowed in suspicion; she tried to turn the page in an effort to find the title, but she was clumsy. The pages turned in a clump of ten or twelve. Still blank. Luna glared at the book, the hair on the back of her neck rising. Indeed, the great majority of her purple-black hair was standing on end, and Luna could almost smell something vile coming from the book.
She flipped more pages. More empty pages. She went through the entire book, and there was not a single letter printed on any one page. It was entirely blank.
She suspected, however, that this book wasn't what it appeared to be. No normal book could choose who could access its knowledge. It was plain to see though that someone or something was hiding the secrets the pages held. Luna would have bet all of her nine lives that whoever or whatever it was interfering with the book was no good.
Tom knew that someone was trying to look at the book. Tom could feel it, almost like they were touching him–but it was more or less just a pressure or a sense of invasion. Maybe that feeling that someone's watching you but you don't know who or where. Tom didn't worry, that they'd find anything out–whoever it was obviously wasn't Usagi, and Tom wasn't going to reveal himself to this stranger, not even if they solicited him. It did, however, clue him in to several things.
The first of which was that Usagi had been careless. He must have used too much energy–normally she was quite careful, more so than she'd normally be due to his insistence. She didn't write in the book around other Muggles–just in the privacy of her own room. Someone, though, still knew about the presence of the book. Tom had a feeling that they suspected something, too. Which meant that it was probably only a matter of time before he was discovered, and he still had so much to do.
Luna considered taking the book to Rei then and there. She probably would have, but it would be too difficult for her to try to carry the heavy book in her mouth for long. And Usagi was only napping–she'd be up soon, and she'd notice it. Besides, it was always possible that she was being paranoid. Still, looking at the book left an uneasy feeling in her stomach.
That was what made Luna do it. She didn't take the book away. Instead, though, she headed to the Shrine. Rei could call on the Senshi, and they'd discuss Usagi's odd behavior, and perhaps more importantly, the oddity of the book in question. Rei would be able to judge it more accurately than Luna, and the Senshi could come to a group decision.
Luna knew that this was a betrayal to Usagi's privacy and trust. There was a good chance, she realized grimly, that if they did spring into action Usagi would never be able to interact with them the same again. Oh, in time she would probably forgive them, but she would never be able to forget it, and the experience was bound to taint their relationships.
Better that she's alive and bitter than dead, though, Luna decided, padding out the room with one last regretful look at her sleeping charge.
Tom, too, was thinking. Or rather, in his case, scheming–there was rarely a time that he hadn't been plotting in his fifty or so years in captivity. That was the one nice thing about not having senses to distract him–it left him free to think things through sensibly.
He was running out of time, now, probably. In any case, he didn't want to spend another month trapped as a book. In contacting Lucius, he had started the gears turning, anyhow, and it was inescapable that they move forward from that point–this was just added incentive for him to be quick about it.
This meant several things, he decided. He needed to discover Usagi's true background. If she was, as he theorized, a descendant from a long line of wizards who'd simply tried to forget their history, then he would take her and teach her–perhaps, in time, she would become a Death Eater herself. Surely such incredible power was not possessed by a Mudblood.
If, however, he could not find evidence of her lineage, he couldn't keep her for much longer. Pawns were pawns in the end, and if she wasn't material enough to get him where he needed to be he had no qualms about ditching her. Her body–and ultimately, her power–continued to force himself after less than an hour inhabiting it. He doubted that possession was an option. With Lucius's help, however, it would be possible for him to sacrifice her. There was, he knew, a spell in the Dark Arts that could give him a body in exchange for hers... the only twist to that was that it had to be willing.
And even that stupid Weasley girl wasn't quite dumb enough to willingly give up her body.
And then, some women might... Another plan to hatch in his mind, like a poisonous snake emerging from it's paper thing shield. Yes, a woman in love would sacrifice her life for her child's. Perhaps a girl in love would be foolish enough to sacrifice her body for her friend's.
Tom did not want to try to put such a plan into practice. Such a precarious idea could backfire without any help. Still, it was a thought, if all other means refused to be helpful.
It was some time later when Usagi's pen pressed to the pages of the book. I'm sorry, I accidentally left you out... it won't happen again. I promise. Nothing happened to you, right?
Tom would have smiled in he'd had a mouth. No, we were lucky, he lied easily.
Thank goodness, Usagi wrote back, her relief evident in her pen strokes. Tom would have chuckled at this; of all the forces in the world he had to thank for no harm coming to him, he doubted that was one of them.
Tell me, Usagi... do your parents have a library in this house? Or a study? Someplace they would put family records?
A few moments passed–she was probably thinking hard about it. Finally, she wrote, I think so. Dad has a bunch of old books tracing back the family tree... genealogy, I think he called it? Why?
Tom grinned to himself. Truly, someone was smiling upon him today. I think it's time you educated yourself about your family history.
Usagi hastily scribbled in the book again. Tom, how much longer do I have to keep looking? I've been at this for over an hour. It's so boring, Usagi complained.
Just keep looking, Usagi. I know it's not fun, but it's important, Tom insisted. Today she was truly grating on his nerves. Normally her attitude didn't bother him, but then, she'd never complained or fought with him over an issue quite like this. He could already see why her grades were so poor in whatever Muggle school she attended–the child didn't want to put any effort into it.
Usagi sighed grumpily. "I could be playing a video game, but noooo," she muttered to herself, flipping through a family history book that must have weighed five pounds. "I have to look through birth records and marriage records and death records and mortgages and all sorts of stupid, useless things," she huffed.
Usagi had already been through one of the books on her father's side of the family. Usagi had never realized that there were so many different kinds of documents that recorded a person's existence. Nor could she believe the amount of time her great aunt and her own father had taken in recording some of that information. It was simply incredible.
None of it so far had been forthcoming, however–she still had no idea whether or not her family was some kind of disbanded coven, or whatever Tom had called it. As far as Usagi was concerned, this probably meant that she wasn't part of something like that, as cool as it would have been.
Usagi riffled through the last hundred or so pages chronicling her father's most obscure branches of family, not bothering so much as to pause and glance at names and dates. "Close enough," she reassured herself, though she eyed Tom's diary guiltily.
It wasn't like it was that big a deal. Whether or not her family was full of old witches or not, it didn't change who or what she was. At least, in her opinion. Surely Tom didn't care about bloodlines that much?
A part of her tried to reason with her. Perhaps bloodlines were more important than she realized. Perhaps they helped to dictate what kinds of things you could do or how powerful you were. It stood to reason, anyhow, as much as anything else.
Whatever the end result, she told herself, Tom wouldn't care either way. He was her friend, and friends didn't change the basis of their opinions or feelings about you on the basis of who you're related to.
Usagi sighed again, shifting the huge tome off her lap and looked at the books that sat beside her. So that was two books down. That left a handful of other relatively small books.
Usagi opened one and discovered it was her mother's diary, back from when she was a little girl. She hesitated, weighing her desire to read it and discover with the knowledge that it was a personal document. Her eyes slid to Tom's diary, and she thought of all the things she had ever told Tom. Some of them didn't matter, but others were extremely personal, and a sign of her confidence in a friend. She would be mortified if her friends or family heard some of the things she had to say.
Usagi closed her mother's simple lavender purple diary and laid it carefully aside. So that was another book down... she just wouldn't let Tom know. He might want her to read her mother's personal thoughts, and Usagi just didn't think that she could do that.
She brought out the next book, a slightly thicker book. This one reminded her a lot of Tom's–the cover was dark leather, although this was brown not black. And on the front, in gold embossing, a crescent moon was featured on the cover. Usagi gingerly traced the symbol with her finger, her other hand going to clutch her broach.
It seemed eerily similar–it had to be some kind of coincidence. And yet, her whole life seemed to revolve around the moon. She had been the moon princess in her past life. Even now she carried on the duties of Sailor Moon. And some day, she would be asked to become the queen of Neo Tokyo and resume her duties as heir to the throne. Even her name seemed to be a reflection of its influence on her life. (2)
Usagi opened the book up. In neat characters, she recognized her grand mother's handwriting. Sakura Tsukino. So this had been her father's mother's diary, it would seem. It was weird, but come to think of it, Usagi was pretty sure that she'd never met her grandmother.
Usagi flipped through the pages to a random entry. While she wouldn't read her mother's thoughts, Usagi had no qualms with delving into the private life of someone she didn't know. She discovered, however, within a few lines that this woman's diary was much less private than she could have imagined. Her blood ran cold with what she read.
Mother claims today she foresaw my birthing a child in her tea leaves again. This would not surprise me–with Kenji's mother's help as well Keiko, I do believe we've performed at least three succesful fertility rites. It always amazes me that Muggles don't need magical aid for this sort of thing...
Usagi flushed with embarrassment. Leave it to good old Tsukino Usagi to find the one part in the book about making babies or fertility magic. Usagi blinked, realizing what this had meant. Tom was right, there were witches in her family.
She wrote to him quickly, I found something.
Oh? What does it say?
Well, it's kind of my grandma's diary... it would take a long time to read it all... I'm just skimming through it, Usagi admitted. She then put the pen down and took up her grandmother's diary. Who would have guessed that a diary could be informative, or that she would run into so many important ones lately?
Usagi flipped to the middle of the book–she didn't want to read anything about her father's conception, or anything in detail about fertility rites.
Kenji gets bolder with his magic everyday. He still can't use much of it–nothing more than lighting candles, making the wind shut the doors hard, the usual things children do. Lately he's been eyeing his father's broom with a jealous eye. I'm sure one day I'll go to get him for dinner and find him trying to use it. Yukio thinks he's found another couple with whom we can arrange for a proper marriage...
Usagi stopped reading, once more dumbfounded by the knowledge to be found in that single passage. Her grandmother had been a witch. Her father was a wizard. An arranged marriage... Usagi's fingers shook in shock; she wasn't sure what disturbed her the most. How could they not tell her this, she wondered in disbelief, flipping further in the diary, continuing to read.
Kenji expressed extreme disinterest in Ikuko today. Not just Ikuko, I suppose, but also in all girls. I suppose it's his age, but he made her cry. I don't think we'll be seeing much more of her or her family. They looked positively livid when they left.
I'm quite surprised. The Watanabe family came back and brought Ikuko back. I think they want to give it another chance. Kenji played better this time, at least...
Usagi flipped forward more violently. She couldn't believe what she was reading. Her mother and father had had an arranged marriage? Why hadn't anyone told her about any of this? Her head pounded, and Usagi found herself becoming frustrated. She'd always thought her family was open. Instead they were keeping secrets from her this entire time!
Kenji told us he loves his wizarding school so much he doesn't want to come home half the time... I remember how I always felt the same way. He enjoys Quidditch quite a bit, but then, what boy doesn't? He always wanted a broomstick of his own...
Ikuko seems quite taken with Kenji, which is a good sign. The Watanabe family is ready to seal the contract for the marriage. I don't feel it's right, Kenji seems so young... but then, Yukio and I were engaged when we were that age. It's so confusing to be a mother and watch your child grow up...
Something happened today. I'm really not sure what, but both Kenji and Ikuko seem quite upset about it. They won't even talk about it...
I never thought I'd see the day my own flesh and blood turned on me. Kenji practically accused me of practicing Dark Magic. More than that, he seems to believe that if not I then our neighbors are responsible for a rash of Muggle deaths in the area. It's unbelievable!...
It seems that Kenji and Ikuko are quite serious about breaking off all ties with us. Not just us, either, but her family as well–they want to raise their children to be normal. How can you raise your children to be what they're not and expect them to be normal?...
Two days ago Kenji traded some terrible words. It would appear, however, that both he and his newly wed wife are disgusted by the way witches and wizards meddle with Muggles' lives. I don't understand it; we've never done anything to harm them.
They refuse to bend. They're moving away now, to start over. I doubt that we'll see them again. There is much bad water underneath this bridge. It breaks my heart to know that my son would rather break all ties with me than put up with what he believes to be my faults...
Usagi stopped reading and frowned to herself. Obviously something had happened to change her parents' minds about witches and wizards. It appeared that the catalyst would be the "rash of deaths" Sakura had written about. But Muggles died all the time of strange or terrible things–why that particular case? And what kind of person could accuse their own mother of murder?
And she wondered how the diary had made its way here. Usagi flipped forward in the little book, to the last entry–which was not on the last page–and read it in its entirety, unlike the tiny snippets she'd consumed before.
Ikuko is pregnant with their first daughter, now. She has managed to conceive without the use of magic–in fact, they have spent the last 17 years hiding from it. It amazes me, truly. Having seen the ease that magic can take off of the strain of Muggle life, I do not think I could make it.
It makes me terribly sad, knowing that I am alone now. We never had a big family–Yukio and I only ever had Kenji. It was the same for the Watanabes. I don't know about them, but Yukio and I only have distant cousins–one of whom has been excommunicated; he's a Squib. Perhaps that's what Kenji and Ikuko meant when they spoke of how cruel pureblood witches and wizards are. I don't know.
Whatever it was, it has obviously scared them into this life. They seem happy enough, I suppose. But I'm filled with grief.
With Yukio's death one year ago this winter, there's not much left in my life. My son is gone. I will never be allowed to meet my grandchildren–there will be more than one, I'm certain. The Tsukino blood has always been close-nit. My son has chosen to break a four hundred year old tradition. How our ancestors must weep with shame.
I do not think their childrens' lives will go untouched, though. I have heard of movements like these to suppress what is natural. It cannot be done. The harder Ikuko and Kenji try squash the old traditions and the truth about the blood, the harder it will fight back. For that reason, I've decided to leave my diary here. Knowing the children of our family, one of them will be sufficiently curious to uncover it. Ikuko and Kenji will never know it's even there–refusing to recognize magic isn't a "pick-and-choose" deal. Refuse some and you must refuse all.
Nature probably does not need my help. But Kenji has left me with bitter blood, bitter tears, and bitter memories. Whatever wrong he feels that the pureblood witches and wizards have committed, I was no part of it. What is wrong is perverting what is natural. Our blood is old, but it is strong, and it has yet to miss a child yet. That girl that wiggles in Ikuko's womb will be a witch yet–of that I am certain, and with babies, I have never been wrong.
Usagi closed the book, thoughtfully, and placed it aside. She felt numb. Usagi picked up Tom's diary as though it were made of fragile glass, and began to relay what she had discovered to them. They hid it from me. It was mine to know, and they took it away, Usagi finished, unable to adequately describe the way she felt.
And they left my grandmother miserable. They wouldn't let me meet her. Tom, she could still be out there alive somewhere...! Tears trembled and fell down her cheeks, splattered onto the book and smudging some of the ink. Usagi hastily wiped her cheeks with the back of her hand. Sorry, she apologized.
It's alright, Usagi. It's just a little water. Now, try not to cry... but your grandmother is probably already long dead, Tom told her. He was sure that would make her cry harder, so he quickly spelled out the following. What matters, though, is that you found what she left for you. This proves it, Usagi. You're a witch–a pureblood one, no less. It's quite a bit to be proud of.
What about all of that other stuff, though? All those "family-tree" books? I had to write reports about that when I was in elementary, Usagi recalled, in a daze.Usagi sniffled, but managed to stave off another round of tears.
I'm sure Muggles have ways of forging documents, Tom replied. Have you even met any of those relatives in those books, Usagi?
You mean they lied to me? They didn't just not tell me, but they made all that up to lie to me? Usagi was now suddenly very, very angry–angrier than she had been in a long time. She felt so stupid–all this time she'd thought that her family's eccentrics were normal. Worse than that, she'd always felt guilty for being the odd one, the one with the weird powers. And all this time they'd had it too, only they hadn't told her?
What if I'd thought all this time I was a freak of nature? Usagi demanded, underscoring her letters with a line drawn in very, very hard–it left crease marks in the paper. I could have been lonely and scared this entire time because they decided they'd just shove it under the rug and pretend it wasn't there? That's... that's like trying to pretend there isn't an elephant under the rug, for crying out loud! Usagi punctuated the dot so hard it put a hole in three pages.
Easy, Usagi, you're hurting me, Tom scolded her gently. It did hurt, a little–this was, after all, something similar to his body now. And yet, despite the minor pain, Tom was smiling on the inside. Because this was working out much, much better than he'd thought it would. Usagi was working herself up into a state of hysteria–one that he could take advantage of and manipulate for his own purposes.
They were probably planning on telling you when you were 17, he suggested slyly, and you're an adult according to wizarding law.
Usagi felt like she was going to explode. Screw that, she wrote, seething with hurt and fury, it's time they talked now, she finished, slamming the book shut.
Tom grinned. She was like dry wood in the summer heat. All it took were a few little sparks to get a raging wildfire started... And once she'd done the damage, he'd be there to "make it all better."
"Are you sure, Luna?" Rei queried the cat one last time. The stone in her stomach felt like it had dropped to the lowest points it could reach. She had suspected, and worried; of course it had to be something serious to hide from the Great Fire. But this...
"Positive," Luna repeated vehemently. "The book was completely blank. It was hiding something, I know it." Her tail tapped the ground almost violently, just one of many signs of her ultimate irritation and worry.
The assembled senshi stood in silence. In the growing shadows of the evening, it was difficult to see everyone's expressions, but they were all a reflection of one another's–troubled. They didn't make a noise as they digested the information.
Of course, they'd always dealt with Youma attacks. Youmas were dirty, underhanded, and rather clever creatures. They struck you where you were weakest, and drove in the wedge–how many times had their friends been attacked? This, however, was a new level entirely. The invasion seemed lewd–diaries and friends were supposed to be private, sacred. But a Youma had obviously violated Usagi's privacy.
Only Rei suspected that it was not a Youma at all. No Youma could be so ingenious–they were clever, but not like this. Youmas didn't understand human concepts, such as ownership. Nor could they begin to understand something as deadly as the power of words and trust. Rei doubted they even knew what a diary's purpose was.
So then this was something else entirely. A human spirit taking host of a human object, and somehow manipulating it in such a way as to choose who and when it communicated with. It was clever, subtle, and intricate–that kind of possession would take power and innovation. To what end, though, had this person chosen Usagi? And what had she told them?
"What do we do?" Minako finally asked. "How can we beat something like this?"
"It's not possible to "beat" a book," Ami murmured, sweeping her short blue hair away from her face and behind her ear. The wind blew it forward again, fighting back.
"But it's not a real book," Makoto argued. There was something about the end of her statement, though, that made it sound like a question.
"Oh, it's a real book alright," Rei interjected. "The problem isn't the diary, though–it's what's in the diary," Rei explained with a tired sigh.
"So then it's not a Youma assuming the form of a book?" Ami asked, her voice piqued with fascination.
"It's doubtful," Rei replied, taking a seat on the temple steps. She watched the last sliver of the orange sun disappear behind the trees. Rei let out another loud sigh. "It's either a ghost, or some piece of a human who can use magic." She glanced up at her friends, and informed them, "It's very much forbidden to do the later. It's considered to be one of the darkest of the Dark Arts."
"You mean there are humans who can use magic, too?" Minako gasped. "I thought we were the only ones... I mean, what with none of our souls actually being human, and all." Minako flushed a little, looking abashed.
"No. There are witches and wizards and all sorts of other things out there–all myth stems from some truth," Rei murmured.
"So what do we do?" Ami asked this time.
Rei thought for some time. "If Usagi's protecting it with the Ginzuisho, then we can't destroy it. However... if we exorcize the spirit from the object, then Usagi won't be protecting it anymore. I think, then, we can dispose of it. But there's some things I'll need to get... it may take a while to prepare for the ceremony, too."
"I can get it from her," Luna volunteered, standing up on her four legs. "I can get in there without a ruckus. And I can get it out easily enough." She sounded confident, but inside she wasn't feeling so good about this. Something told her that no matter what happened tonight they couldn't win.
Overhead, the dark clouds that had come in from the east rumbled ominously. Luna wondered if it was a sign, but scolded herself. Really, perhaps Usagi was right about this–she might very well look too deeply into things. Rain drops began to fall, few and far between and small, but it was obvious by the surprisingly cold wing that blew by that it would not be long before the skies would open up and a terrible onslaught would fall.
"You'd better hurry if you want to beat the rain," Artemis advised her. He sounded just as worried as Luna felt, and Luna felt a strange sense of relief that her companion was concerned too. Luna just nodded in return and went off on her way, not bothering to look back and watch the Senshi head inside to prepare for the ceremony.
Usagi still felt drained. She'd fought with her parents, something she hardly ever did. The incident had ended when Shingo came home from his friend's house–Usagi was promptly sent up to her room. She saw, though, upon leaving, that she wasn't the only one with tears in her eyes.
She'd cried for quite some time in her room, despite Tom's attempts to console her. Knowing that her parents would never be able to accept her for what she was left a terribly bitter taste in her mouth. The only thing she could think to do to remedy some of her pain was to take a nice hot bath.
And so she had–she'd filled her tub with water that was nearly scalding hot, topped with bubbled. Sitting in it for even five minutes left her feeling a little lightheaded, and her skin beneath the water had turned a delicate shade of pink. The hot water took away much of her strength, and with it much of her pain. She felt numb in the aftermath.
Usagi stood up, letting the water run off her in a rush to join the water in the tub. She leaned over and unplugged the drain and then grabbed her towel. She wiped the water from her flushed skin gently, examining her pink skin. She felt clean again, not just in body, but in mind and emotionally, although she was sure that such a sensation could not last.
Toweling herself completely off, Usagi stepped out of the bathroom and back into her room. She felt better, now–she would be able to talk to Tom in a more reasonable manner, and without dripping tears all over him. Usagi went to the bed where she'd left the diary to pick him up and begin writing–and discovered he wasn't there.
A wave of uneasy confusion washed over her. Maybe I left him on the dresser, she decided. So Usagi went over and scanned the top of her dresser, which was messy but where Tom obviously was not. Her unease gathering in strength, she opened up the drawer she normally kept him–but he wasn't there, either, nor had she expected him to be.
Usagi began to look through her room. She fought off her panic–books didn't just simply walk off, not even Tom's did–but found herself losing the battle as she systematically searched around the room but couldn't find him anywhere. By the time she was finished, she was frantic, and close to tears again. Where was he? She was truly becoming negligent; how could she lose someone as important to her as Tom?
And that was when she noticed it. The muddy cat paw tracks across her carpet. Usagi frowned; of course Luna had made them, they had no other cats. Usagi went to her window and found it open. She quickly shut it, noting that the worst of the mud, at least, was on the window sill. She'd worry about cleaning it–and the consequences of not doing so–later.
That was when she realized it. Luna's footprints led to the bed, and although the mud grew less with each step, there were the faintest traces of dark damp water on her bed. Right where Tom had been.
Usagi remembered what Tom had told her. People had misunderstood him before. They'd tried to kill him. They'd nearly succeeded. Usagi's heart sped up impossibly fast. Luna had always been quick to jump to conclusions. If she'd found out that Tom wasn't an ordinary book, she'd consider it her duty to protect Usagi.
But where could she have taken him?
She answered the question to herself before she'd practically finished it. "Oh, no," she moaned, running to her dresser. She clothed herself faster than she could ever remember doing so, and grabbed an umbrella just in case. Granted, it had stopped raining an hour ago, but that didn't mean that it might not start again.
Usagi did what she always did when she needed to get out of the house without her parents knowing–she went out the window, and climbed down the big tree outside her window. She dropped the last five feet, wincing at the force against her feet, but ignoring the minor pain. She had to go rescue Tom before her friends made a terrible mistake. Hold on, Tom, she prayed desperately, I'm coming. (3)
(1) – I hope no one misunderstands. I'm not trying to say that Rei doesn't regard Usagi as an important friend-of course she does, if she didn't, why would she bother worrying about her?-but she also has to worry about the senshi collectively.
(2) – For anyone who was possibly unaware, the name "Tsukino" means "of the moon." Or something close to that. I think it's supposed to be a pun or a joke of some kind, because there's actually a "rabbit of the moon" in Japanese folklore/mythology. It apparently makes mochimochi on the moon, which Sailor Ronin Usa-chan and I both think is supposed to mean rice balls (but we're not exactly experts, so if we're wrong and you know it feel free to lecture us XD).
(3) – Although some people might disagree with me, I do believe that Usagi would do anything for a friend... including being brave/standing up to other people/coming to the rescue. X3
Okay. So that's it. Read/Review/email me if you want. For those of you who like Siri/Usa fics, too, I hope to have something ready for you guys in the near future (although knowing the way my "near future" works out, I'm really hoping it's before Christmas or in time for that season.) Hope you enjoyed this chapter, sorry it was so late. I want to give a quick shout-out to all the people who reviewed chapter one:
Danibef, OtAkU, liza, AdorableAngel, Nercia Genisis, Usagi Asia Maxwell, devilsheart, Sugar sweet, Adrelliehs, Invisible Rain, Leenie Chan, Sylverkaze, Baby Daydreamer Wiley, koldy, Heero'sBunny, Jo Raven, samisweet, Falke-ness, Jade Cerise, Dark Hamadryad, Flame Ivy Moon, astrocosmos, I laugh at you, and Goth Punk Princess. That's 24 reviews in total, guys–thanks a bunch!
And a quick response to those I felt necessary:
AdorableAngel: No offense taken. The first chapter was kind of preliminary... this one, though, was much more action packed in my opinion. Hope you thought so too.
Invisible Rain: I think a lot of people forget that Usagi just isn't all-powerful and all-knowing. Even if she was all-powerful she'd be too afraid to use it. But I'm glad you appreciated the ways I've tried to make this new and different.
Leenie Chan: No worries, I don't think I got it twice. And thank you for all your kind words and the critique. X3
Baby Daydreamer Wiley: Haha, I love that song, too.
Heero's Bunny: :sweatdrop: I updated... took a long time, but I'm pleased with the results. And I never really forget to update–I just refuse to update unless I'm inspired. Fics tend to rot otherwise.
Jo Raven: I'm glad you liked it so much–and I am sorry I didn't update sooner. I never mean to leave my fics as long as I do. Time just kind of slips by when you're busy with school and stuff.
samisweet: If you want to talk to me about a review, I'd actually prefer it if you'd email me. It's on my bio as well as in every story I write. I appreciate the review, but I'd just rather discuss things I said further on a private, one-on-one situation. And if I remember correctly, I did review it again.
Falke-ness: It takes me a long to write, esp considering the length of what I produce. But I'm not dropping this one–it's my baby, and I want to finish it. If I ever consider dropping something, it will only be because 1) I've lost my inspiration and therefor it would turn out crappy or 2) someone's stolen my idea and they've made me mad.
Jade Cerise: I don't appreciate being ordered around by some random person. Either ask nicely or don't say anything at all–I get mean when people get rude.
Dark Hamadryad: Thank you, I try very hard to keep the characters as they ought to be. It's not always easy.
I laugh at you: no matter how hard I try, the computer refuses to let "I" be lowercase. Sorry. Anyhow, I haven't given up, I just didn't have any inspiration for a long time... I wrote the majority of this in one week, though. And I'm glad you like the story so much.