Title: True Destiny
Series: no, alternate reality
Couples: Haruka/Makoto, Makoto/Ami, Haruka/Michiru, Serenity/Endymion, Rei/Minako, Rei/Minako/Setsuna, Setsuna/Ailan
Disclaimer: I have no ownership.
AN: It's an alternate reality Japan ruled by a feudal system in the modern age, and each region—a collection of five or six Prefectures—has a Duchess, all ruled by the Queen of Japan. All of the senshi are about 20, close to their Seijishiki, and everything else is explained.
Chapter 10: Okinawa
As the sun crested the horizon, the ship carrying the Duchesses of Kanto, Tohoku, and Kinki docked below the Okinawa palace, greeted by the young duchess and a company of guards and retainers. The purple-eyed woman, short black hair brushing her shoulders, was the youngest of the duchesses at only eighteen, but she was ready to rule, both of her parents dead. The Regent, her aunt Beryl, glared at the visitors with wild grey eyes, red hair pulled into a tight bun to reflect her position. She wore jewels and expensive silks, rings on her fingers and expensive combs in her hair, her demeanor as cold as the stones that sparkled from her ensemble. Haruka felt a shiver of fear pass through her, and she had never been afraid of anything in her life. Michiru glanced at her lover, sensing her hesitation as they disembarked, watching as Rei also tensed, just noticeably. The Regent Duchess of Okinawa Region frightened all visitors, and even the queen never ventured so far south. Now Michiru knew why.
Beside the young Duchess, her best friend leaned over and whispered something in her ear. The young woman glanced up at her aunt and murmured something, the smile on her face fake. Beryl nodded sharply and returned to her carriage, taking some of the guards and servants with her as she returned to the palace. Haruka, Michiru, and Rei relaxed instantly, smiling as Duchess Tomoe Hotaru bowed gracefully, her friend's emerald eyes fading to a paler ice green shade as her anger and hatred toward the Regent faded. Her long hair curled its way down her back, its fiery red color enhanced by her natural gold highlights, restrained only by a few tiny braids pulled back from her face into a tiny bun like Setsuna wore, golden chains of gems in her hair indicating that she had her own high position and power. Setsuna finally emerged from the boat, elegant and regal, garnet eyes smoldering as they followed Beryl's carriage to the palace.
"I do not trust her," the Senshi of Time murmured.
Hotaru nodded. "Neither do I, Setsuna-san. She wishes me dead, I know it. Michiru-san, as always it is good to see you. I believe I finally have the pleasure to welcome you to my Region. Ah, Rei-chan, you have been very busy lately. I hear that you were infected by the evil spirits for a while."
"True, Hotaru-chan. Unfortunately I was. I would like to introduce you to a duchess new to us, daughter of Ten'ou Koshu and Ten'ou Kazeko. This is Ten'ou Haruka."
"Duchess?" Hotaru smiled as she bowed to the tall blonde, her mirth causing the other Duchesses to smile. "Are you sure you're not a Duke, Haruka-san?"
"Positive. Michiru wouldn't like that very much."
The Senshi of the Seas blushed fiercely as Rei laughed and Setsuna smiled. Hotaru reached out and placed a hand on Haruka's arm. "Thank you for making her smile, Haruka-san. She has been looking for you for a long time. Setsuna-san, I did not think you would come so far south again. Not after you and my aunt . . . exchanged words."
Michiru and Haruka turned to look at the green-haired senshi. "I have an even better question. Where did you come from? I mean, you suddenly appeared when I kissed Michiru and our henshin sticks appeared, then you boarded the yacht with us to come here. I know you didn't leave Hokkaido with us."
Setsuna smiled, the motion adding to her mystery. "Perhaps I was there the entire time. Hotaru-chan, please introduce us to your friend."
Hotaru blushed a little as she pulled the redhead forward. "This is Sorano Shioko, one of the Ladies of my court, and the only reason I have the courage to survive my aunt. Now, we told my aunt that Shioko and I would take care of you and that she could return to her ruling. She's writing more laws, I think. It's not a safe prospect, but as soon as I turn twenty, the Council will crown me Duchess and I can undo her damages. If you'd like, we can take a tour of the city."
"That would be nice," Michiru smiled.
"I just don't trust her."
"None of us trust her," Michiru whispered, her voice low to avoid ruining the tour. "We put up with her because the laws of the Queens from centuries ago mark twenty as the age when a woman is old enough to assume responsibility for her own lands. Hotaru is simply too young by that law. The queen had considered changing it, though, before she became so ill. Now it is up to her daughter to deal with the likes of Beryl."
"The queen is ill? Since when?"
"She has always been fragile. Those of the Serenity name are not known for their great physical strength, Haruka. You will understand when we meet the princess. Currently the queen is being assisted by her older sister."
"Older sister? Shouldn't the oldest sister rule?"
"In general, yes. But Serenity Ailan chose to give up her crown when she discovered that she was a lesbian. She also had no interest in ruling. I believe she is the head priestess at Ise Shrine most of the time. For now, she serves the kami by healing her sister. She is a very kind woman and knows of the injustice in her land. As spiritual as she is, her only recourse is prayer. She has unearthed dozens of ancient prophecies and she spends most of her time copying them and teaching her apprentices the secrets of the ancient avatars. Most of us do not understand her rambling."
Setsuna snorted from her position beside the pair. "Perhaps you do not understand, Michiru-san. Ailan's prophecies are startlingly detailed and frightening in their content. They foretell the end of this world when the avatars will rise up and wash the evil away or fail in the attempt and sacrifice the world to darkness. Our ancestors knew that this final battle would be the most important, which is why there are so many scrolls referring to it. It is most commonly called the Battle of the Crescent Moon."
Hotaru turned around, pausing the tour. "The Crescent Moon? Setsuna-san, I have seen references to that mark in some of the lost scrolls here. Remind me to show them to you when my aunt is not present. I fear that she would misuse the power in those scrolls."
Setsuna sighed and clenched one fist, anger very uncommon for the regal woman. "I know she would."
Hotaru and Shioko led Haruka, Rei, Michiru, and Setsuna into her castle, nodding at the servants she passed. She stopped one girl and whispered a question, relaxing at the answer as the six women finished their tour in the duchess's large suite, everything colored in soft purple silks and white wood. She gestured for them to take a seat as she fished through a beautifully engraved trunk and extracted almost a dozen scrolls, each tied with a different colored ribbon. She sat down beside Shioko and spread the scrolls on the table between the cushions, smiling.
"My aunt has departed for one of the southern islands, so we are free to examine these scrolls. They were found during my mother's reign, long before I was born, but she never learned how to read them."
"How to read them?" Michiru reached for the nearest scroll, tied with a silky aqua ribbon too rich to be a mortal dye. "How old are these?"
"We do not know. But the ribbons are just as old and seem to resist aging."
"Odd." Michiru untied the ribbon, smiling at is released its knot effortlessly and pooled in her hand, as gentle as a baby bird. She slowly unrolled the scroll and stared at the blank parchment, the only mark an aqua symbol at the top. "This . . . it's the symbol for Neptune. Where are the words?"
"That's the trick. They aren't normal marks. Setsuna-san, this one is yours, for sure."
Setsuna untied the garnet ribbon and unrolled the parchment, staring at the symbol on the top. "Pluto," she whispered. "These are the Scrolls of the Senshi. They explain our powers, how to pray to the gods of our planets, our weapons, and our strengths. These are the scrolls that teach us how to be Senshi, but there is a secret to their unlocking."
"A secret?" Haruka picked up the one with a golden ribbon that turned dark navy in a different light. She grinned irreverently and tied the ribbon around her neck as she opened the scroll, staring in wonder at the symbol on the top of the page. She ran her finger over it and gasped as the paper cut her, a tiny drop of her blood falling on the
golden symbol of Uranus.
The paper flared to life, golden light spreading across the page. The band around Haruka's neck flashed gold as it turned into a navy-colored choker, golden star in the center of her neck. The golden light faded to black writing as she watched, the symbol of Uranus appearing on her forehead as she glanced up at the other five women. Without waiting to think, Michiru tied her ribbon around her neck and ran her finger along the edge of the parchment, cutting her finger. She let a single drop of blood color the symbol of Neptune, watching as words flowed down the page, feeling the ribbon around her neck become a choker with a single star on front.
Setsuna sighed as the other two began to read their scrolls. "I suppose I must follow their example." Tying the ribbon around her neck, she echoed the actions of her fellow senshi from Uranus and Neptune, watching as words spread across her page. "You might want to open the purple one, Hotaru-san," Setsuna suggested casually as she began to read her paper. Hotaru echoed the other women, watching as words spread across her scroll. Rei reached her hand out, closing her eyes as she began to chant.
She stared at the scrolls as images appeared in her mind. Duchess Ami of Chugoku appeared over the scroll tied with a bright blue ribbon, the symbol of Mercury on her forehead. Duchess Makoto appeared above the one tied with a green ribbon, the symbol of Jupiter on her forehead. The one tied with a black ribbon showed a man, whom Rei recognized as Mamoru, Duke of Shikoku. She purposefully skipped over the red and orange ones, touching the one tied with a ribbon so gold that it shone brighter than the sun in the light. She could see no face, just a golden crescent moon and blue eyes. The one tied with silver showed her a silver crescent moon and purple eyes, confusing the young miko. Why could she not pierce the secrets of those two Senshi? The last scroll was tied with a black-and-white ribbon, and it showed the image of two cats, one black and one white. Touching the scroll with the red ribbon, she saw herself, taking it as she stared at the orange-ribboned scroll.
"It's Minako," Setsuna murmured, catching everyone's attention. Rei shook her head, staring at the orange. "You know that it is. Rei, you cannot protect her from this. It is her destiny as it is yours. You know that you are Sailor Mars, you saw the identities of the other Senshi, and you know that only Venus is left. Your lover is Sailor Venus."
"I don't want her to be, Setsuna-san. It's so dangerous . . . she could get killed. I couldn't handle that."
"The only way to really protect her is to let her have full access to her powers. Without them she is human, weak and defenseless. If our enemies found her, human and alone, they would kill her to weaken you. I know that you don't want that. If you love her, you will give her the means to protect herself."
Rei nodded, biting her lip. She looked at Haruka and Michiru, so much in love and yet so afraid of the coming days, and she smiled. "I can do that."
"Good. Read your scroll."
"I couldn't see two of them."
"I know. You will."
To be continued