Hotaru liked to dream. Not because she hated her real life. On the contrary she loved it. But when she dreamed she saw other things, felt other things. In her dreams she knew what it was like to love, to raise children, to die.
But most of all she loved the people she met in her dreams. They were never more than shadows, flickering shapes like the crimson spots that darted across her closed eyelids when she stared too long at the sun.
Sometimes, after her dreams, she'd wake up and she'd be smiling, or crying, or sometimes a little bit of both, and she was never sure why. Her dreams weren't always good though. She had nightmares as well, about twisting shadows and a deep, hungry darkness that seemed to know every last thing about her.
She never screamed when she had nightmares. Instead she'd wake up, her chest tight with fear, and try not to cringe as the trees rustling outside her window cast insane silhouettes across her wall. But she was never afraid for long. Each time she woke like that, even when she was older, Setsuna would always be there, with her calming touch and cold, yet oddly compassionate crimson eyes.
The nightmares had become less frequent as she'd grown older. In a way though, she was a little sad to see them go because it meant the end of Setsuna's little visits. Lately though, the nightmares have come back and they are much more real. They seem less like the fevered wanderings of her mind, and more like distant memories, best left forgotten…
The rain had come in fat, wet drops that soaked swiftly through her thin, ragged cloak and clung like liquid icicles to her skin. A harsh, tearing wind ripped past her and threatened to sweep her off her feet and into the dank mud that swirled around her ankles.
She had to find shelter and soon. There were lights up ahead, a small village, maybe, if she could reach it then…
They'd kick her out most likely, like every other village she'd ever come across. Freak they called her. They were afraid of her, and she didn't even know why. It wasn't like she killed anyone. She just happened to see, to feel the presence of death. If only she could keep her mouth shut, then no one would ever have known. Instead she'd tried to warn people and when they didn't listen and ended up dead, they blamed her for it.
But it's not like she has a choice. She hasn't eaten for days and she has a hollow, rattling cough that can't possibly be good. Even if they throw her out, even if they treat her like garbage, she still needs to get out of the rain.
Each step seems to take forever and her legs scream with the effort of pulling free of the mud and grime that the rain has washed free of the ground. Up ahead she can see a shape blocking the path. From the long black cloak and polished armour she would guess a soldier.
It takes her several more minutes to reach him and she tries to slip by without too much fuss. Soldiers have never been very kind to her. Suddenly his hand snakes out and grabs her shoulder. His grip is firm, but not hard and oddly pleasant, and it suddenly strikes her how pathetic she is, for a simple touch to affect her so much. But no one's touched her in a long time, except to hit her.
"You're too young to be out in a storm like this."
His voice is kind and she looks up searching for some sign of deceit. His eyes are a soldier's eyes, cool but honest, and he points to small tower not far away.
"We'll get you dried out first and then think about getting you something to eat."
Tears prickle her eyes and she stifles a sob. Why is he being so nice to her?
"Come on," the soldier says as he leads her towards the tower. "My name is Ralevon, what's yours?"
She struggles for a moment. She's never had a name, not a real one, given to her by people who loved her. All she has are insults and so she picks the least painful of these and whispers it, hoping he won't ask her about it.
"They call me Silence."
He blinked for a moment but smiled and lifted her up into his arms.
"Well, Silence," he said. "Can you tell me what a seven year old girl is doing out in this weather?"
She blushes and tries to look away. He laughs and whistling carries her the rest of the way to the tower.
It takes her a few moments to realise where she is and when she does, she sighs. The dream had been so real. She frowned and tried to concentrate, to burn the soldier's features into her mind. It hadn't been like a dream at all, it had been, she mused, more like a memory.
She turned and blinked as the door eased open and light spilled in from the corridor. Setsuna leans in and her expression shows just the slightest bit of concern.
"I heard you cry out in your sleep, are you all right?"
"I'm fine, Setsuna," Hotaru replied. She stopped calling her Setsuna-mama a long time ago, it just felt… wrong somehow.
The older woman frowned and stepped into the room. "Are you sure?"
Hotaru can't help but laugh. None of the others have seen Setsuna like this, a tad fretful, trying as hard as she can to keep her concern hidden. It was odd to see the normally unflappable older woman looking more than a little unsettled.
"I'm fine, all right."
"If you're sure," Setsuna said before she turned to close the door. "Sleep well."
Just as quickly as that she was gone and Hotaru strained to catch the faint, quiet footfalls of the older woman as she walked back to her own bedroom. But as she listened for the footsteps, she hear something else, another sound, so faint that she was tempted to dismiss it.
Setsuna was whistling and the tune seemed oddly familiar even though Hotaru couldn't quite place it. As she fell asleep once more it finally occurred to her where she had heard it.
Funny, she thought, the soldier had whistled that same tune.
X X X X
Those of you who are reading this and have also read Sailor Moon Requiem may be struck by the similarities between the two. This is not a coincidence. In fact, this story is a reworking of Requiem. Frankly, although I loved that story I wasn't happy with how it was going. It had become very difficult to write and I found that I had lost the "voice" of the characters. You readers deserve better than that. So, I decided to go back to the drawing board. There will of course be differences between this story and Requiem, which is inevitable. But I hope that I have managed to maintain the same "flavour" as with the other story.
As always, I would appreciate any feedback that you guys can offer and I'd be more than happy to respond to any further queries as to why Requiem has, effectively, kicked the bucket.
On a side note, my computer seems to have cheerfully deleted over half of Sailor Moon Reflections. Luckily for me it's on so I can just download it back. Never let it be said that isn't useful.