Chapter 2

'writing on the walls'

"There's no way. It can't be possible."

After seeing Serena speak to someone outside of her family Ami had been stunned. She had hurried Darien to his cabin promising to finish the tour later. Ami knew that she had to find Mina or Shingo or even better both of them and inform them of what had happened. This led to Ami rounding everyone up and initiating an impromptu crew meeting in the cockpit immediately after take off.

"Are you sure you weren't just imagining things Ami?" the pilot Neph asked.

"Oh ha ha, very funny Neph," she replied. "I know exactly what I saw. Or rather heard. Serena said very distinctly to Darien that he was something or someone called 'Tuxedo Mask'."

"Do you think this means that she's finally going to begin speaking to people again?" Shingo asked hopefully. "I mean other than to me and Mina."

"Unfortunately I don't think so," Mina answered from her position sitting on Kunzite's lap. "I mean Serena didn't speak to Ami did she?" Ami shook her head to confirm the statement. Mina continued, "I don't trust this Hino guy. We all know about Serena's abilities. What if she saw something about Hino that was so big that she was required to speak despite her self-imposed muteness?"

Kunzite turned his silver eyes to Ami. "Where is he now?" he inquired.

"I left him in his cabin right before we left Questacon. Then I came to find you guys. I assume he's still there."

Darien was strolling slowly through the corridors of the ship. After Ami had disappeared so suddenly he had figured that he might as well do a little exploring by himself. He'd been absolutely stunned by the amount of writing all over the walls. Every last centimetre was filled with the sometimes miniscule, sometimes quite large text. Darien had even glanced up at one stage only to discover that it too had been written on. He had to wonder how the tiny slip of a girl he'd met earlier had managed to position herself so that she could write the whole way across the roof.

After a few minutes of walking Darien stopped next to a section of wall and began to read. Some of the sentences made sense by themselves but then there were others that were completely random and seemed to come from nowhere. I've seen better days. Never was a cornflake girl. And she's looking for a mysterious dark-haired man. Can you hear the drums Fernando?

Darien released a short, small sigh as he spotted the next sentence. I sometimes wish I'd never been born at all. 'Don't we all sometimes? Don't we all?' He turned and again began moving through the corridors. Occasionally a phrase or two would grab his attention as his feet led him through the unfamiliar walkways.

It's written on the wind.

Knowing the territory you are in was one of the first things that Darien had learnt when he left home. He had discovered the hard way what happened when you didn't have knowledge or a floor plan of the building or grounds you were in. Whether you were on the turf of friends or enemies it was best to know your way around so that you could quickly get to the nearest escape route. After all in this day and age it was only a matter of time before your supposed friends turned on you. Darien knew that there were only two people that he could truly trust with anything and everything: Rei Hino and her grandfather. And maybe Andrew.

I believe you can get me through the night.

Darien halted his steps as he turned a corner. The neat cursive on the walls had abruptly stopped and directly in front of him was the blonde girl Serena, the apparently selective "mute" who had spoken to him earlier. Of course, what she had said had been confusing. Darien wondered what it was that went on in that head of hers to make her frown at him than give him a weird name like 'Tuxedo Mask'. Serena ignored him as Darien stood there watching her move her pen across the metal. Now that he had a better chance to simply observe her Darien realized that she was older than he'd thought. In the approximately two minutes he had previously seen her Darien had assumed that Serena was about fourteen due to her extremely short height. But now he estimated that she was maybe seventeen or eighteen.

He committed everything he could to memory. Serena wore her hair in two buns with long golden streamers falling from them. Her skin was porcelain white and Darien assumed that she didn't often step off the ship into sunlight. She was almost painfully skinny but still somehow managed to have curves which were covered by a flowing light blue dress that matched her eyes. Glancing at her raised hand Darien thought that he might be able to snap her wrist just by touching it, it was so thin.

Looking at this strange young woman Darien was curious as to what purpose she had on the ship. Okay, so both her cousin and brother worked on the Ice Chamber but surely she had parents or some sort of family that she could instead be with. There had to be some sort of reason why she wasn't living in a comfortable house in one of the cities of the Alliance. Darien didn't understand why the captain allowed Serena to stay on the ship when it was obvious, at least from what he had so far observed, that the only things Serena did were stare at walls and write and so contributed nothing to the working and maintaining of the ship.

So far Serena had not even acknowledged his presence and Darien was determined to change that. He walked a few steps closer so that he was standing directly beside Serena. "What are you writing about?" Darien asked. When Serena didn't reply Darien tried again. "Do you mind if I take a peek and read it?" Still there was no response. Darien was beginning to feel frustrated. "Why did you call me Tuxedo Mask?" Serena continued to act as if there was no there.

After a few more futile attempts Darien decided to play dirty and try to annoy her into talking to him. "You know what your hair reminds me of?" he asked cheerfully. "Odangos. They were this old Terran food from centuries ago. I once saw a visual of them in a history book and those ball things on your head look just like them. Actually that would be a good name for you wouldn't it? Odango Atama." Darien narrowed his eyes at her when she still paid him no attention or replied to his comments. 'Right then,' he thought. 'Six year old tactics it is.' Reaching out he grabbed one of Serena's pigtails and tugged on it lightly. When that didn't work he pulled on it again slightly harder this time. Again Serena ignored both him and the jerk of her head to the side. With a sigh Darien released her hair. "Fine I give up." He patted her on the back as he said, "I'll talk to you later Serena."

Serena turned her head and watched him as Darien walked away and disappeared around another corner. Her hand continued to write out the pictures in her head even though her glazed over eyes were no longer staring at the wall. Tuxedo Mask turned and disappeared into the night clutching the Rainbow Crystal tightly in his hand.

Neph turned in his seat when he heard someone enter his domain, the cockpit. "G'day," he greeted. "You must be the new passenger."

Darien nodded in greeting and sat down in the empty chair at the controls console. "Darien Hino at your service."

"Nice to meet you. I'm Neph, pilot extraordinaire of this here junk bucket."

Darien raised an eyebrow at the name Neph offered but chose not to ask any questions. He could understand the need to conceal one's identity at times and if Neph didn't want to be forthcoming about who he was that was fine especially since Darien wasn't currently using his real name either. "Pilot extraordinaire, eh? How long have you been flying for?"

"First began learning when I was eighteen so that would be seven years. But enough about me. I already know about myself. Tell me about yourself. Where're you from?"


"Got any family?"

"Just my younger cousin and her grandfather." No need to go giving strangers his life story.

Neph glanced at Darien out of the corner of his eye after hearing the brevity of his answers. "You don't much like talking about yourself do you?"

"Do you?" Darien retorted.

Before Neph had a chance to either answer or come up with a quick quip another man entered the cockpit. Pretty sure that he had met everyone else onboard Darien pegged this new player as being the captain Kunzite. Kunzite's gaze landed on Darien and his always suspicious eyes took in everything about the man, from his messy black hair to his relaxed position in the console chair, that had paid 1000 parlos to get on the Ice Chamber. "You must be the man Hino that Ami and Mina have been telling me about," Kunzite stated with little emotion.

"And you're the captain of this fine looking ship," Darien replied just as emotionlessly. "Mind if I ask you a question? Why did you call it 'Ice Chamber'?"

"Let me ask you a question. Have you ever been on a ship that has no heating during the middle of the night in the middle of winter?"

"No." Darien thought he might be able to see where this was going.

"Well there's your answer. That happened to me right after I bought the ship. I'm surprised I didn't freeze to death in the month before I was able to get a heating device to properly function. I decided to affectionately name my ship Ice Chamber in memory of that month."

"Great story." Darien didn't actually think so though. He'd been hoping for something a bit more interesting or quirky.

Kunzite gave Darien another once-over. He could feel cockiness and smarminess pouring out of the dark-haired man but couldn't tell if it was real or an act which was annoying him. Usually Kunzite could get the measure of any man or woman with just one glance. "Why were you so eager to get out of Questacon Hino?"

"I was originally there for a holiday. But after a few days of everything going wrong I just wanted out. I was pretty much willing to do anything to get out of that place I was so sick of it." 'Well at least the part about everything going wrong is the truth,' he thought.

"And why are you going to Canberranoire?"

"I've got business there. How close can you get me?"

"The closest we ever go to the capital is Alintarouge. You'll have to find another ship from there."

"Alintarouge? Really? That might be even better than going to the capital. So how long will it take to get there?"

"It all depends. A week. Maybe two."

"Lovely. It all seems to be in order so I think I might go back to my cabin and have a small nap. I'm feeling rather tired." Darien stood up and moved next to Kunzite at the door. "It was great meeting you Neph. We'll have to continue our conversation later, eh? Good to get acquainted with you too Kunz."

"It's Kunzite," he informed Darien coldly.

Darien smirked. "Of course it is."

When the door had closed behind him, Kunzite sat down in the seat Darien had vacated. He looked over at Neph and said, "I don't trust him."

Neph let out a small grin. "No, somehow I didn't think you would."

"I can't get a reading on him at all." Kunzite expelled a breath and rubbed his eyes. "I might not have magical powers like Mina or Serena but my instincts have never led me astray before and now they're not telling me anything about Hino whether it be good or bad. And I don't like that. I don't think it bodes well for anybody."