At the End of the Cherry Blossom Lane
*************************************
.blue.
blue@icedream.f2s.com

"Broken petals from the tree...
Drifting, floating free.
Caught within the current's flow;
Life is just beginning."
("Cherry Blossoms on Water")

A child sat silently within the empty room. Her
large eyes of onyx opened listlessly to watch the golden
ground beneath the gathering sunlight. Dark hair spelt
in contrast to the bright day outside; in contrast to
everything around her.

The apartment floor is bare now. The futon gone.

Her mother was dead.

Her father had explained to her in plain and
honest words. He did not pity her wide-eyed confusion
and she had learned a long time ago -- since her mother's
sickness -- that he would never pity her state nor her
pain and loneliness.

Strength and image meant everything.

That much he had taught her.

She had stood beside him, tall and straight at
her mother's funeral. She still remembered that soft and
fragile smile, filling those warm blue eyes with light as
dark chestnut hair spelt beneath her. She remembered the
cool touch, lifting to her brow as her mother caressed
her hair, telling her how much she wished that she could
get up from her sick bed and brush away the tangles from
her beautiful hair. Since then, she had taken care to
brush her long mane, not wanting her mother to worry too
much. Father showed nothing but cool control in her
presence, but once she had caught him holding her
mother's hand gently, eyes devoid of that emptiness
within.

Father never cried.

And he had caught her that time, thoroughly
beating her to teach her to never interrupt him again
without knocking on the door. "It's impolite to walk in
like that." He had told her calmly as he slashed her
body with the long black belt, welt upon welt. She had
wailed and cried then, but the beating only became worse
until she could only wimper, half unconcious from the
endless pain.

It was then when it stopped.

She kept her distance from him and he said
nothing to her mother. She too kept her own silence, not
wanting mother to be worried. But it was a while before
she could sit without wincing, or bow without
acknowledging the pain along her back. From then on, she
had learned not to cry for mercy in the face of pain and
hatred and coldness. She learned to quiet her fear and
her indignition in the face of anger and rejection. She
learned the mask of calmness, of how to suffer silently
without a sound, and how to hide from the world outside
all that she kept within herself.

It was safer that way, that much father had
taught her.

It was the only thing of otou-san's that she had
kept to remember him by in her heart.

Her ojii-san never found out about that day when
she saw her father at his weakest moment. Never knew of
her otou-san's reaction to such a discovery. She did not
feel the need to enlighten her pain onto others. The
belt had taught her the meaning of silence and she had
kept her vow of strength since then.

Father was weak.

He could not bring up the courage to move on.

From him, she would learn.

Mother would never know that she feared crying at
her funeral.

Others would never understand how hard she bite
the insid of her mouth that day to keep silent. The
taste of blood still reminded her of that time, and even
now, she will not cry at the memories of her past losses;
her past regrets.

She forgotten how for such a long time. Kept
everyone at bay from the pain within her that festered
and threaten to break her. But she refused to be broken
by such memories as the carefree laughter of her mother
and the smile that used to appear on her father's face
when everything was okay.

Mother was an angel now.

Mother would no longer have to worry about
sickness or death or pain.

Mother was safe.

And most of all, mother would never know the
secret she kept within her silent heart.

* * *

Kaidou was a beautiful and sharp looking young
man and had been like that since she had first known him.
He was the one constant in her life before Minako, before
Usagi. Outside of the shrine and her ojii-san, she had
not known love, nor did she wish to.

Except for Kaidou.

Except for him.

The first time she met him, she had thought him
handsome, but she had met and seen many handsome men.
The first time she had talked to him, she had deemed him
intelligent, but she had been able to tell that too from
the shrewed clearness in his eyes. The first time she
knew she loved him, she had kept it a secret, even from
herself because such a thought had surprised her, because
such a thought could break her.

The first time she heard the one song she would
never forget, she knew it was their song.

Rain Tree.

Like a mist of dew upon the jungle leaves and
ancient, tar-colored trunks. Of cherry blossoms falling
just before winter, a pink snow shower to greet the
coming of a new season. Like a drop of water that would
cause an infinite ripple within an infinite sea.

Rain Tree.

Her song.

Their song.

She had wore those dresses of white and gossmar
satin, gathering the lilies of purity in her arms and
pretending, for the few times in her life, that she had
not yet lost her innocence. That there never had been
pain in her days and in her youth. Love had been like a
drug, a drug that made it easier to forget yesterday and
remember today. A drug that made her happy for the first
time in a long time.

And the drug's name was Kaidou.

And his scent was like the scent of fire.

That was how she would always remember him. A
man who's eyes could pierce the soul and who smelled of
the flames. She would remember him, in her mind, sitting
coolly under the lights of the dim resaurant with cherry
blossoms falling around him like faint ghosts and the
Rain Tree playing its melancholy songs of the past,
wrapping its arms around them both. It had been sad and
romantic.

He had been her first brush with love.

The first man Hino Rei had ever let into her
heart since Otou-san.

And he would be, the last man to reside there.

That kiss, their last, had been beneath the
cherry blossoms falling.

Still, she would only remember him as the first
man to give her the beautiful flowers. Casablancas, he
called them.

She would remember him for the white dresses
still hanging in her closest, never to be worn again.

She would remember him for their song and his
scent and the cherry blossoms falling all around her.

He was the only one who still believed in her
innocence. Who showered her in white, in the colors of
youth. She had forgotten their comforts, but his
expectations had brought them back. Maybe it was better
this way. Maybe it should always be a memory of what it
was like to have someone still believe in something that
had long been lost and gone into the dark.

Her first love.

Her last.

Kaidou-san.

'We're the same. You and I. Kindred spirits.'

But times has changed and they have changed.

He had left her under the falling cherry blossoms
for another. And she would've liked to have hated him,
but she could not. Could not regret her first kiss under
the falling blossoms. Could not regret the feel of each
petal of the casablancas on her birthday and the white
dresses hanging on the racks. Could not regret the scent
of fire and the soft pressure of his lips on hers.

But she could move on.

She had done so before with the memory of her
mother residing in her mind.

She shall do it again with the memory of his lips
on her own and the feeling of belonging in her heart.

Moving on.

It meant only another step forward.

* * *

There was coughing in the other room and she rose
from her bed immediately at the sound. Groggily she slid
open the screen and looked inside. "Daijoubu-yo
ojii-san?"

Are you alright, grandfather?

It seems to be the question she was constantly
asking now.

It worried her to see him like this, so weak and
helpless. And she knew ojii-san hated feeling this way
too.

"Did I wake you Rei-chan?" He gasped and coughed
again. He shook under the force of the cough and she saw
the dark stain on his hand and the beddings.

"Ojii-san!" She gasped, now fully awake as she
rushed to his side. "Baka!" She said worriedly as she
wrapped her arms around him. "We're going to the
hospital whether you like it or not!"

He protested like he always did but she would not
listen.

Now, all she could remember of the hospital was
the white walls and the shining tiles. She remembered
seeing herself looking up into her eyes from the
reflection beneath her feet. She remembered the busy
nurses and doctors hurrying to and fro. And most of all,
she remembered the snow white of the doctor's lab coat,
the look in those dark eyes as he told her in a calming
voice.

"Your grandfather is dying."

Her eyes widened then and she wanted to deny
those words, wanted to turn back the time and stop
herself from hearing it when it left the doctor's lips
and traveled to her ears.

"Do you have any relatives you could live with
for these few days while he stays in the hospital?"

She shook her head still in denial. But the
truth was already sinking in. "No. If ojii-san is
dying, he would wish to be home. Not here."

The doctor looked startled. "But he would need
to be cared for all the time, until he is gone."

"Then I will take care of him!" She told the man
fiercely before storming past him and toward her
ojii-san's room.

"But how can you? You're just a child!" The
doctor grabbed her arm and she turned her eyes of dark
flames to the taller man. They burned with an intensity
that startled the other to letting go of her arm.

"If you must, you can ask my ojii-san what he
wishes at this point in time. Otherwise, you have no
right!" She turned once more and continued, with
stubborn determination, toward her ojii-san's room.

They released him after that, because ojii-san
refused to stay there any longer and she was put to the
grueling task of taking care of him for the days to come.
She never regreted them, but it is hard to watch him
slip away like that, hard to watch him die before her
very eyes.

Here, this beautiful, old man. Who never raised
a hand to her and offered her everything. A home, a
sanctuary, a peace that she had never discovered until
she had discovered the sacred fire. He was the gentle,
guiding hand of her youth. The first man to ever truly
love her and accept her for who she was.

Her true father.

And now he lie there on that bed, so weak and
wreaked with sickness of the lungs. He's dying and she,
a senshi and protector of the Earth, cannot protect his
life from this disease.

She kneels beside him, hands folded over her lap.
Watching him sleeping at last, with that calm face of
pure serenity. His chest rises in a steady rythm,
reassuring me of his life and his stubborness to let it
go. But she cannot stop the pain within that is slowly
closing over her heart, trapping her with despair.

She is helpless against this entity known as age,
known as death.

It kneels over yonder, facing her, sitting in
quiet patience, waiting for her grandfather to give up on
life. To leave her behind as did all that she had ever
loved and held dear to her heart.

She too am defient and unwilling to let go.

Thus she do not sleep, for fear that he would
leave her if she closed her eyes. For fear that he would
disappear into nothingness if she allow the darkness to
take over her.

Yet, the nights creep by, as does the days, and
she sat there watching in vigil over him. Sometimes she
had to go to make him food, in hopes that perhaps the
doctors were wrong and that he would survive. She
touched his hand and clasp it onto her lap, hoping she
could contain his life and his soul in that hand hold and
never let go. He murmurs something in his sleep and she
feels her eyes burn with tears that she had not shed for
as long as she could remember.

She sat there beside him watching.

That was all she could do in her hopelessness.

Watch.

Nothing more.

Here are the moments she could make believe that
nothing had changed. Here are the moments she could
imagine that there would not be times when he would shake
for perhaps a minute or an hour, body wreaked with
coughing, blood slipping past his teeth and lips and
gushing over his chin onto his pale hands.

Here she could pretend immortality and
foreverness.

Here, life would never end, and for once she
would be able to contain this life, so precious to her,
in her hands and never let go of it. She is Sailor
Senshi Mars, defender of Earth and a protector of the
Moon Princess, can she not protect one life? One life so
important to her?

The nights are catching up to her and she falls
asleep during her vigil. She does not wish to close
those tired eyes that had seen death creep slowly toward
her ojii-san, reaching for his other hand to gently pull
him out of hers and away from her.

She had lived with death before, but now she
knows it and understands it. Now, she can see it waiting
patiently for her to slip and let go. Slip so he could
pull this man, the most important man in her life, away,
forever out of her grasp.

She falls.

And he is gone.

She could never describe what it was like to wake
up to see his blue lips and his peaceful smile.

How much sorrow and pain and loneliness caught up
with her in that single moment.

She sat there stuned beneath the onslaught of her
emotions deep within, shocked as she drowned and
astounded by her losses.

He was gone forever from her grasps and all she
could do is stare and slowly shake her head in denial.

She wanted to curl up beside him and wrap her
arms around him, and pretend. Pretend again that he was
alright and just asleep. She wanted to curl up into a
ball and turn her face to the wall and cry and weep and
let it all go.

Instead her eyes are dry and awake and she
stands.

She arranged the funeral and the guests and the
people that would come. Her friends paid their
sympathies and it was Usagi who cried on her shoulder and
grieved for her ojii-san. It was Makoto who looked
haunted at the presence of another funeral. It was Ami
who's tearful eyes turned to her, questioning,
understanding. And it was Minako who held onto her hand,
eyes pleading with her to let it go, to let it all go and
just cry her feelings out of herself.

Would she be empty then?

An empty shell of Hino Rei?

Would she be a full Sailor Senshi Mars then? No
longer human?

And she feared, refusing to cry because otou-san
taught her long ago that strength and image are more
important than anything else in the world.

It was who she was.

It was Hino Rei, the quiet sufferer who never
voiced her pain.

She didn't want to let that go, not yet, not
ever.

* * *

Michiru's music always reminded her of her past
and the people that she knew. It always made her
remember. Always.

She sat beneath the weeping willow, listening to
the piano's keys dance to the notes beneath Haruka's
fingers, mingling itself with Michiru's violin. It's
sorrowful cries filled the atmosphere with wifts of
memories from long ago that would dance on each clean
note of the grand piano.

She sat, her back to the rough bark and her eyes
cast out to the sky, past the weavering leaves of the
willow tree.

'Will you come with me?'

She started and looked around, sure that she
heard a voice. But the others looked lost in their own
thoughts and no one seemed to have reacted. It was just
her imagination, or perhaps another memory she did not
wish to recall.

The music was hypnotic and soon she was looking
to the infinite sky again, past the green leaves wavering
like ocean waves.

'The moon is out, I must go.'

She blinked again at the voices calling.

'Sayonara, my love.'

The ghostly blossoms of the cherry tree drifted
around her.

A dark universe of shadows and only the lighted
tree with its garnald trunk took over her world, took
over her mind and her sight and her senses.

'Will I see you again?'

The blossoms wavered.

'The alliance has been broken--'

The breeze pulled on the pregnant blossoms.

'I know this is wrong, but I must also know the
truth!'

And the petals descended upon the white flesh
gleaming beneath the moonlight that had been misplaced.

'The truth? There is only right and wrong
between the two of us now.'

The scent of crushed petals rose into the air...

'I don't believe that... what's between us... has
ever been that... simple.'

And the white of the lily drowned in the pink
blossoms, it's scent dwarfed by the death of the pink
petals, and its hidden beauty, covered over by this
universal sea of blood between them...

'I don't know what to believe in anymore.'

The breeze scattered some of the petals to reveal
that soft white flesh. That whitness that has fallen
before it was buried.

'You coward! All I had wished for was that you
would believe in me!'

The violin sung, pentrating the still air.
Neither heard the sound that matched the mood, the music
that enticed the memories of forgotten pasts to be
evoked. The strands of each branch and each leaf, swayed
beneath the sun.

The white hands, gloved and covered rove over the
rough bark of the old trunk.

The white shirt he wore beneath his uniform
wavered in the breeze.

His hair gleaming white-gold beneath the
moonlight.

'I cannot.'

Her hand covered his sun bronzed flesh and she
looked into his stormy eyes, uncertain eyes that no
longer held the confidence she was used to seeing, no
longer was it the unwavering glow at the center of the
burning flame.

'You've changed. Would you rather be a stranger?
Is that what you wish for? If so, tell me now, before
this goes on any further.'

Those eyes looked to hers and she saw only fear.

'I don't know.'

She closed her own.

'I love you.'

She told him honestly and pulled away. He did
not stop her.

There had been so much she had wanted to say and
so much she didn't because they no longer mattered.

'Good night, hime-sama.'

His whisper washed over her.

'Sayonara, kindred spirit.'

It was her only answer, and the only name she
would ever call him from then on.

* * *

The years go by like days and the people passes
and disappears like melting snow and the changing of
seasons. One moment she was standing on the foreign
Earth, saying goodbye to the one man she had ever loved.
The next she is here, watching the world live and die
like rising tides of the changing sea.

Neo-Queen Serenity sits before her, saddened by
the events that forced them all to recall the days gone
by. She had lost much to be where she is now, but she
had gained much in return.

Princess Lady Serenity sits near her mother, her
hands collapsed together in concentration as she focused
onto the Helios of the past, giving him the prophecy that
shall unite him to her and unleash the golden crystal of
her great father. King Endymion sits in the throne
beside the two women of his life and he smiles that smile
of wisdom and calm that had been earned after years of
hardship.

Venus, Mercury and Jupiter stands beside her and
they all look on with worry. Nothing should go wrong,
but worry is part of their job and something could always
go wrong.

She have not seen Neptune and Uranus for years.
Saturn is but a memory and her grave is enshrined deep
within the palace. They visit now and then and sometimes
they would talk to her. Maybe she hears them -- the
living -- maybe she doesn't. She only knew that
nowadays, more as she listened to Neptune's music more
and more, accompanied with Uranus' daft fingers that
would run over the keys of the piano like the wind.
Everything about those two is sad and romantic all at
once...

Now, she lives for her Queen. She lives for the
King by Neo-Serenity's side and the Princess at the
Queen's feet -- growing into a woman by each passing
moment. She live for the friends and kindred spirits
next to her and the dreams that still thrives within her
heart that they share as well. She live for the music
Neptune plays and the memories they bring to her.

She lives.

She lives because she could not die.

She cannot join those who have already passed her
by. Tonight, she hoped to close her eyes and maybe
tomorrow she will not wake, but that is all she can hope
for.

Tonight, she'll close her eyes with the sound of
Neptune's violin dancing on the waves and the scent of
casablancas in her room.

Tonight, hopefully, there'll be no more memories
hidding in the shadows, waiting to be rediscovered by her
unwavering heart and her dried up eyes.

She watch this girl before her, this princess and
her mother and father behind her. Immortals, they would
never die, and she would never have to experience the
losses that the Senshi had to experienced. She would
never have to watch those close to her wither away with
age and die at the hands of Death while she sat in vigil,
in hopes of holding onto that thread of their lives for
them.

Lady Serenity would never know.

But she knew.

Hino Rei knows it all.

She stood there, feeling her eyes widen.

How long has it been since she used that name?
Is she still Hino Rei? That earth girl, who's trapped
between duty and life? Who's family left her, who's
father and grandfather and mother and lover all died at
the hands of age? Did she survive after all this time?

She stood there watching this girl going to the
past one last time to create an unchanging future. Lady
Serenity.

Her own shadow stands beside her and it is not
the shadow of Hino Rei. The realization scares her
because she had always been afraid of that, of losing
herself.

Who is she now?

Mars. She is Mars. Sailor Senshi Mars.

That is what her shadow tells her.

Duty was the only thing she lived for now.

Nothing more.

Everyone she had ever known and loved, were gone.
Everything that had ever belonged to Hino Rei was gone.
All she had left are remembrances of that girl who had
died within her on her journey to her destiny, on her
journey to utopia.

She only have the white dresses that was still
hung within her closest, protected from decay. She only
have the casablancas to remind her fo the people gone and
she still had the cherry blossoms haunting her dreams,
night after night.

Nothing but memories.

Nothing left.

* * *

And at the end of the cherry blossom lane, I saw
you standing there waiting for me. You hands stretch out
to me and I saw your blond hair flying in the breeze as
the cherry blossoms float around us and their scent
threading through your hair. The sun is shining there,
and still I linger in the shadows of the path that I have
chosen and I look into your deep blue eyes. I am
startled at what I see there because it is then I realize
that I have never known you. Are you Minako, the sister
of my heart? Jadeite, the first man I have ever loved?
Kaidou-san, the man who believed in my youth? Or are you
Usagi, the girl-child that became a Queen, forever lost
to me in her innocence? You are all lost to me, I
realize because there you stand at the end of the lane,
while I linger in the shadows of my past. "Rei-chan." I
do not know who's calling to me now, but I cannot help
myself but to look behind me. There she stood,
confronting me. She's Hino Rei, standing in the shadowed
paths behind me, waiting for me.

She's so young, and yet her eyes are not so
innocent. She's not wise but she is sad, and sadness
ages people in ways that joy can never accomplish. She
meets my eyes and I see myself again, only this time I'm
older and more experienced. I have tasted the true
meaning of loneliness and it saddens my heart more at the
thought. She smiles and I am confronted by a woman that
I had long forgotten during my journey, and she is
burdened by the weight of her duty and yet has maintained
a stubbornness to tears that could never be broken.
Vulnerabilty was not in her list of vocabulary and she
refuse to learn to use it or even acknowledge its
existence.

I reach out my hand to her, in hopes that I could
ease her pain, but she does not wish for my pity.
Instead she reach for me in return to ease my ignorance
and our hands brush in reunion. Now, I am no longer Hino
Rei, the girl of Earth born with the power of
clairvoyance, the power that made the humans of Earth
shun me. I am Sailor Senshi Mars, protector of the last
heir to the throne of the House of the Moon. And I can
only cry for the girl child that had suffered at the
hands of fate, who never had a chance at real innocence,
but I must turn for that is not my path and I have always
known it. Hino Rei only reminded me of my own destiny.
With my back to my past, I step forth into the sunlight
at the end of the cherry blossom lane. You smile at me
when I touched your hand, and the mourning for the dead
Earth girl evaporates like the storm clouds after the
rain. Hino Rei had died like the people she had once
loved and Mars shall rise in her place again. She was
like the forgotten phenoix in her dark cove, revived from
her sleep and impatient for the feel of the wind on her
wings again.

The casablancas are no longer buried by the
petals of the cherry blossoms, instead, they line the
road that leds me from the shadows to you. You who
always waited for me at the end of my wanderings, you who
will always be there for me after my weary travels
through my journeys as a senshi. My duty had once
weighted me down and I hid it in the shadows of my past,
but now I step forth into the light and the brilliant
morning, reawakened from my sleep into this world of
dreams.

I finally allow myself to be engulfed in your
light and I close my eyes to the blinding white, opening
my arms to the blossoms that surrounds me, feeling the
sun on my back as I soar into the endless blue. I am no
longer lingering in the shadows of my chosen path,
instead I bask in the after glow of my forgotten love,
and I find myself, no longer lost at the end of the
cherry blossom lane.


.The End.



.blue.
blue@icedream.f2s.com


Between Makoto and Rei, I can't decide who
is more miserable ^-^;; But why don't you
tell me after reading this and then reading
Mako-chan's story? Ne?

I *was* going to have Rei murmure Jadeite's
name during her memories of the Silver
Millennium, but I thought that would just
ruin the affect. To save you the time to
email me with speculations of who the
mysterious cute blond is, it's Jadeite.
If you are screaming no and demanding it
be another mysterious cute blond... too bad!
I ADORE *manga* Jadeite *clings to her dark
king* so ;p

For those of you reading When All The Good
Angels Sleep, I am sorry to say that for now
you will have to wait until the beginning of
September for the next few chapters. Granted
the story is almost done, I've got about two
more parts to do and it's over with. But I
have just gotten this wonderful letter from my
new editor and there's a LOT of things to
change, to restructure, ect. (Plus, my editor's
unavailable right now). Therefore, it is to my
greatest regret that you will have to all wait
about three months for the next few chapters.
Fear not! When it is done, I will post the whole
story, edited -- hopefull without any errors by
then -- for you to read. There are still a few
plot holes to fill, and about twenty more scenes
to write, but all in all, it's pretty much done.
Hey, look on the bright side! I'm moving faster
than Angus-chan is with Sailor Moon 4200! Thank
you for your patience!

WARNING!: The poem at the beginning of this
story is mine; it is also a published poem.
Therefore, if you plagerize, you'd be breaking
a law and I'd be MORE than happy to sue
you -- since it means money for me! Thus,
if you wish to use it, please, ask for
permission and deprive me of the need take you
to court ^-^v Thanx a bunch! ^-^


.blue.
blue@icedream.f2s.com

© 2001 by blue