by Naia Zifu

Exquisitely-dressed couples in animal-themed half-masks twirled
and glided across the dance floor in time to the hypnotic music, giving
the whole room the look of some great music box.
It was the night of my sixteenth birthday and my parents had
spared no expense to throw me an extravagant masquerade ball, but I
didn't feel much like celebrating. I just stood alone in a corner,
wearing my best formal suit with its white ruffled shirt and long,
gold-trimmed blue jacket, watching the guests with a bored expression.
"Why are you just standing there?" my mother asked "It's your
birthday, dear. This whole affair is in your honour, so why don't you
go out there and dance?"
"You know how I hate these stuffy balls, Mother," I protested,
tugging disgustedly at a ruffled sleeve. "Besides, I just don't feel
much like dancing tonight."
"Nonsense! This is your special day and you should be
celebrating. This room is full of young, eligible women who would give
anything to meet you, so go out there and mingle."
"I don't mingle."
My mother argued, "And therein lies the problem, dear. If you
don't mingle and meet girls, how can you ever expect to find a bride?"
I looked at the floor and shrugged. "Who cares? I don't know
if I even want to get married. Why is everyone pressuring me so much
to marry a princess anyway?"
"Because you're the prince of Uranus," she replied, "and that's
what princes do."
"Yeah? Well maybe I don't want to be a prince anymore," I
argued. "Maybe I just want to live a normal life for once and--"
Suddenly a beautiful girl caught my eye from across the room.
She was wearing a long, full lavender gown with an off-the-shoulders
neckline, decorated with ruffles and flowers. White roses adorned her
soft aqua curls at either side of her angelic face. She was the only
woman in the room not wearing a mask, so her big, exotic eyes and
delicate features were in full view. I'd never seen her before, didn't
know her name, didn't even know whether she was a princess, but I was
determined to meet her nonetheless.
I self-consciously straightened my jacket and shirt ruffles,
and finger-combed my short sandy hair before gathering the nerve to
approach her, feathered hawk mask hiding my face so she wouldn't see
how I was blushing.
"Excuse me, Miss," I began, trying to keep my voice calm and
level, "would you care to dance?"
She looked up at me with those fathomless deep-blue eyes,
smiling and blushing prettily.
"I-I'd be honoured," she replied, and offered her hand. "I'm
Amphitrite, Princess of Neptune."
I bowed politely and kissed the back of her gloved hand.
"Prince Meliai of Uranus," I replied.
"_You're_ Prince Meliai?" she asked, sounding surprised.
"What's wrong, I'm not what you expected?"
Amphitrite blushed again and admitted, "Well, no. . .but I'm
not disappointed. If you're Meliai, I guess this whole fancy ball
must be for you. Happy birthday."
"Thanks, but it's not really a happy occasion for me. I'm
sixteen today. My parents have already begun nagging me to find a
"You don't want to marry?"
I shrugged. "I don't know, I guess I never really thought
about it. I just don't think it would be fair."
"Not fair?" she repeated. "To whom?"
"To whomever has the misfortune to marry me," I said. "I
could never give her a family or a normal life. I can't imagine any
woman would ever want me."
She lowered her eyes shyly and murmured, "I know one who
already does."
The music changed to a slow-paced, romantic ballad, and
Amphitrite moved to dance closer to me, but I pulled away.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
"Princess. . .Amphitrite. . .there's something I think you
should know about me," I began.
"What is it?"
I looked around nervously before answering, "I-I think it
would be better if we go somewhere more private for this. Come on."
I took the Princess' hand and led her out onto the balcony.
At that time of night the sky was painted a rich navy,
sprinkled with the glitter of a million stars. The majestic gas giant
Uranus loomed large on the horizon, shining pale blue, her sideways
rings faintly visible. Her other moons hung in the sky like glowing
pearls, their pale, silvery light making the princess' alabaster skin
seem almost luminous.
A cold wind mussed her hair and raised gooseflesh on her bare
arms. I took off my gold-trimmed jacket and wrapped it around her
"You're sure you won't be cold?" she asked.
I shook my head. "Nah, I'm used to it. I like the wind."
"Very well," she agreed. "So what is it were you going to tell
"Amphitrite, before you go off and fall in love with me--"
"Too late," she interrupted, "I already have."
She went on tiptoe to kiss me, an innocent peck on the lips at
first, but when I didn't protest she kissed me again, longer and more
passionately. She pulled me closer, held my body tight against her
own, and in the heat of the moment it didn't occur to me to mind.
Suddenly I found myself being shoved away roughly and faced
with a cold, angry glare that had come over the princess' gentle
"You're a _girl?!_" she cried, wiping her lips in disgust.
"Well, yeah, that's what I was trying to tell you," I said
sheepishly, staring at my shoes. "The reason you shouldn't fall in
love with me, why I'm so reluctant to marry, is because I'm kind
of. . .not a real prince."
Amphitrite sat down and held her face in her hands. "Gods, I
feel so stupid," she said. "The prince of Uranus is a girl. I was
swooning over a girl, falling in love with a girl, kissing a girl. . ."
"You're not stupid, Amphitrite," I assured her. "No-one knew.
My gender has been the family secret all my life. Besides my family
and a few of the servants, you're the first person to even know. I
thought it was only fair to tell you before things got too serious."
"You're right," she agreed. "You're right. Thank you for
being honest."
"You hate me now, don't you? I can't say I blame you. I'll
understand if you want nothing to do with me after this."
Amphitrite looked up at me, the beginnings of tears in her
eyes. "No, I didn't say that. I-I know it sounds crazy, but some-
how. . .somehow, knowing you're a girl. . .it hasn't changed the way I
feel about you."
I blinked disbelievingly. "It hasn't?"
She stood and took my hands in her own, smiling through her
"I loved you from the moment I saw you, Meliai. I know I
reacted badly when I found out, but that was just surprise. The more
I think about it, the less all that seems to matter. I feel as if you
and I were meant to be together, no matter what."
"But you know I can't marry you--" I began.
"And why not?" she interrupted. "You look like a prince, you
live like a prince--no-one will ever know the difference."
"It just wouldn't be fair to you," I protested.
"And denying me my first love, my first real chance at
happiness, is?"
"No, I suppose not," I said with a sigh. "I just hope you've
thought this through enough to know what you're getting yourself into."
"Don't worry, I promise I'll be the perfect wife to you," she
gushed. "I won't even mind not having children as long as I have you.
And I promise never to tell anyone you're a girl." She paused and
cocked her head to one side, a curious expression on her face. "Why
have you been pretending to be a boy all your life, anyway?"
"Because my parents are selfish," I replied with a smirk.
"They knew if they had a daughter she'd have to become a Senshi and
they'd probably lose her to the wars, but if they had a son. . ."
"I see where this is going. If they had a son he could marry
a princess and live in the kingdom indefinitely."
I nodded. "So they falsified the records to say their baby was
a boy and then proceeded to raise me as such. They kept my hair short
and dressed me in boys' clothes, and taught me how to speak and act
like a proper prince. I didn't even know I was a girl until my first
anatomy lesson in school."
"You poor girl," she said, touching my cheek, "they never even
told you your real gender? How awful you had to find out in such a
"Yeah, I was furious! I went right home and demanded the
truth. It took some prodding, but my parents finally explained every-
"And you still went along with it? I can't imagine how
terrible it must be for you, a whole lifetime of pretending to be
something you're not."
"Terrible? Not really," I replied with a shrug. "This is the
only life I've ever known, and I'm happy enough living just the way I
am. I've never worn a dress or make-up in my life. I don't know
anything about those things. But I don't think that's so terrible. I
can't imagine what it must be like to worry about ladylike manners and
looking pretty to impress boys all the time."
"You don't worry about impressing boys?" Amphitrite asked.
"Well, no, I suppose you wouldn't, being raised like one. You try to
impress girls, then?"
I shrugged. "I've never worried about impressing anyone,
actually," I replied. "I just keep true to myself and do what makes
me happy without regard to what others may think."
"Somehow I knew you'd say that," she said dryly. "But don't
worry, I find the real you impressive enough already."
"You know you're the first person ever to say that?"
"Not surprising, as you've never told anyone about your real
self before."
"I've never liked anyone enough to tell before."
"Your secret stops with me," she promised. "I'll tell no-one."
"Out of embarrassment?"
Amphitrite punched me lightly in the arm.
"Out of affection, of course!" she protested. "Are you always
this self-deprecating?"
"Who's being self-deprecating? It's my parents who said after
I marry my secret is safe, because my wife will be too embarrassed to
admit being fooled," I said. "But I prefer it like this anyway. I'd
rather have a girl stay with me because she wants to than because
she's too embarrassed to leave."
"I'm not embarrassed of you," she insisted. "You look and act
like a man. No-one knows you aren't. So what is there to be
embarrassed about?"
I frowned. So she was only still interested in me because no-
one else knew I was a girl? I guess I should have expected as much,
but I didn't. Not from her.
"I didn't mean that as badly as it sounded," she said.
I shrugged and pretended not to be bothered.
"No need to apologise. It's an understandable position. After
all, how many princesses would want to admit falling for a girl?"
"I will," she volunteered, and I must've looked disbelieving,
because she repeated more strongly, "I will!"
Amphitrite took my arm in a surprisingly firm grasp and dragged
me back into the ballroom.
"Meliai," my mother called, "your father and I have been
looking all over for you. We were afraid you'd left."
"Forgive me, Your Highness," the princess said, curtseying.
"I'm the one responsible for monopolising your prince's time."
"And you are?"
"Princess Amphitrite of Neptune," she introduced herself with
a deeper, more proper curtsey.
My mother looked pleased at that.
"Ah, that's more like it, then. Just the type of company a
young, handsome, _available_ prince should keep. And how are the two
of you getting on so far?"
"Just splendidly," Amphitrite replied. "Meliai is a charming
and truly beautiful person, inside and out."
My mother, seeming oblivious to the princess' choice of words,
just smiled and replied proudly, "That he is."
"Mother," I began, swallowing over the lump in my throat,
"I know Amphitrite and I have only spent one evening together so far,
but we've come to care about one another so much already it feels like
we were somehow meant to be. We were kind of toying around with the
idea of. . .well. . .you know. . ."
Amphitrite giggled at my sudden bout of shyness and finished
for me, "We've decided to get married."
"Already?" my mother asked, stunned at the suddenness of the
announcement. "You've met and proposed to a girl all on one evening?"
"No. . .well, I haven't exactly proposed yet. . ." I replied.
That's something I should never have said in front of my mother
at one of her big, fancy gatherings. It only put ideas in her head,
encouraging her to make exactly the kind of big scene I always tried to
stay away from.
Once she'd dragged Amphitrite and me to the front of the room
and gotten everyone's attention, she happily announced, "I've just
received an unexpected bit of good news. It seems our son has already
chosen a bride." A pause for the collective sighs of many young women
whose hopes to marry the handsome Uranian prince had just been dashed,
then, "But since he has yet to propose, I thought it appropriate he do
so here in sight of everyone, so we might all share in this joyous
Amphitrite was positively glowing, basking in the attention.
I, on the other hand, had been edging away throughout my mother's
speech in hopes of making my escape and avoiding public humiliation. I
would have made it, too, had my father not caught me escaping and
physically stopped me.
Obviously there was to be no getting out of it this time, I
thought with a sigh, wondering if my father knew it was only the public
exposure I was escaping from and not the engagement itself.
Finally I gathered my nerve to say in front of everyone, "Even
though we've only just met in this world, I feel our souls have surely
been paired in some past life, and are sure to be bound together
through many more to come. I would be honoured if you would share the
rest of this life with me, as my bride." Gods, that sounded so cheesy.
I never had been any good at public speaking. Time to hurry and bumble
through the rest and get it over with. . . "Erm. . .I, Prince Meliai
of Uranus, humbly ask you, Amphitrite of Neptune, for your hand in
marriage. So, um, what do you say?"
Some of the crowd laughed at the awkwardness of my proposal,
but I was just glad it was over. Now all she had to say was "yes."
Then the guests would be happy, my parents could be happy, and I could
be happy to get out of the spotlight and back into my quiet corner to
spend the rest of the evening in relative peace. Or at least, in
theory it would have been that easy. . .
"No," Amphitrite replied firmly.
The guests were stunned. My parents were stunned. But most of
all, I was stunned. What had happened to her excitement of moments ago
at becoming the perfect wife for me?
"Excuse me, did you just say, 'no?' " I whispered, embarrassed.
"I said, 'no.' I can't marry any Uranian prince," she began,
and paused a moment before continuing, "because none really exists.
Meliai's real gender is of a girl. It's a secret her family has kept
all her life to prevent her having to become a Senshi. The idea was,
whatever princess she married would be too embarrassed to reveal her
secret, but I'm not embarrassed. Prince or princess, Meliai is lovely
inside and out. She's someone I can feel proud to have by my side, in
this life or any other."
By that time the crowd was in too much commotion to even hear
her, but that didn't matter. Her words were no longer for them anyway.
From seemingly nowhere the princess produced a wooden box about
the length of her forearm.
"I believe in marriage it's customary to exchange some
ceremonial object?" she suggested.
I stared blankly at the box in her hands. "Yeah, but it's
usually just a ring, isn't it?"
"For the average couple, maybe," she replied with a giggle,
"but for you I have something much more substantial."
With what I felt was undue ceremony, she unlatched the box and
opened it to reveal a luxurious red velvet interior. Nestled inside
were two wands, one in blue, and its mate in green. The former seemed
to cry out to my mind, begging me to take it, but as I reached for it I
heard another cry from without.
"Don't touch that!" my mother called. "That's what we've been
trying to protect you from all your life, Meliai. If you accept that,
you'll be giving up any chance of happiness and normalcy in life. You
may never see your home or family again. All we've gone through to
keep you will have been in vain."
But didn't she understand? Now that my secret was out I could
never go back to my normal life even if I wanted to, Amphitrite had
seen to that herself. Whether I accepted the wand or not, my life as
Prince Meliai was over. And yet, I couldn't hate the princess for what
she'd done, because in destroying one world for me, she was opening up
a whole exciting new one.
The blue wand fairly leapt into my hand as I reached for it,
and somehow seemed to mould itself perfectly to my grip. A strange
energy surged through me, filling my body with all the power of the
heavens, and my mind with the memories of generations of wind Senshi
before me. The words came to me like second nature as I held the blue
wand aloft and left Prince Meliai's world behind forever.
"Uranus planet power, Make-up!"

©2000 Naia Zifu, all rights reserved.
Hmm, this story seems for once to have all original characters. . .
although Meliai and Amphitrite are past life versions of SM characters
that I don't own rights to. *wonders if that's just as bad or not*
Anyway, as always, I'm not trying to make money off anyone else's
This fic is what happens when too much _Labyrinth_ mixes with that
icky SOS "Prince of Uranus" story :-P . Hopefully at least my version
is more acceptable. . . *mischievous laughter*
Oh, and a big hug of thanks to Distant for being this fic's first
victim all those months ago :-) . Hope you like the way your little
bedtime story finally came out.