The Dark Moon and the Lotus
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters of the Sailor Moon series.
Author's Note: This story contains spoilers for the end of the Sailor Moon Super S season and the first six episodes of Sailor Stars. This will be my first non-shoujoai story and my first non-romance. Even so, I hope some of you at least will find it interesting, and reviews are always welcome.
She took the soft brush and looked at the cosmetics spread out before her. A smile teased her lips as she chose just the right shade of red, a deep crimson, and ever so delicately used the brush to apply it to her lips. Next came the lavender eye shadow, then the blush. She had a different brush for each, and she never used the same brush twice.
She turned to her left and picked up an exquisite pearl necklace. She fixed it around her neck, thinking to herself that it was just the thing to offset her own perfectly white teeth. Finally, she stood up and adjusted her gown, pulling the top of it down just a bit to show off her cleavage but not enough to be considered vulgar.
At last she was ready. She turned and stood before her great mirror, her oldest and truest friend. She was loved and admired by all, but only her mirror shared her sorrows, her pain, and her loneliness. She had to look her best therefore for her mirror.
After spending a sufficient enough time gazing upon her beauty, she turned away from her childhood friend. It was then she heard the elegant music coming from the great ballroom. With a smile, she left her chamber. She was pampered, sheltered, near pathologically self absorbed and spoiled; all the things a great queen should be.
"My beautiful queen, Lady Neherenia," the man with the neatly-trimmed mustache and powdered wig said as he clicked his heels and bowed in her presence. The Queen of the New Moon nodded regally to him, noting with satisfaction his fresh-pressed uniform and the beautiful lady in waiting standing next to him. She would permit no ugliness, no imperfection, in herself or anyone else within her court or in her presence. All had to be neat, beautiful, spotless and perfect, just like her reflection in her great mirror.
Entering the great ballroom, she saw all the nobles in their finery. As she felt the eyes of all fall upon her and her beauty, she was filled with an overwhelming joy and contentment. Closing her eyes, she savored the moment as a dream was born deep within her heart.
If only things could always be perfect and beautiful like this. If only she could hold onto this moment forever. If only…
If only she could be beautiful forever.
He watched silently as each of them left. First Bharika, then Baspa, Mahanama and Asvajit, each of them in turn expressed their anger, disgust and disappointment in him for what he had done. He watched as the four walked up the small hill, stopped, and took one last look back.
Turning away from them, he turned to the fifth of his former traveling companions, gazing upon him passively as he waited for the man to say his peace.
"What happened to you?"
It was a simple enough question Kayundinya was asking, but the man it was addressed to didn't answer. Instead, he noted the tone of sadness and disillusionment in his companion's voice, and decided rather to remain silent and let him have his say. As their eyes met once again, Kayundinya continued.
"I remember," he began, "When I and the other Brahmin scholars were summoned to the palace by your father the king on your naming ceremony. The others all predicted a two-fold destiny for you. They all declared to King Suddhodana that you would either grow up to be a Chakravarti, a supreme king, or else that you would renounce the world and become a supreme religious leader. I alone predicted that you would not become a king, that instead you would become an enlightened one."
Kayundinya turned away from him, looking down as he continued, "Your father the king's reaction was to be expected. He banished us and all holy men from the court, and tried to shelter you from the truths of the world. I never gave up hope though. Not once in the twenty-nine years you spent sheltered away by your father, not even when I heard you'd married and had a son. And when you did depart, I, and the others, were waiting. We've been with you now for six years. Six years of self mortification. Six years of sleeping out in the elements and starving ourselves to near-death in the quest for truth. And now…"
He turned to face him once again, his face contorted with sadness and pain, "And now you accept milk and rice porridge offered you by a village girl, and then go to bathe in a river? You break your fast, and you abandon both your austerities and the search. Why? I believed in you! I put my faith in you, we all put our faith in you, and you have betrayed us. Just tell me why at least."
He looked at Kayundinya silently for several seconds before taking a deep breath to center himself. "Kayundinya," he said, his voice quiet and calm, "When I was a child, I watched a man plow a field with my father. As I watched him plow the field, toiling back and forth in the dirt, I slipped into a natural meditative state, a state in which I was happy and at peace. There was no pain involved, no starvation or self-deprivation."
"For the last six years, we've tried to attain enlightenment through rigorous self-mortifications. But… What if that's the problem? What if self-mortification isn't a path to enlightenment but, rather, a hindrance? Think of a sitar. If the string is too loose, it will not play. Too tight, and the string will break. The answer lies in between, a middle way."
Kayundinya shook his head, "No! To say that… Then the last six years were for nothing?"
"No, not for nothing," he answered. "Not if it gets us to the point where we recognize our error and remedy it."
"Not us, you," Kayundinya answered. "I can no longer stay. I, too, have come to the conclusion that you have lost the path. I was a fool to have predicted you would one day become an enlightened one, and I see that now."
The man looked away sadly, "I'm sorry you feel that way," he said, "I will not try to stop you from going with the others."
The older man looked at the former prince, "And you," he asked, "What will you do? Are you going to go back to the palace?"
He shook his head, "No," he answered. "I plan on sitting there," he said, pointing to a nearby pipal tree, "I'm going there. I'm going to sit there, beneath that tree, until I either find the truth or die trying."
Kayundinya looked from the younger man to the tree and back. He opened his mouth to say something, but stopped. What more was there to say? Heartbroken, he turned away from his companion of six years and left, joining up with his fellow ascetics and leaving behind the fallen prince.
Queen Neherenia at last returned to her royal chamber, her face still blushing from the adoration of her subjects. The dream deep within her heart had grown stronger. To be young and beautiful forever, to always be loved by her subjects; such a wondrous dream must surely be worthy of being answered. Surely, if anyone deserved eternal youth it was her, the fairest queen of all.
She turned to her great mirror. The mirror that had been with her since childhood, that had watched her grow, witnessed her smiles and her tears, and had never abandoned her. If anyone could tell her if her wonderful dream could come true, it was her mirror.
She stepped before its shining immaculate surface, gazed upon her own loveliness, and smiled.
"Mirror, mirror," she said happily, "Tell me my beautiful future. My dream is for this beauty to be eternal. Please tell me the end of this dream."
The mirror went dark. Queen Neherenia bent forward slightly to gaze into the dark reflective surface, only to scream out in terror in repulsion as she was confronted with a face, her face, wizened and covered in wrinkles.
"W… What is this?" she cried out, her heart racing in fear as she looked away from the hag in the mirror and saw her royal chamber begin to change before her eyes; once shining marble columns suddenly crumbling beneath cobwebs and her dresser covered in layers of webs and thick dust. She was hyperventilating in dread as she looked down in dread at her hands, only to see her once dainty smooth hands old and wrinkled.
"Th… This is," she looked away from her hands back to the mirror, seeing her aged and white-haired reflection looking back at her, "How I will end up?"
Disillusionment and pain filled the great queen. Her dream, her beautiful dream, was all for nothing?
"Dream, dream, don't doubt it."
She looked up suddenly. The words had come from the mirror.
"A dream of dreams that dreaming children have. Dream, dream, don't doubt it. A dream of dreams that dreaming children have."
Over and over, the words repeated themselves, until the mirror once again went dark. As Queen Neherenia watched, one final image appeared in its dark surface.
It was a circus.
"Dream, dream, don't doubt…"
Neherenia covered her ears and closed her eyes as she sank to the ground on her knees. She screamed, tears of pain and anguish rolling down her cheeks as her dreams died. All would grow old, including her. All would decay and crumble to dust, her own beauty included. She began to sob; her mirror, her only friend, had betrayed her. Instead of showing her eternal beauty, it had showed her old age and transience. There was now no one she could turn to, not even her mirror.
"No one," she wept, "Is there no one I might confide to now? No one who might understand this anguish, no one who might have an answer to my sufferings?"
As if in response, the royal chamber around her became filled with a warm light. Looking up, Queen Neherenia saw a new image in her mirror; Earth. A glowing light seemed to emanate from one of the planet's peninsulas.
Neherenia wiped the tears from her face. Hope was once more born within her. Someone understood, and perhaps that someone could help her. Taking a last look around her to make sure all within her chamber was neatly in place, she entered the mirror.
A few seconds later, she exited, and was immediately assaulted by lights, colors, and aromas strange and foreign to her. As the Queen of the New Moon, Neherenia had never known just how bright the sun could be. She shielded her eyes from the intensity, and only then became aware of the throng of onlookers staring wide-eyed at her.
She had exited through a mirror being sold by a merchant in one of the many market places of Bodhi Gaya, a small province within the subcontinent of India. At seeing such a magnificently stunning woman as Queen Neherenia exit from a mirror, all within the market took her for a goddess and, once their initial shock had subsided, all fell to the ground cowering before her. Neherenia searched the crowd, but couldn't find the source of the glow she'd seen from her great mirror. Frowning, she made her way through the masses, leaving the still fearful market goers behind as she took a dirt road and headed east.
A short time later, with the village far behind her, she came upon a strange sight; five men, all rail-thin and covered in dirt and filth, coming in her direction. They were wearing rags, and all looked angry and bitter about something. Even though they were still quite a ways away from her, Queen Neherenia still winced from the stench the five of them gave off.
One of the men, the oldest among them, was the first to notice her. Sighing heavily, he left the others to come over and address her.
"I see news has already reached the court," he said sadly. "No doubt the king has sent you for the prince. You'll find him that way," he added, pointing to a forest over to his right.
Neherenia tilted her head to the side; what in the world was this filthy old man going on about? She looked in the direction he was pointing in however, and felt her breath catch in her throat as she saw the light, the same light she'd seen glowing from her mirror.
Kayundinya noted the perplexed look in the beautiful stranger's face and realized he must've been mistaken about her being sent by the palace. He was about to apologize, when the woman suddenly turned and began running in the direction of the woods where the prince was. As she disappeared from sight, he turned with a shrug and joined the others.
Queen Neherenia ran as fast as her legs could take her, the warm glowing light acting as her beacon. Finally, out of breath, she stopped. Standing in the strange forest, her heart feeling like it was ready to burst out of her chest, she looked.
There, beneath a tree, sat a man meditating. He looked to be thin, and from the length of his legs Neherenia guessed that he was six foot when standing. As she came closer, her foot broke a twig, interrupting the man's meditations. He opened his eyes, and looked at her.
The two of them said nothing, each taking in the other's appearance. Finally, after several minutes, Neherenia broke the silence.
"Do you find me ugly?" she asked.
The man raised an eyebrow, "Why do you come out here, and interrupt me in my meditations, to ask such a question?"
"I am a great queen," Neherenia explained, "Loved by all my subjects for my looks. Yet I appear here, before you, and you show no awe whatsoever at being in the presence of one such as I."
"Perhapse," the man answered, "Because I too am of royal blood, and thus the presence of a queen such as yourself holds less significance. Or perhapse because, after years of toil, I have achieved a certain level of control over the lusts of the flesh. But," he said, leaning forward as he gazed at her intensely, "You didn't come all the way out here just to flaunt your beauty to a poor holy man, did you?"
Queen Neherenia narrowed her eyes, "No, I did not. But before I explain myself and my troubles, allow me to introduce myself. I am Queen Neherenia of the New Moon Kingdom."
The man sitting beneath the tree bowed his head politely, "Greeting, oh great queen," he said, "My name is Siddhartha Gautama."
-To Be Continued-
End Notes: This idea came to me after watching the end of Super S. Both Neherenia and the young Siddhartha were shocked and horrified when they were confronted by old age, yet both chose radically different answers to their aversions. Siddhartha was at a crossroads when he sat beneath the pipal tree and vowed not to rise again until he found the truth, just as Neherenia was at a crossroads when she was confronted by the truth by her mirror. It dawned on me; what if they'd met? What would the conversation between the future evil queen and the future Buddha have been like? This story will be my attempt at an answer. Please review!