"I didn't expect you to be able to keep up with me." -Sailor Uranus
Queen Selenity closed her tired eyes for a moment.
"Let me understand this," she spoke, wearily, "Not only have the gods chosen my own daughter as the Senshi of the Moon, as well as the heirs to their respective planets as the primary Senshi, but now you're telling me that Neptune and Uranus' Senshi have also been revealed as their planets' princesses?"
"Yes, my Queen."
The odd looking woman with dark hair and eyes inclined her head. The Queen sighed.
"This is too much."
The Queen, after suffering through the exhausting task of convincing the rulers of Mars, Jupiter and Venus to let their heirs remain on the Moon (in effect, an unspoken promise consecrating and thus relinquishing their children to a life of great difficulty), she now had to face the reality that the further-est planets had chosen their Senshi as well - which meant that the time of the Destroyer was near.
Standing before her was a figure more terrifying than she at first appeared to be. She looked like an ordinary, albeit very beautiful woman, but she was in fact one of two beings set aside since the beginning to guard and watch over the Destroyer - Saturn's heir. Her name was Ops.
"It is a heavy burden, my Queen," Ops conceded, flicking the long, semi-transparent black veils she wore around her.
"But it is one which we must shoulder."
The Queen heard the weariness in Ops' voice and silently reprimanded herself for her selfish whining. The heaviness of her destiny was nothing compared to the burden of the being before her.
"Tell me more."
"The child of Ruin is seven years of age now," Ops replied, her breath stirring the veils of her face slightly, "And still unawakened. Capricorn guards her as he has always done, but he says that there is nothing unusual in her behavior thus far. We keep her sequestered in Titan Castle, and she is a very ordinary child. Rather solemn."
Selenity felt a pang at the thought that the child, through no fault of her own, must be forced to live alone with only the two guardians for company until her terrible destiny was done. Ops, unaware of her Queen's wondering thoughts, continued:
"The children of the Sky and the Ocean are awakened as Senshi, which is disturbing, but not tantamount to destruction."
"Yes, they were not supposed to be reborn, let alone awakened. My mother told me as much... All of it goes so fast."
The Queen sighed and sat up.
"It is true that the three talisman bearers must be together for the - for Saturn to awaken," she murmured, "And the others are only children still."
"They are young women, my Queen," Ops corrected, mildly, "They are both two years past the age of adulthood."
"But you are right," she continued, "The three who hold the talismans must be gathered together in once place for the Destroyer to awaken. And since Pluto cannot leave her post..."
"It can never happen?" The Queen finished, lightly. Her face was grim.
"That is sound logic, Ops," she replied, "But I fear there is something we do not see."
"What is that, your majesty?"
The Queen stood and paced around the small receiving hall, picking worriedly at her gown. She stopped by the window that showed a view of the twirling blue Earth as it made its arc through the night sky.
"I wish I knew."
Neptune smirked at the skeptical tone of her husky-voiced companion.
"I'm not crazy, as you very well know," she replied, primly.
Uranus eyed her with a displeased look - she had her wiry arms crossed on her flat chest. Even though they were near the same age (sixteen) she was by far the taller of the two. She peered down her aquiline nose at Neptune.
"I'm telling you that we aren't supposed to be Senshi - it's all a mistake. Haven't you heard the rumors from Jupiter?"
"What of them?" Neptune demanded, sitting gracefully in a coral carved chair in her balcony room in Triton Castle.
"The gods chose us as their avatars," she declared, setting her pretty jaw determinedly and fixing her only companion with a steady and penetrating gaze.
"That means that being Senshi is our destiny. We have a purpose for being what we are - don't you want to find out what it is?"
Uranus scowled at her and paced in silence. Finally she turned around and took a breath.
"Of course I do," she admitted, "But how can we? No one will tell us anything because they're all scared of the Soldier of Silence."
"I know," Neptune answered, reclining in her chair. She crossed her long legs and Uranus coughed, looking away.
"Is something wrong?" Neptune asked, concerned at the cough.
"Are you chilled? I know it's rather damp in here, perhaps more than you are used to."
"No, no it's nothing," Uranus waved the questions aside, showing just a faint flush along her high cheek bones.
Neptune frowned. Ever since Uranus had returned to visit her in the summer of their sixteenth year, she had been acting rather odd.
Though they'd had a rocky beginning to their friendship - since both were fiercely competitive and stubborn - they'd soon grown very close, closer than sisters now. Neptune considered Uranus her best friend, the closest companion she'd ever had. Their solitary lives and the lack of social interaction with others their age (the populations of Uranus and Neptune not being even half those of the other planets) had solidified that exclusive friendship. They were both inclined to conceal feelings and mutually picky about whom they spoke or interacted with. Neptune thought it was these likenesses that had helped them understand each other so well in the first place.
In the past years they had developed such a close bond with one another that they often knew what the other was thinking before speaking. Also, Uranus was the only person Neptune felt comfortable sharing any kind of physical contact with that involved affection. She endured kisses from her mother and father, and didn't mind children or girls her own age, but she did not care for the all too wondering hands of young princes, or the put upon airs of her fellow Neptunian courtiers and royals. When she and Uranus sat together on the same settee, or, every once in a while, lay side by side in the lawn or inside watching a storm, she felt no distaste for the intimacy or familiarity of the connection. She had always assumed that Uranus felt the same.
It was true that the tall Uranian was even shyer of contact than she, but Uranus never seemed to mind if Neptune embraced her or sat close to her. There were times when Uranus even intiated these forms of affection between the two - something Neptune hadn't seen her do with anyone else. Well, not sincerely - the girl did like to joke and flirt occasionally. Uranus especially enjoyed taking advantage of her slim frame, handsome face, and her brother's clothes to fool a ridiculous royal or two into fancying herself infatuated with the Princess. It didn't help that they were surrounded by obsequious servants and prattling, shallow courtiers who would look on intimacy as a way to curry favor.
But now things were suddenly and inexplicably changed. Ever since Uranus' arrival Neptune had sensed an odd distance between them. There were times when she sat a certain way, or when she dressed a certain way, that she caught Uranus looking at her with an odd expression she'd never seen before. Sometimes when she touched Uranus' arm, the other girl would give a cough and flinch away. And she was less and less inclined to sit with Neptune, or to lie with her on the grass - in fact, all the girlish and sisterly intimacy they had once known was becoming strained. Whenever Neptune had thought to bring it up Uranus always blushed and changed the topic. But Neptune thought her eyes looked almost sad, perhaps even wistful?
But she knew, better than anyone, that Princess Uranus wouldn't admit she had any problems until she was good and ready to - and then, only on her own terms. So Neptune continued to pretend she didn't notice the change and to wait patiently for Uranus to let her in on the secret.
"Well," she resumed her topic, "I think we ought to investigate on our own, since no one else will tell us. And I think the first thing we should figure out is; who is the Soldier of Silence?"
Uranus' blue eyes flashed.
"It all seems to boil down to that," she agreed reticently, "There's something about her that makes it dangerous for us. I heard father speaking about it once, when he thought I couldn't hear."
"What did he say?" Neptune pounced eagerly. Uranus smiled in spite of herself and leaned closer to her companion.
"He said," she murmured, "That if all of the talisman bearers were gathered in one place it would wake the Soldier of Silence. And I think if she wakes up something bad will happen."
"Who are the talisman bearers?"
"I think he meant us," Uranus answered, "You and me and Princess Pluto. She's a Senshi too, you know."
"Yes; formerly the only Senshi and princess," Neptune agreed, "Though I suppose she can't help that, since she's also the only Plutonian in the entire Galaxy."
"I feel sorry for her," Uranus commented, frowning.
They looked at each other and smiled, the thought unspoken between them was that they were very grateful for each other.
"So what is a talisman?" Neptune asked.
"What?" Uranus seemed to have lost the thread of the conversation and was looking at Neptune with that odd expression.
"Talismans," Neptune repeated, and watched with curiosity as Uranus seemed to snap out of her reverie, blushing slightly.
"Oh, right," she answered, gruffly, "Well, I don't really know what they are - he didn't say anything else about them."
Neptune sighed in frustration.
"Well, first let's find out about Senshi, in particular how to set about being one." she suggested and stood, grabbing the other girl's hand. Uranus gave a yelp and dropped her hand immediately.
"Where are you going?" she asked, trying to cover her reaction.
"To the library, of course, where else?" Neptune returned, her face betraying her suspicion.
"Are you suddenly afraid of libraries or something?"
"No! Don't be ridiculous," Uranus muttered, flexing her hand, "You just startled me, is all."
"Uh-huh." Neptune crossed her arms, her face clearly betraying her skepticism.
"Oh, go to the library yourself, then!" Uranus blurted out, abruptly turning her back on the other girl.
She took a few breaths to calm herself where Neptune couldn't see.
Uranus cringed at the tone in Neptune's voice - hurt.
"Have I - is there - are you angry with me? Did I do something wrong?" the other girl asked, softly.
Uranus clenched her teeth and all her rigidity immediately melted away. She turned quickly with an anxious look and seized the smaller girl by the shoulders.
"No," she declared, desperately, "You didn't do anything! I'm not angry, I'm just - just - eh - it's - it's that time," she said, nodding vigorously.
"I'm moody," she added, as if that explained everything.
"Oh," Neptune answered, trying to keep the doubt out of her voice. Then she smiled and impulsively leaned in to kiss Uranus on the cheek.
"Well, stop being moody and start being my friend," she suggested.
Uranus stared at her, their faces still rather close. She blinked twice then took Neptune's hand in hers and abruptly pulled the girl through the door in the direction of the library. Neptune wanted to laugh at the other girl's quick change of mind, but she caught the pinkness still staining Uranus's cheeks and her mirth died prematurely.
What in the world was wrong with the girl?
Pluto watched events march on through the stream that was Time - a never ending circle.
The end of time - that was when everyone said the Destroyer would come...but didn't they know? Time was eternal. There was no such thing as the End of Time.
Sometimes she thought that Selenity understood this - understood the idea that in order for life and time to continue on their unending circle, death and life had to keep following each other. Without one, the other could not be.
She turned in her blind refuge and listened to the voices in the darkness of time.
She heard the beloved and cheerful sounds of the Moon princess's voice, and smiled.