Disclaimer: I don't own anything.
"Ka shira! Ka shira! Gozonji ka shira?"
There's a mysterious old lady in town!
I hear she's a fortune teller!
Someone tell the Princess! She's been looking for a husband for a long time now!
(And she isn't getting any younger!)
Oh fortune teller, tell me true! Is there love in my future? Is there any hope for me?
The spirits speak to me... they show me many things...
What do they show? Oh, what, what?
They show me your future... they show me...
...need an oil change.
Few students have cell phones yet. Only those in the university-level computer science labs have access to e-mail. Text messaging is years away. Yet the rumors fly at the speed of light all the same.
Here for the Chairman, they agree. Must be a friend of the family. Certainly not a close relative; they aren't even from the same part of India, you can see it on her face -
Oh, that face. That body. Many unattached boys forget their sports or their overdue homework or where they have been going to class all year. Girls, attached or not, plan convenient accidents to remove the competition: this one is priority, no one would be safe. If she is coming to be a teacher, who could learn in her class? If a university student... Gods help the academic standards of the school.
She strolls into the school in a lavender suit and high heels, waist-length hair showing a tinge of green. Yes, must be a friend of the family, same penchant for strange dyes. Through the gates, into the atrium, under the homage to the Rialto Bridge, out across the courtyard, no, she can't be, not the greenhouse, that's HER place -
But she does. And they emerge, moments later, and walk together back to the atrium, and enter the elevator that goes all the way up to the Chairman's office.
New whispers start to filter through the student body. The Champion must be notified. Is this a new Duelist? Did she have a signet? No one saw anything on her hands. None without a signet should have business with the Bride.
The whispers will die out by the end of the day. Tomorrow morning, they will be forgotten utterly, as is much that happens around here.
The meeting is held on the Student Council's platform, above the campus, a high angle out of sight of the rabble. Tea is poured, tailored just so. They regard the view of the dueling forest. Both can see the impossible island, the arena, the castle above.
The newcomer begins. "A bit flamboyant, isn't it?"
"A cage becomes ever more gilded as it is lived in."
"Like a nest. The only difference..."
"The owner is free to leave."
"Has it often been like this? Your homes?"
"I exercise what skills I have. My style of home improvement does not involve hammers and lumber. It requires a woman's hand." A witch's hand.
"They say building, as much is hunting, is the sport of royalty. The Queen was quite devoted to it. All the palaces and gardens..."
"Everyone is well, I take it?"
"No major injuries. The Inner Senshi are already taking that for granted. Their spirits are down because now they have to go back to mundane life. There is some range of opinions, but they are all glad to have dodged a bullet with regard to their parents and teachers. Lots of people went missing during the rampages. Their families are glad to have gotten them back at all."
"Everyone would be glad the monsters are finally gone."
"Those particular monsters, anyway." A questioning look. "Or are they?"
To business, then. "I only wanted to make my own way in the world. There was only one way at the time. I am no threat to anyone."
"Some of your followers may think differently."
"Aren't ex-boyfriends always like that?"
A laugh. That struck home. "It certainly was that way with us. I am not sure we can find any better. Some of us, it seems, are not destined for love..."
"And some of us, for too much." But too fleeting, she does not say. "But you need not worry about my problems. I cut my ties long ago. It was her policy to fully bind every ally eventually. Some who came on after I left may have escaped, and there are always free spirits. And things only you could see."
"My vision was always more cloudy when dealing with things from deep space. The real headache is my own post. I have been gone far too long. In my absence, my duties have fallen to... less capable hands. Agencies with different philosophies. It's an incredible mess. We may have very little time to rest and recover."
"There are always monsters, then, aren't there?"
"We will just have to see how many. Our numbers may be stretched thin. We could do with more friends of our own." An inviting look. "You are now a free agent, not bound to anyone. You could choose sides again."
"I know you have to make the offer. And you know my price."
"Indeed. And my Princess would be the first to say what you seek is not hers, or anyone's, to simply give." A resigned sigh. "If you cannot leave, we will have to be satisfied with that. But you should beware that our enemies may also come with offers. They are likely to be less polite."
"I shall keep you in mind, then. And perhaps..." A thoughtful look. "If you need an ally, I heard your host was quite capable."
A chuckle. "He will hate it when he finds he is not done with us."
The Bride has to ask. "Will I be free someday?"
The reply is piercing."Who, truly, is your jailor?" Then lighter: "You have some good prospects in a few years. You just have to keep an open mind."
The Time Lady leaves. The Duelists will soon notice the Bride's good spirits are more sincere than they can remember. They take this as a good sign.
There will be Revolution soon. They know it. They know they will have a part in it.
So does the green-haired goddess. She walks gracefully out the front gates, keeping the place in mind. The Revolution will indeed begin here, in part. It will begin many places, and as is the way of Revolutions, it will go strange places and draw in even stranger people. At the far end, if she can do her own part and order her bailiwick, will be a palace of crystal in a world of peace.
She wishes she could keep her promise and keep her late host out of it. Perhaps she can, perhaps she can't.
Only Time will tell. It always does.
- F I N -