"COMING OF AGE"
Chapter 1: "Moonstruck"
A Neo-Sailor Moon fanfic
By Bill K.
Sailor Moon and all related characters are ©)2009 by Naoko Takeuchi/Kodansha and Toei Animation and are used without permission, but with respect. Story and unrelated characters are ©)2009 by Bill K.
Makoto Kino breezed down the corridor toward classroom one with well-concealed anxiety and trepidation. She was anxious because she was late for class and she hated being late, particularly when she was teaching the class. That was a bad example to set for her students. Her trepidation came from having to substitute for Ami on short notice. As usual, Ami had taken on so many projects that it was becoming physically impossible to teach the Princess and the Asteroid Senshi, as the Elder Senshi did on a rotating basis in addition to their other duties. Makoto had noticed Ami's anxiety over her situation that morning and volunteered to take on the extra session rather than subject the students to another session with a computerized holographic display.
But now she was having anxiety of her own. Makoto never felt very confident in her ability to teach proper subjects like Advanced Aerodynamic Physics or Geometric Calculus, even with the aid of the teaching computer system installed in the classroom for her use. And she felt even less confident doing it on short notice without any preparation. But Ami needed the respite and there wasn't anything she wouldn't do for Ami - - or one of her other friends. Fortunately Usa and the Asteroids were close enough to her that she didn't feel the need to dress up beyond her familiar filament-weave jeans and pullover top. Makoto reached the door, took a deep breath, and went in.
"GOOD MORNING, MISS MAKOTO-MA'AM!" Palla-Palla cheerfully exclaimed. That brought a smile to Makoto. You could always depend on Palla-Palla to be a way to brighten your day. But as she got to her teaching podium, Makoto noticed there were only four students in class instead of six.
"Good morning, Palla-Palla," Makoto replied. "Good morning, everyone. I'll be filling in for Ami this morning."
"All right, no 'teacher-bot'," Cere-Cere mused happily.
"Is Jun-Jun still not feeling well?"
Hotaru looked down while the other three Asteroids instantly tensed.
"Um," Cere-Cere finally offered, "no, Sensei. She's, well, still not feeling well. I'm sorry."
"I see," Makoto nodded, making a mental note to let Ami know about this. Jun-Jun was undergoing therapy with Ami to help the girl deal with the tremendous guilt she felt over the revelation that she'd led a person to his death during her time with the Dead Moon Circus. According to the computer's attendance records, this was the fifth straight day Jun-Jun had been absent. "Well, tell her we all miss her. Now, anybody know anything about Usa?"
Now it was Hotaru's turn to tense, but the black-haired waif didn't answer.
"Maybe you ought to check Helios's room," Ves-Ves said with malicious glee. That drew an involuntary snicker from Cere-Cere and a crimson blush from Hotaru. Typically, Palla-Palla was mystified. Due to necessary circumstances, Helios was staying in the palace for an extended time.
"Well, as much a fan as I am of true love," Makoto mumbled as she typed a text message to Queen Serenity, "there are other things in life that demand attention, too."
Helios sat in his quarters in the palace, his legs crossed in a lotus position and his head tilted back slightly. The room was sparsely furnished, with only a bed, a table and a single chair in it. The Dream Guardian sat in the chair with his eyes closed. The rhythmic rise and fall of his chest was the only sign that he still lived. His white hair and pale skin seemed to glow slightly in the low light of the room. Time passed unnoticed as Helios monitored the dreams of others.
Finally his head rolled forward. It was necessary from time to time to deeply monitor the dreaming, more deeply than he did at other times, and this was one of those times. But the time had passed and he could return to dividing his attention between dreams and reality. Helios took a deep, cleansing breath and opened his eyes. To his immense surprise, he found his beloved, Princess Usagi, sitting on the bed across from him.
"Maiden?" he exclaimed with surprise. "How did you get into my room?"
"By-passed the security system," the pink-tressed teen shrugged. She wore a white knit blouse and beige slacks.
"Your father approves of this?"
"He doesn't have to know," Usa smirked slyly.
"Maiden, I swore to your father that I would be on my best behavior," Helios warned.
"We're not doing anything!" the girl proclaimed impatiently. "In spite of what Pop thinks, I can control myself. I know we're not supposed to - - no matter how much I want to."
"Then," Helios began, puzzled, "why are you here?"
"I wanted to watch you work," Usa replied with earnest fascination. "That's what you were doing, wasn't it?"
"Yes. I am still able to monitor the dreams of Earth from here. But do you not find it boring to simply watch me - - not move?"
"Nothing you do could ever be boring, Helios," Usa smiled. "I love watching you when you're quiet and concentrating on the dreams. You look so serene." She looked down, momentarily embarrassed. "I want to cradle your head in my lap when you're like that. And stroke your hair and your forehead."
"A most tempting scenario, Maiden," Helios replied. "But you have other responsibilities in your life, do you not?"
"You're using that word again," Usa scowled.
"It is a word, I fear, that will haunt you for the rest of your life, Maiden," Helios said as he rose from the chair. The Dream Guardian crossed over, gently picked up Usa's hand and eased her to her feet. "Are you not now supposed to be in school?"
"I don't care about any of that!"
"Maiden," Helios continued, gripping the girl by her upper arms, "I will not be the cause of your failure to advance, either mentally, physically or spiritually. We have our entire lives together, this I pledge. And because of that pledge, you can spare some of your present for other things besides me."
"But Helios, all I want is you!" Usa argued. "I don't care about Aeronautical Physics or Conversational English or any of that other stuff! I just want to be with you!"
Suddenly Helios bent down and captured her mouth with his. Usa felt her heart leap and she leaned into the kiss, even as his hands around her arms kept her at bay. The two kissed long and hard, and when they parted the young Princess felt her senses swimming.
"Your devotion touches me to my soul," Helios said softly. "But if you truly love me, you will attend to your duties to yourself and your position and become the best you can be."
"You don't play fair," Usa sighed, still reeling from the passion of the kiss.
"When it comes to something I care deeply about," Helios grinned, "no, I do not."
It was a few moments before Usa realized Helios was walking her to the door. It hissed open and he backed her into the corridor. Her disappointment was clear on her face.
"Go to class," he told her. "I will meet you when you are done. Perhaps we can work on your homework together."
"It's a date," Usa grinned. Spirit renewed, she turned to head off.
Queen Serenity was leaning against a wall, giving her an impatient look.
"Nothing happened, Mom!" the Princess huffed as she walked off. Serenity moved to follow.
"I trust you," Serenity answered.
"Then why are you here?"
"Mako-Chan texted me and said you weren't in class."
"Usa, please don't make the mistake I made when I was your age," Serenity pleaded. "One of the reasons I didn't pay attention in high school was because I spent half my time drawing hearts in my notebook and writing your father's name in them." That brought back a flood of memories to the Princess from her times back in the twentieth century. "I regret that now. I wouldn't be the addle-brained air-head I am now if I'd paid attention back then. When you're young, you don't realize how important education can be."
"OK, Mom, I get it!" Usa exclaimed.
"And don't try to put me off, you little brat! I've lived with you for seventeen years now and I know all of your tricks! I want you and Helios to have a chance to be together, but if you're just going to take advantage of things, I'll lock you in your room until you're twenty!"
"Whatever," the teen scowled.
Thankfully for her they reached Classroom One. Usa went in, greeted by a derisive chuckle from Ves-Ves. Makoto glanced over at Serenity with a "what are you going to do" expression. Then the door closed. Serenity turned to go back to the Royal Chambers. Then she stopped.
"Just how did she get into Helios's quarters in the first place?" the Queen pondered. A small smile crossed her mouth. "Honestly, that girl can be positively devious sometimes. I wish I had been that devious when I was her age. I wouldn't have been so frustrated."
After school was out, Ves-Ves and Palla-Palla entered their quarters. Palla-Palla instantly headed for her corner. Ves-Ves glanced sympathetically at the closed door to Jun-Jun's room.
"Jun-Jun is in there," Palla-Palla said as she sat down at her computer station, "but she doesn't want to talk to anyone."
"Peeking in on her thoughts?" Ves asked.
"Palla-Palla doesn't do it on purpose," the teen replied and Ves sensed her sister's helplessness, "but when Jun-Jun is like this, she's kind of hard to shut out."
"Yeah, I guess. I wish she'd get past this." Ves glanced back at her sister. "Homework?"
"Palla-Palla wants to be done before dinner. Miss Makoto-Ma'am says she still has a lot of work to do on Japanese con - - conju - - on the way she writes Japanese."
"Well I'd help you with that, but I think you probably want to pass," Ves chuckled.
"Thank you very much, but Miss Makoto-Ma'am told Palla-Palla that she should learn to do it herself and Miss Makoto-Ma'am knows best."
"Yeah, she does a lot of times," Ves nodded.
She strolled over to a chair and pulled a crystal viewer off the shelf. Popping in a crystal with the latest feature stories on martial arts, Ves started to read. Then she noticed Palla-Palla staring at her.
"What?" Ves asked, mild challenge in her voice.
"I'll do my homework later."
Palla-Palla continued to stare. Ves went back to her crystal viewer.
Palla-Palla continued to stare.
"All right!" Ves scowled. She tossed the crystal viewer onto the shelf and moved to her computer station. "You're getting as bad as Cere!"
Palla-Palla turned back to her computer station with a smirk of satisfaction on her face.
Moments later, Cere-Cere walked in. She had detoured on her way home from school to chat with Hotaru. As she entered, Ves was at her computer, struggling with the night's assignment. Palla-Palla was at her computer, struggling as well with much more simple subject matter. That was immaterial to Cere at the moment. Her chief concern was her other sister.
"Jun?" Cere ventured, knocking on the door. There was no answer. After a moment's indecision, Cere whispered, "Access, please."
The door opened softly. Ves looked up and silently wished her sister luck. Cere entered the room.
Jun was laying on her bed, staring up at the ceiling. Cere inched inside, inched until she was by the bed. Jun wouldn't look at her.
"Kino-Sensei asked about you today," Cere told her.
"That's nice," Jun mumbled. "I'm sorry I missed her. I always enjoy having Kino-Sensei as our teacher."
"She said she hoped you were feeling better," Cere added. "Usa and Hotaru do, too."
"Thanks," Jun replied in a small, shy voice.
The silence in the room suddenly became oppressive.
"Jun, please stop this!" Cere wailed. "None of us are proud of those days! But curling up into a little ball isn't the answer!"
"It's a little more complicated than 'those days', Cere," Jun murmured. "I killed someone."
"Well, maybe I did, too! Ves probably has more notches on her belt than anyone! But we go on! We try to make up for what we did! It's the only thing we can do!"
"How do you make up for that, Cere? How do you make up for a human life?"
"It's like that old saying," Cere persisted. "For ever life you've taken, you enrich a hundred in compensation."
There was a pause. Then, for the first time in a while, Jun turned and looked at Cere.
"Who said that?" Jun asked.
"I don't know! I think he was some - - doctor - - or medicine man - - in some tribe or - - I don't know! The point is you can't go back and change the past! It's there and it's always going to be there! And laying here feeling guilty isn't going to help make up for that past! You have to get up and want to be different and be different!"
"Mizuno-Sensei tells me the same thing," Jun mumbled. "So does Hino-Sensei."
"I just can't do it, Cere."
Cere's face began to twist in sadness. "Why?"
"Does helping people just to make up for what I did in the Circus Days make me a better person?" Jun asked. "Look at The Queen. She helps people because she wants to, not because she's trying to make up for something she did. Or The Princess: she tries to help people because she knows it's right, not to gain brownie points in her life."
"Does it matter why you help people?" Cere asked. "If you ask me, I think the only thing that really matters is that you help people."
Jun glanced back at her from over her shoulder.
"I mean, I do it because it's expected of me as a senshi, you know," Cere continued. "I'd much rather be tending a garden or watching the fashion streams, but that's what's expected of me. And this place is way better than the circus or the orphanage, so I do it to stay here. Now maybe that doesn't make me as good as The Queen or Usa, but I'm still one of the good guys."
Cere sat on the side of the bed next to Jun.
"But how do I look someone in the eye," Jun asked, "knowing what I did? All the good acts in the world won't wash that away."
"I guess all you can do is tell yourself that it was another time and another place, and you weren't as smart as you are now. And that it won't happen again, because you are smarter than that now."
"What if it does?"
"It won't," Cere said adamantly.
"But what if," Jun began, "what if I have to kill somebody - - to protect the Princess or the people of Crystal Tokyo?"
"Jun, killing someone for a dream mirror is a lot different than killing to protect someone," Cere maintained.
"But it's still killing," Jun said. Cere felt her eyes smarting.
"Oh, if you don't get out of that bed and start living again, I'm," fumed Cere. "I'm going to get Ves to beat you up!"
"Well," Jun replied, rolling over onto her back. Some of her melancholy had lifted. "I doubt you could get Ves to do anything you wanted her to do. But maybe you're right. I suppose I should stop hiding. It's just," and Jun took a deep, hissing breath, partly from the anguish she felt, "I know word has gotten around the palace. And I just can't stand the thought of getting 'those' looks again."
"You know we've got your back," Cere told her.
"I know," Jun sighed, forcing a small smile onto her mouth. "And I've got to face people sooner or later."
Cere gave ground to allow Jun to swing herself up to a sitting position. Jun's shoulders seemed to slump.
"I just hope something doesn't come up for a long while that needs the senshi's attention," Jun continued. "Because I'm not sure I trust myself to ever be Sailor Juno again."
"Baby steps, you know," Cere said, offering her sister her hand. "First we get you out in the sun. You've been cooped up in here too long. You're beginning to wilt."
Ves looked up from her computer when she heard the door hiss open. Cere was standing there with a chagrined Jun.
"About time you dragged yourself out of there," Ves said. "If you were in there any longer, I was going to have to start running this bunch."
"God forbid," Jun replied humorously.
Suddenly Palla-Palla was right up in Jun's face, holding her hands and earnestly looking in her eye. It wasn't much of a stretch, since the two girls were nearly the same height, but it was startling. Jun swallowed, wondering what was on her sister's mind and if the telepath could see what she was thinking and feeling.
"Palla-Palla is glad you're feeling a little better," she told Jun. "Please don't ever, ever, ever think you're a bad person and not someone we want to be with. Because it's not true."
"You tell her, Stupid," Ves added.
"OK," Jun sighed. "I'm sorry I put you all through this. It's just . . ."
"I know," Ves said, wedging in between Cere and Palla-Palla and grasping Jun's upper arm. "I been there. The day it becomes easy is the day you start being cocky and sloppy, and that's the minute it all starts going down hill - - like the Circus Days."
Jun lowered her eyes, but nodded her agreement.
"Incoming message for Cere-Cere," Cere's work station announced.
Everybody looked as Cere walked over and engaged her computer. A face appeared on the computer screen. It was a woman of Brazilian descent, probably somewhere on either side of fifty. She was fighting a losing battle against her age, but still tried to exude an aura of vitality and glamor. Her black hair was pulled back stylishly from her face, her brows were manicured and her face expertly done up to maximize her strengths and minimize her flaws.
"Chica!" she exclaimed, wearing a smile that Ves cynically noted seemed artificial. "Oh my goodness, it's been so long since I've seen you! My, but you've grown up to be a beauty!"
"A-Aunt Pilar?" Cere gasped. This drew surprised looks from her sisters, for they had always assumed that Cere had no living relatives. "What . . . why are you calling me?"
"I wanted to let you know I was coming for you, dear!" Pilar said with over the top enthusiasm.
"C-Coming for me?" Cere stammered. "What are you talking about?"
"Don't be dense, dear," Pilar replied patronizingly. "I've come to collect you. We're going back home."
Continued in Chapter 2