Disclaimer: I do not own or claim Sailormoon but I thank the creator who made these wonderful characters. ^_^
Hi, everyone! I would like to apologize since I have stopped writing for very very long time. I want to finish writing this story but I don't really like my first writing so I will be posting the revised chapter from the beginning. There will be MAJOR revision… hopefully it will be more satisfying than before.
Thank you for bearing it with me!
Hope you guys enjoy it (again)!
Chapter 01 – A Gift
The solar system, realm that humanity has known for four hundred long years, is ruled by nine mighty celestial bodies or also known as planetwhere nine different kingdoms governed each planet. They are the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Each of these kingdoms formed their own civilization ruled and governed by the Royal Families which some called them the descendent of Gods. True to their calling, the Royal Families possesses great power and wisdom like the Gods themselves and used their power to bring order to the society. They lead the way for the people to live, to obey and even to die. Such power has become sacred and respected for years and none have dared to challenge them. However, even such power has its weakness. People could unify under power and yet people could be divided because of power.
A war came along and divided the once peaceful and unify solar system. Battles between powers have come down to sacrifice innocent life and destroy the life of those who live. Power is just a sinful gift given in the hand of one human yet lusted by so many, not knowing what is cost.
Only if they had known, great power always comes with great responsibilities…
Moon Alliance, the oldest alliance in the solar system lead by the Moon Kingdom, was formed with sole purpose to unify all the kingdoms and maintain peace across the solar system due to the versatility of dwarfplanets and smaller celestial bodies such as asteroids, centaurs, comets and many more. Without the alliance, could only result in chaos across the solar system and the Moon Alliance have successfully managed to keep the rebellion at minimum and maintain peace-keeping between celestial bodies for four hundred was until things suddenly changed.
'Earth Revolution' lead by Kingdom of Earth where they turned against the Moon Alliance and formed their own, the Earth Alliance. War is inevitable and battle between the Moon Alliance and the Earth Alliance begun. Battles spread across the solar system and death was only the first look of what will become the most dreadful time in the history of humanity. Rebels rose against their ruler and all Celestial Bodies fought against another. Innocent civilians were tortured and raped, governments were torn apart and cities and towns were burned to the ground. The solar system was in total chaos. They called it "The Apocalypse".
Aftermath of The Apocalypse, grueling military aggression, political tension and devastating economy continue to suffer both sides and the end road to war never seemed to appear or much less of a choice. The Earth Alliance grew stronger as they managed to gain favor from those smaller celestial bodies and dwarf planets to join alongside them revolted against the Moon and eventually two other Kingdoms, Mars and Neptune turned to their side. The Kingdom of Mercury, Venus, Jupiter and Uranus uphold their allegiance towards the Moon Alliance. Only Kingdom of Pluto maintained its neutrality and chose not to join the fight despite they are casualties from the war as well.
It has been five years of battles and felt like a century of devastating years. Nothing much has changed since it begun and gained nothing but loss, pain and betrayal.
One could only hope to see the peace again in the solar system.
- Present Time: Earth –
A pair of rosy eyes opened. They blinked few more time as the muscle tried to adjust to the sudden command for her eyes to open. The owner of the rosy eyes was suddenly aware of her surroundings. She could see her familiar bedroom. It was a little dark due to the time. It was still dark outside and only the moonlight shone through the dark room. The longer her eyes opened, she begun to gain more visibility around the room. She could see her wardrobe, the desk and chair, the door, few disarrayed clothes on the floor and the nightstand beside the bed. Nothing unusual that rose her attention however something was missing that awakened her from her deep slumber. Then she noticed what was missing when she felt the chilling night air touched her in complete nakedness. In fact, there was no presence at all beside her to keeping her warm like it has comforted her last night, sweaty and hot. Only to realize when she stretched her hand to the other side of the large bed she was in and felt the coldness of the bed sheet.
'Again…' The only thought she could think as she saw the empty bed beside her.
She stirred to one side and felt the soreness from last night started to catching up on her, something that she has already been used to and she has never mind of it every time. Slowly with one elbow as her support, she pulled herself up to sitting position as herpastel pink hair fell behind her back. She wasnot forgetting to pull along the bed sheet since it was the only piece of linen on her naked figure before she began her search for a certain someone.
When a hint of a cold night air blew from back though her long pastel hair, she knew that it was the first place to start her search. She turned to her back and saw where the wind came from along with a figure she was looking for, sitting by the bay window with one knee bent and resting both arms on her disappointment, the other figure was already dressed up covering the slender stature she was enjoying very much the night before. Her short raven hair was the only thing left untouched; clearly it was roughly combed and a little frizzy. Must have been an excessive roaming during their 'act' last night.
But with all the stares threw at her; the raven seemed oblivious to her surroundings. Her only focus was staring outside even she seemed not to be bothered by the cold breeze from the opened window. Suddenly, the excitement from last night fell flat. It was replaced by loneliness and sadness, seeing how alone the raven sat there and how alone the rosy eyes woman felt as she was left out again from the raven's world.
She went to reach the raven and wrapped both arms around short hair woman's next from behind, not caring whether her only protection against the cold breeze fell to the floor or not. She only wants to hold the raven in her arm, wanting to not let go of her. She felt the raven jolted by the sudden hold but did not rejecting the comfort. No words were exchanged and worries began to escalate inside the long hair woman.
Even the raven started to sense it when the figure tightened her hug behind her, feeling the thin sheet separating her back against the naked chest. The only thing keeping both of them away from enjoying the moment was the long intended silence between them. They both needed not to ask or say what was bothering was bothering each other because they already knew why.
The short hair woman shifted her legs fell down at edge of the bay window with her lover arms still around her and find a full-nakedness figure before her which they both have been more than comfortable with. It seemed the bed sheet had fallen lying on the floor between the bed and where they are now. But the raven was not focusing too much on the body she had been enjoying so much last night. Her head tilted slightly up and went to find two rosy eyes staring at her amethyst ones.
They both noticed each other eyes for the very first time that night; how the rosy ones looked sad and concerned but what more of a surprised were how the amethyst eyes were looking haunted and a little… empty. The Rei that she knew is always composed and strong. But behind those reserved demeanor, she is a woman full of passion and rarely people would know that side of her. Never ever she looked so indifference and so weak. It was like as if the flaming personality from last night had completely disappeared.
"Was it your nightmare again?" The pastel hair woman went straight to the point and only answered by a simple nod. The rosy eyes only could give a knowing look at her lover and hugged her again; this time pulled the raven's head into her naked chest. "How long has it been? A week?"
"Two…" It was the first words that came out from the raven's mouth. Her voice was noticeably brittle.
"Oh Rei…" The naked woman whispered softly the name of the woman's in her arm with heavy heart as she heard her weak voice. "Tell me… What do you need Rei? Let me help you"
No answer. Only the sounds of breathing heard upon the naked chest, feeling the warmth gushing air came from the breathing. She felt Rei's heavy breathing gradually calmed down and it was not long after the raven suddenly pulled away.
"What's wrong Rei?" Rosy eyes stared as the raven whom has created some distance between them, trying to get to her feet.
"I am alright now…" the raven said weakly and clearly, it did not go unnoticed by the pastel hair woman.
"No, you don't… You look so pale. Let's get you some rest"
Rei gave a reluctant grunt. She was not trying to argue either. She just did not have what it takes, feeling the cumulating sleepless nights on top of other 'activities' they have been doing are starting to get to her.
"Rei, I think it's time for you to talk about it"
"No", Rei gave a straight answer when suddenly she felt a new found strength. Was it because the thought of telling the story means revisit the nightmare or even just thinking about it gave the raven the strong force to make sure everything in her power to bury them deep inside, to never be touched or known again. She pulled away from the woman and hated when she stared the saddened rosy eyes. Now, Rei only left with guilt as she saw how hurt the pastel pink woman when the raven rejected her. The other woman looked away but the raven could still catch a glimpse of tear shed from the rosy eyes.
This time Rei stood up and pulled the crying woman into her arms, holding her, not letting her go with her tears. Now she was fully aware how naked the woman in her embrace is, feeling every inch of the slender curve in her arms, how she had been sheltered by those curves for as long as could remember. Rei had known her for years and all those years, if it was not for the pastel hair woman's kindness, Rei would not even be here. She had been given warmth and love, and never there was a time that she ever questioned her or making her uncomfortable. She has been very excepting and never questioned her past in the slightest which something that Rei wanted nothing to do with or even care about it any longer. It was all that Rei's need until now… Today was the first time she ever asked the raven about it, something that Rei never used to and she could not help but snapped at her.
"I'm sorry…"The raven whispered softly as kept her arms around the other woman. It was not long for that Rei could feel the woman in her arm's breathing had been more relaxed than before.
"I'm sorry… I didn't meant to cry… I was just a little shocked", the rosy eyes was finally spoken in composed but the raven still noticed her slight hoarse voice.
"No, You did nothing wrong… It shouldn't snap… I…"
"Let's just forget about it, Rei…I shouldn't have asked you when you are exhausted… I just want you to feel comfortable with me… If you want to, then I will always be there for you…"
Rei pulled away and looked into those rosy eyes which already dried from the tears. Her amethyst just mesmerized at the figure in front of her. It always came as surprised to Rei how her partner seems to be able to read her mind. She always knew what to say to her or what to do. The raven could not wish for a better companion and she would not trade her for anything in this world. She wanted nothing else…
The raven leaned forward, took the other woman by surprised as she was being pulled into a passionate kiss. Without question, she returned them.
Her hands were both behind the other's back, caressing down through her spine and finally stopped at the hip. Rei could feel a pair of leg circled around her waist. She smiled in between kisses as her partner knowingly what to do as they had performed this for many times. The raven easily lifted the pastel hair woman as the naked woman tightening her legs around the raven waist and arms around her neck without breaking their kiss. Somehow, Rei always wondered why the pastel hair woman never questioned how she possessed such by looking at Rei's physical stature. The raven has always been lean and slender, perfect height and posture for a beautiful woman and far from looking like a man or anything but she is no less strong than men. It was not like she ever gets complained from her since they find it very 'useful' at certain time.
They knew that it was not for long when they will end up on the bed again. Rei gently laid the woman's back gently onto the silky sheet, shuddered as her skin made contact with the no longer warmth bed sheet. But it did not bother her at the time since she was too busy exchanging tongue with the woman on top of her.
Their lips separated as they both gasped for air into their lung. Their eyes looked at each other in that moment and Rei could see clearly the stares in those rosy eyes. They looked at her with comfort, with joy, with love definitely and with no doubt, Rei has decided.
"Will you marry me, Minako?"
Rei was running as fast as she could through the crowded street. She could not remember how many people she had bumped and apologized, either merchants or their customers as they were bargaining or even arguing over the price of everything and was not helping much to the already loud market which she has been passing for the last seven years. Each day Rei realized how much has it changed. Right after the devastating war broke five years ago, everything had changed for the worst. It was not just the weather but also the city and the people. It was once filled with bustling people who came for trading or even just a short vacate to see what Earth could offer, and the Earthling enjoyed the peaceful and happy time until they all drifted in greediness which causing the war. The war left Earth lifeless and empty. Many businesses went bankrupt due to lack of customers coming from the neighboring planet and the people found it harder to live due to the uncaring weather and the limited resources they could get from outside. It was like a dead city.
Although the tension between the Moon Alliance and the Earth Federation has not gotten better, at least both sides agreed to not pursue military oppression any further, giving the people a chance to recover from the devastation. The city was alive again but never once like its glorious day in the past. The war has left them a scar which will always remind them the terrible times.
Rei's feature fitted in well since it was not uncommon for Martian to be in those crowds. Either they are a merchant or an immigrant who are looking for jobs. But it was no longer an issue for her to adjust her life on Earth. As for now, she had bigger issue on hand…
At last, after swimming through the crowd, she found what she was looking for, standing between the shops in the market, a shop with a black wooden board written 'Hino's Blacksmith'. She pushed through the door and then a door bell rang, usually signing a customer just in. But she was not a customer.
The sight of various types of sword, from big to small hung on every corner of the wall would grabbed people attention as soon as they entered the shop, a sight that she had been very familiar with over the years. She looked right across from the entrance to the shop's counter and surprised not seeing her boss who usually waits behind it. Suddenly, a man with unruly brown hair appeared from the door behind the counter and his worried eyes lightened up when he saw her. Right away, he came running towards her before she even took further steps into the shop.
He grabbed Rei by both shoulder eagerly as if he was not going to let her go, "Rei?! Are you okay?"
The raven was a little shocked by the man's abruptness, "Y-yea, I'm okay"
Hearing Rei's answer, the man gave a loud relieve sign and quickly released the tension that has been bothering her before. "Thank Goodness you alright, we were so worried!"
"What's with you, Yuichiro? You are acting as if I had an accident or something?!"
"Well, you never late before, so we thought something might have happened to you"
In her mind, Rei wanted to slap her own forehead. She knew that everyone will make a big issue about it. It was the very first time she ever late. She had never been late in her life. A life that she had started from scratched for five years now. "Anyone can be late!"
"Everyone but you…"
"Let's… just leave it at that. I am going to start working", Rei politely answered, carefully picking her words. She did not want to start her already 'bad' day with another thing to be mad at, especially when it came to Yuichiro's silliness or she is going to have headache before she had to start working. She might sound mean and it was not about her dislike of Yuichiro. He is a lovely man and would not hurt a fly but sometimes he is just too much of a meddler and he is always getting into her nerve most of the time. But she felt something else was still missing from the shop. "Where's-"
Then, door bell ringing again as the door swung open and a small old man in his eighties appeared in the door step.
"Yuichiro! I went to her house and I can't find- Rei!" The old man came running to her as soon as he found what he was looking for. Somehow the sight was familiar as before but this time, the old man went to hug her by the waist since she is far taller than her. "I am so worried! I thought that something might happened to you"
"I was just late, Grandpa Hino", Rei assured her boss.
"Is everything alright?! Did something happen? Are you hurt?" Grandpa Hino started bombarding with questions but then Yuiichiro joined in before she could answer.
"Yes, Rei, who hurt you? Do you need to go to the healer? Let me help carry you-"
"Enough both of you! You two are just overreacting over this!" Rei yelled as she is getting impatient with the two men.
"But, you never been late before", Grandpa Hino answered, never minding Rei's yelling.
"Anyone can come late! It happens!"
"Everyone but you"
'Like grandfather, like grandson!' Rei was grunting inside in annoyance. She was expecting to get yelled for being late and did not expect thing will go melodramatically. She would rather have the yelling part instead. "Wait Grandpa, did you say that you went to my house?!"
"Yes, I did and you weren't there of course I am worried. I knocked few time but there were no answer"
Grandpa Hino must have had come minutes after she left the house. The raven quietly thanked Ares for not having the older man to come earlier. The thought of what happened right before she left her house came back to her,suddenly Rei went very quiet and her expression turned abrupt quietness was disturbing both men which made them even more worried.
"Is everything okay, Rei?" Granpa Hino asked again but this time more gently, not wanting to get himself yelled again. But this time, the raven managed to reply the old man in calmer manner. She was not in the mood of getting angry at anything. Her mind was just clouded with… many things already.
Rei shook her head, trying to forget what had happened. She wanted nothing more than escape from all of it and the only place that she could do that is coming to work. "Everything is alright, Grandpa. May I start to work now?"
"Yes, you may"
"What is it, Rei?"
"You can let me go now… I can't move with you clinging over me"
"Oo, yes, yes", Grandpa Hino smiled as he let go Rei and by the look of it, he was very much enjoying clinging to the raven which he received a death glare from Yuichiro.
"Yes, Old Man! We've got work to do!" Yuichiro scorned, clearly jealous that the old man could hug Rei as freely as he wishes.
"You have no respect for elderly! I am really ashamed especially in front of such beautiful lady that I raised such rude grandchild", Grandpa replied back with dramatic sad look.
"Stop being so dramatic! And I am not a child! An old man like you should just retire and just hang out with your fellow oldies!"
"I AM NOT OLD! And look who's talking, you would have closed the shop to find Rei if I had not suggested you to stay and work!"
They gave killing stares to each other before the argument started.
Just like any other day, they scorned each other back and forth endlessly and like usual, they will stop mocking each other when both of them were out of words, and continued with physical taunting each other until they get exhausted and stopped by themselves. No wonder anyone will recognize right away that they are related.
It reminded of her first time when she just happened to encounter them right in front of their shop. They were fighting as usual and like Rei usual ignorant-self, the raven was not paying too much attention to them since she had her own problem to think of. But it seemed fate was not going to leave her alone at the time when both men took their fighting a little too far and they accidentally tripped, knocking Rei down and pinning her 'hard' to the ground. She still remembered how they both blushed when they saw Rei as they describe it as 'fall in love at the first sight' but Rei had it reversed. She went into frenzy and at the end having both adult men sitting with their heads down, scolded about their 'child like' behavior by the raven in their own shop. She did not expect that after her long speech, Grandpa Hino offered her a job as a helper at the shop which surprised Rei after 'a complete stranger just scolded them' scene. Anyone would think that Grandpa might have been crazy for doing so even her at the time but she thanked him for it. Until now, she kept asking the old man why he offered her a job and the only answers she get was how he needs a woman touch in the shop. She did hesitate at first but she needed a job at the time after she was being kicked out from her previous job in a local tavern because she was trying to pick a fight with a pervert customer.
Another thing that none of them would guess was that Rei apparently is really talented in iron crafting which she was not aware herself. No one would expect a woman could wield such heavy hammer and passion to make it so beautiful. It just came naturally to Rei as if she could hear the fire whispering to her and guide her to bend the metal. It was the closest thing that she was able to bring herself to her own element, fire. The fire, blazing through the reddish charcoal, just brought her time as a child in Mars where she grew up with the sacred fire. It felt warm and safe. It was the only fire that she is not 'scared' off.
Five years has passed and she had getting used to their daily bickering after a while but when they are annoying her, she would stepped in and gave them another scolds. Since then, the business increased, which pleased very much Grandpa Hino, and they have became a well-know blacksmith around the town. Although all the credit belongs to Rei but she begged Grandpa Hino to not mention anything about her, not wanting to attract unnecessary attention. He was not too fond of the idea but finally he agreed in much reluctance. And by that accidental meeting, Rei had gotten herself a family that she never got the chance to have. Grandpa Hino already treated her like she is his own grandchild and Yuichiro, although he knew that Rei was not interested in him, always gave his support and often being too protective of her like a brother.
Despite all the raucous happening, Rei smiled at the sight, seeing their bickering is just a way to show how they care about each other and because of that, the raven was lucky enough to encounter them.
Door bell rang for the third time of the day, which was not a surprised anymore since they are having a business going on, and all their attentions went to the door, which distracted the two men from continuing, and surprised when a hooded figurewith ragged robeentered their shop. The raven would have thought the figure as a beggar if it had not been the sword that clinging around the belt. By the look of it, the sword was not an ordinary one as she saw the silver color of the sword's hilt. It was not any kind of silver made hilt, it was aTitanium Silver, an ore that was not easily get by any commoner let alone a did not know which one is more disturbing, the whole attire of the figure or the almost visible light gray hair hidden inside his hood. It was a rare sight to see such hair on Earth; a Lunarian.
But it was not his physical attribute that disturb her the most, more likely, it was the strong presence that Rei felt as he enters the room. Clearly something was different about him. She never felt such strong presence in recent years and what made her feel more uneasy was the heat of the stare hidden underneath the hood. She felt as if they went right through her. Something was not quite right…
"Good day, Sir… How are you?" Grandpa Hino greeted kindly, not feeling he and Yuichiro were standing in between the heated glances. The stare stopped as the attention went to Grandpa Hino who is starting a conversation.
"Good day to you indeed… I am here for the item I ordered few weeks ago", the man answered politely, seemingly harmless.
"The dagger, yes? I did mention that the item should be ready by today but unfortunately, there has been a slight delay, Sir. We will only have it ready by tomorrow. I am truly sorry", Grandpa answered with his salesman's expertise as always.
"I will be back tomorrow then?"
"Yes, and again, I apologize and thank you for understanding, Kind Sir. An excellent artifact needs excellent craftsmanship. We want to make sure our customer receives what is best especially with excellent taste such as yours. I rarely hear anyone who sought after a dagger with embedded Red Coral and gold finishing"
Rei suddenly felt tensed when she heard what Grandpa's last sentence. It has always been surprised how at his age that Grandpa Hino could remember every single customer's order but this one, indeed, it was very rare and even the raven remembers them since she was the one in charge of the order. If Rei recalled, the order came about around two weeks ago along with stone, a beautiful Red Coral. It was not a hard task to make the dagger itself but the rarity of stone which only solely found in Mars, finding such stone was beyond difficult and almost impossible but luckily, they did not have to.
But Rei tried to focus more on the client. It was her first time to see the client and she felt the same impression when she got the job and the stone… A strange feeling of longing and familiar, nothing of hostility or anything but Rei still could not sit right through it until now.
The raven's deep thought was interrupted when she felt the strange feeling again. She looked up and definitely she could feel it was from underneath that hood. The man seemed to realize the raven notice when he suddenly straightened his chest and Rei could his Silver hair and a glimpse of emerald green eyes.
"I will take my leave then", the man spoke in short, rather abruptly.
"Thank you for your understanding, Sir. I am sure the final product will suit you well"
"It is not for me…" Yet another short answer and gave a final glance towards Rei, "It will be a gift"
Then, he exited the store.
"What a strange man…" Yuichiro spoke after being quiet the whole time with Rei. "He came by often just to check on his order and then leave"
"Well, I do find him rather peculiar but he was very polite though" Grandpa added. It seemed that no one noticed the strange feeling other than Rei, as expected. Before the raven lost deeper in her thought, suddenly Grandpa jumped as he saw the time, "Kami-sama! It's noon already?! You two get back to work! We've got a lot of order to be finished by tomorrow!"
Yuichiro and Rei nodded, and went to the door behind the counter, heading to their workshop. As they left the room, Rei's thought was still with that mysterious man. She could not shake the odd feeling for the rest of day.
It was already midnight and Rei knew she was late. She had promise someone at home that her work will be done before midnight and like always; she broke her promise.
But today was not like any other day. Her mind was not just occupied with work. Starting from the feeling she got from her dream this morning, then the mysterious man who would leave her mind and on top of that, the matter at home that she has to face sooner or later, everything seemed to turn against her and she just lost her focus to do her job. Even the usual slowpoke Yuichiro was finished earlier than her. Yuichiro offered to help but she was too proud to accept it. Today was really not her day.
Then what prolong her work mostly was right in front of her eyes, the mysterious man's dagger. It was finally done. Not that she was exaggerating, but she has to admit that it was her best craftsmanship to date and what mesmerize her mostly was the Red Coral; a beautiful red gem that can only be found at the bottom of Mars' Erythraean Sea. It was said that due to the war and bloodshed during the earlier times of Mars civilization, the blood of the fallen flowed to the sea and turned the water including everything underneath into intense red color like a pool of blood. Even the name where the coral can be found, Erythraean Sea, in Martian language literally means the Red Sea.
Such horrific tale for such beautiful stone. Even in a glance, it was like a drop of blood.
- Two Weeks Ago -
The raven abruptly stopped another attempt wielding the hammer as she was in the middle of forging and turned her attention to Grandpa Hino who appeared right front of the workshop door. It was unusual for him to disturb during her work.
"Is something wrong, Grandpa?"
"An order just came in and I need you to take the job"
"Alright, I get to it after I finished with this one and another two orders…"
"Don't worry about them, Yuichiro can take over"
Rei was in utter confusion and she did not like the sound of it. She had never done a job half-way and gives other to finish. "What is it, Grandpa? What's the rush?"
"This one is a rather… difficult I would say and the client specifically asked for you to do the task"
"Me?" The raven was even more confused.
"Yes, I had the same expression as you as well, Rei. You know that I have kept you a promise to never mention anything about your work but this man just appeared and asked for you and he insisted to pay more for it", Grandpa explained sheepishly, knowing that it was not easy to change Rei's mind especially something that she did not like on doing.
Rei believed that Grandpa was telling the truth. He and Yuichiro have never do something that they knew she would not like or want. They respected her too much to do otherwise as she respected them for that.
"What is the order?"
"It shouldn't be hard… Usually a normal dagger will take a week…"
"Ah… There is another thing…" Rei just noticed the small pouch in his hand which now he carefully opened and rolled out the item inside the pouch onto his palm.
The raven could not have been more surprised on his palm was a single piece of red stone the size of a fig fruit.
Her surprise then was reasonable since the rarity of it but what made her uncomfortable was the fact that it was a stone from Mars… A kingdom that was familiar yet estrange to her. She did not sense anything evil towards it but she had been 'dreaming' since… almost every single day in fact. Something that she should not be remembering… or rather she refused to remember.
All she wanted now was getting the job done and give the dagger to the client as soon as possible. She wanted nothing more from the old memories of her past. She has a more imminent matter to deal with after this…
Carefully she placed down the dagger and wrapped it neatly in a black leather cloth. As she finished cleaning her workplace, she took the already wrapped dagger and quickly headed to her locker to take her cloak when suddenly loud noise was heard from behind the workshop. Her eyes went to the source of the noise and saw a pile of swords already on the floor.
"That Youichiro! How many times I told him to clean up and tidying his work after he is done…"
Rei went to the piling swords on the floor and started to pick them one by one when a small shadow at the corner appeared not far from the pile and jumped to the small window which 10-feet high. The raven was quick enough to notice and caught a glimpse of a tail before it disappears.
While she stared up to the window where she last seen her small intruder, she caught the sight of a round shining object in the sky, the Moon.
"It's full Moon already?" Years has passed so quick like turning book pages and when you did not noticed, they were just slipped by and you have lost count how many pages have you read.
The Moon was a common sight since she was on Earth. There was just something that you could not escape from…
"Rei, have you finished? I heard a noise, is everything okay?"
"You are not asleep yet Grandpa?"
"I am just finishing up here…" Grandpa approached her and saw Rei crouched beside the pile. The sight enraged him, "That Yuichiro! He didn't clean up after work, didn't he?!"
"Ah, yes… I think so", Rei answered rather dithered since she got distracted and all. She cursed herself for losing her focus too much today. She determined to go back home and have herself a rest definitely.
"Just leave it there, Rei. I will wake that lazy bump very early morning tomorrow and have him to clean up his mess!" Grandpa said grumpily but soon, he put aside his annoyance and spoke kindly towards Rei, "Thank you for your hard work, Rei. Are you going back home?"
Rei smiled at the old man. She knew that Grandpa has always been protective of her; like a parent towards their children, something that Rei never had the privilege being treated as such.
"Are you sure? It's pretty late already… You can stay over"
"Don't worry Grandpa, I will be alright. Besides, I promise Minako to come home today"
"You two are very close", Grandpa Hino said innocently, not knowing the true nature of their relationship. Rei never told anyone about their relationship. It was not something that anyone could have taken it lightly especially on Earth where gender equality is not something that very common and not like other Kingdoms where they are reigning by Queens with King as their Consort, the Earth Monarchy reigns by King, adding more to their dominant male role in their society. But still, only few societies that are receptive to the idea of relationship between two women particularly Venusian.
Rei smiled when her mind crossed the thought a certain Venusian blond beauty. No one could be lovelier than them. Since they are worshipped the Goddess of Aphrodite herself both men and women, they adore love as much as they adore their Goddess. She felt it was long time ago that she had the time to know such people, loving and free-spirited. But those wonderful memories were not for long. Suddenly she felt chill all across her body every time she bagan remembering things. Those memories turned against her and the last thing it projected was bloody red.
"Rei, are you alright?"
"I-I am alright"
"You look pale of all of the sudden. You better stay tonight, I am sure Minako would understand"
"No, Grandpa… I have to go, beside, I don't like to leave her alone often"
"Rei, listen. The two of you should consider finding a husband… It is a rough world outside and you know it yourself, it can be unsafe especially for women who have no men around…"
"Thank you for thinking of us, Grandpa"
"Take the advice from me, not as an old man, but as a friend who cares about you deeply…" Grandpa Hino took Rei's hand, squeeze it softly for encouragement.
The raven retuned it by grabbing the old man into embrace instead which taken Grandpa Hino by surprised, "Thank you, Grandpa Hino"
"Are you sure, you don't want to marry Yuichiro, Rei?" Grandpa Hino teased.
Immediately, Rei pulled away from the old man. "Definitely Not!"
"What a pity… I am really hoping that you can be my Granddaughter for real", Grandpa Hino looked sad all of the sudden and tears became apparent in his eyes. "It is just an old man's wish, wanting to see my grandson happy and have a family… At least before I die-"
"No, Grandpa! You've been doing this for years and I can see through you. Your trick is getting old"
"See how smart you are? I wish that Yuichiro could marry a smart woman like you", flattered the old man, still has his eyes damped by the fake tears.
The raven gave a loud sigh and chose to ignore him, finding no more power to argue with old man. "I am going home now, Grandpa"
"How about Minako? Maybe she is interested-" Grandpa insisted.
"NO!" Rei, rather jealous or somewhat protective, retorted loudly before Grandpa could finish his sentence. She was very definite that the idea would not even cross her partner's mind.
Grandpa Hino finally gave up and the fake tears in his eyes dried up quickly. Rei gave a quiet laugh at her silly boss. Although his childishness and teasing nature seemed the only thing he showed, Rei had a high regard of him. He and Yuichiro welcomed her with open arm and their kindness is just something that she respects them for. They had helped her through her years in Earth and never asked or having suspicion towards her. They did care for her like one of their own. Rei will forever be in his debt.
"Unless, it's not about Yuichiro, I am willing to listen"
"Alright, alright, I will not talk about it anymore. I want you to have this"
Rei received a box wrapped a red ribbon on top. "What is this?"
"It's a gift…"
"A gift? It is not my birthday or anything…"
"Well… Today is exactly your sixth year working here"
"Really? I don't remember…"
"I remembered it pretty well… How could I forget the first time I fell in love with you", the old man laughed in delight. "It is from me and Yuichiro but since he fell asleep already and you are heading home, so I am giving it to you right now. It is our gratitude for all your hard work, Rei"
"Grandpa, you don't need too… I am the one who is thankful to have work with you… I don't think what I will do if I had not met you"
"Rei, don't think yourself so lowly… you are a wonderful woman and I can see so much in you from the first time I saw you… I am maybe just an old man who is running a shop but I know when I see someone who has so much potential… It was me who is lucky to find you…"
Rei felt deeply touch and she went to embrace the old man again. "Thank you, Grandpa… for everything but really, you don't need to give me anything"
Grandpa Hino gave a soft smile and returned her embrace. "I don't know when our time together will last, but when the time comes, at least you have something that you can remember of us…"
"Don't say that Grandpa… It's like I am going somewhere…"
"It's called life… we never know where it will bring us… but always remember Rei, that you are always welcome here", She could feel tears began to swell up but tried to hide it. Rei just tightened her gripped around Grandpa Hino. "Now, now, don't try to suffocate me"
"Sorry, Grandpa", Rei pulled back as she still tried to hide her tears.
Grandpa Hino continued to smile and pretended to not seeing her tears. "Now, open you gift"
"Maybe I will open it tomorrow when Yuichiro is awake-"
"No! I am the one who have stay up late so I could give you the gift today while he is snoring in his bed, so I should get special treatment! Now, open it!" Grandpa Hino was rather annoyed. He was just out of his patience.
"Alright, alright… I was just merely suggesting", Rei said calmly as she followed the elderly man's order.
She carefully untied the ribbon and opened the shallow box. Rei stunned as she observed what inside the box. It was a pair of a leather glove.
"I thought the color suit you, red coral color just like the gem"
Now, that Grandpa mentioned about the gem again, Rei kept wondering the coincidence, "Why the gem?"
"I saw how you were so fixated with the gem. Every time you laid your eyes on it, you always had this soft expression, like something that is very familiar and dear to you", Grandpa explained and Rei realized behind those façade of the silliness, he is still a man who has aged beyond Rei's, experienced and wise. "Since I couldn't get you another gem stone, I thought to find something with the same color. I saw that glove and also it will be winter soon"
Rei was speechless. She did not know how to reciprocate when saw her gift. Partially, she was flattered how much attention given to her since the first time they met. She was a complete stranger to the two men but they did not treat her so. Even now, she felt like she never gave them anything in return for their kindness.
"What's wrong Rei? You looked somewhat surprised. You don't like it?"
"No, Grandpa, they are perfect! It's very beautiful really", the raven went to give the man another embrace. It was not as tight gripping hug like before but it was deep enough that shown Rei's sincerity. "Thank you, Grandpa"
"Always, Rei… Always… Thank you for being in our life"
They stayed that way for a while until Rei spoke again, "I hate to ruin the mood but I really have to get back home now, Grandpa"
The raven gave the man a kiss on the cheek, something that she rarely did which made the old man slightly blushed. Rei gave a light laugh seeing the man's reaction and Grandpa Hino just smiled in embarrass. "Not bad for an old man, huh? I'll brag to Yuichiro tomorrow!"
Rei just smiled at the comment, "Please do it before I came, okay? So I can skip the whole shenanigan"
Grandpa Hino could stop himself from smiling widely and only answered Rei with a nod.
"Good night, Grandpa", the raven waved as she headed to the door. She heard the bell rang for the thousand times and exited the shop went into the dark street.
Rei could not remember how long it has been since she left the shop. The distance between her home and the shop never felt this long before. Maybe it was because she rarely went home past midnight. The usual bustling market was lively no more and the crowded street was left with the sound of midnight breeze. The street was just felt so still as if the time just stopped right at that moment. Something that the raven became accustomed to when she was younger. It was not her fondest memory to be honest.
The cracking sound of the sacred fire was the only company she had during the time of silence. She could never know whether it was day or night, never counting days or even had the chance to feed herself. At that time, she was not mind. It was the only world that she knew of, growing up to know only one purpose in life. Until…
The little girl opened her eyes and turned her head around away from the sacred fire in front of her to find the person who called behind her. Her Amethyst eyes twitched as the sunlight pierced through her eyes. She could not remember how long she had been there but certainly long enough to feel the light from outside world was the strangest thing to her. But the light was not the only stranger to her. A figure stood with back against the light. Rei could not see the face of the stranger.
A hand reached out to her.
The raven was confused at first when she saw it. What she understood that it was asking her to take that hand. But questions began to fill in her head. Who is this stranger? What does this person want from her? And where she will be taken to?
But her heart told her differently.
Without further questions, her hand reached it out and grasped the open palm, and the one thing that she remember upon touching it was, 'So warm...'
Rei came back from her short recollection and suddenly felt how cold her hands have become. The midnight breeze was not as friendly as the fire in the workshop. It was almost the end of the year and the weather started becoming colder. It reminded her of the gloves she received earlier. It did come in handy after all. She was not exactly fancy the cold since fire is more of her element and moreover she never used to grow up in much warmer place on Mars. She shook her head, stopping from reminiscing the past and focusing more to reach home as soon as possible.
'What is wrong with me today?! Damn! That has to be the dream…' Rei silently cursed as she quickly went to find her new gloves. As she was looking into the side pocket of her robe, she found a something else instead. She pulled out her hand and found a small black box in her palm and Rei just stopped completely in her track.
The dream was not the only thing that bothers her all day…
She opened the box and had her eyes started upon a sterling silver wrap around a cushion-cut yellow topaz ring. The moment she laid her eyes on it when she first bought it, she was just mesmerizing how beautiful the ring is. She could not help but smile every time she sees it. Whenever she saw the sunny colored ring, she felt warm and excited. But it was not for long… Too bad that it was not going to be wear anytime soon…
Suddenly, her attention was distracted. She heard a subtle pacing from afar and it was coming closer by time. The raven sensed someone was behind her. She placed the box with ring in it back into the pocket in the robe and begun walking again, deliberately increased her pace. The pace behind her follows. Then she knew for sure that she was being followed. Then, she started to sprint as quickly she could, not because she was scared but for the sake to spare whoever her stalker was from end up getting thrown into the dumpster or worse. She expected in few meters the stalker would give up and leave her alone. To her surprise, it did not. Rei knew that it was not an ordinary stalker.
Rei's pulse began to escalate as thoughts raced through her mind. Whomever the person was not 'ordinary' and fear began ran through her vein. 'They found me?'
However, she refused to let her fear clouded her judgment. Rei was faced with two options. Her first option was to keep fleeing. When she saw an alley to her farther left, quickly she made her turned and kept running inside hoping to find a shortcut. But fate was not so kind to her. It was a dead end.
'Shit!' The raven cursed.
Now, she had no choice but to pick her second option; to fight. The steps were getting closer to the alley. Rei could barely see in the dark alley. The only lighting that she could rely on was the streetlight right in front of the entrance to the alley. The situation was not in her favor and she could only prepare herself for the worse. It was just matter of second before the figure will step into the alley and then it was Rei's cue to make the first move.
Three… Two… One…
Rei did not budge, still waiting. Footsteps were no longer heard nor a figure showed up at the alley. It was completely vanished without a trace. Questions began filling up the raven's mind when a shadow jumped in front of the entrance and Rei went guarded again, ready to attack when she realized, it was not an assailant that she would expect to be.
It was a cat.
For a second, the raven was a little relieved but she did not let her guard down easily. She knew that she was not mistook her sense. She knew that something was chasing after her and she still could not shake that feeling. It was still there but she could not see it. Her attention fell to the cat's shadow.
The little animal just sat straight there as if it was waiting for something or rather for her. It did not move from that spot or a gesture, just sat still. It was not something like a cat would do, or is it?
'It can't be…' Rei gave a thorough look at the cat. She could not make any other details of the cat since it was standing backing the light from the streetlight. She only managed to catch a light which has been obstructing her eyes for a while, something shiny on the cat's head.
Something was familiar about that cat. The raven gathered up her courage and took a step forward to approach the small shadowy figure. The animal noticed the movement and stood on its four little paws.
"Meeeeow", it gave a little shout. Slightly different from the last and then escaped from its spot.
"Wait!" Rei quickly followed. She might sound crazy but she gets the feeling that it was telling her to chase after it. But she did not go further when something else caught her attention. An object was left on the spot where the cat was before; a familiar black leather cloth.
The raven stopped right before it and went to pick it up. She knew that black leather cloth and went to unwrapped the item inside. It was undisputed dagger that she has been working on and the familiar Red Coral embedded on. Rei was just astounded.
"What in the world… How you get here?"
The raven had no idea how the dagger could ended up here. The last thing she remembers was when she wrapped the dagger with the black leather cloth and then she got distracted…
"That cat…" Rei looked away from the dagger and went to search the little animal that she almost forgot about. By now she was very sure that it was not just an ordinary cat. Just as she was looking at her right, she noticed a figure in robe lying against the wall right next to the alley's entrance. The raven did not noticed there was someone there before when she rushing herself into the alley.
It did not seem to be moving, just lying still. It was not the aura that she had been feeling before, it was not the same 'person' but the figure in robe before does have the same peculiar air about it. Something that was familiar…
Suddenly, it was moving which startled Rei a bit but it was not just that. Her confusion grew when a petite head appeared underneath the robe and it was not just any head. It was a beautiful silky blond hair. Then, it looked up and Rei first thought was as if she was looking at the mirror where her amethyst eyes staring at her own reflection, another amethyst eyes but smaller.
"W-where am I?" The smaller amethyst eyes looked at her surrounding seemed to be confused.
The petite head, small eyes and the candid little voice… It was a girl.
"Who are you?" The girl directed her question to her and Rei was taken aback a little as the small amethyst eyes stared back at her again.
"You don't remember how you get here, little one?" Rei gained her composure and asked the girl gently, only to be replied by a head shake, but her eyes never left the raven with a little pout. "Do you know where you live?"
There was another head shake and now, the girl looked like as if she was about to burst out crying.
Rei was in complete confusion as she saw the girl's candid expression. She did not know what to do. Before she was chasing by a cat and now, she encounters a lost little girl who is about to cry anytime soon.
"Please tell me that you remember your name", Rei asked again sounded desperate.
Then the girl's expression lit up and nodded with a cute smile which sent Rei's stomach into a warm fuzzy sensation.
'Thank you Ares!' Rei screamed in happiness inside, how the little girl's whirlwind mood can just affecting her so much. "What is your name, little one?"
Suddenly, Rei could feel the happiness inside her crashing down hard to the ground, so hard that only pieces left out of it.
Another Author's Note:
If any of you by the end of reading this chapter asking, "Who is that?! Minako?"
Stay Tune XD
Pls Review (again)
Thank you for reading!