A Sailor Ranko fanfic
by Jason Heinrich
Based on the Sailor Ranko story and webcomic by Duncan Zillman and Rebecca Heineman. With acknowledgments and thanks to Kevin D. Hammel and Arthur Hansen.
FAITH, HOPE, AND LOVE
Selene, better known as Queen Serenity of the Moon Kingdom, sat before the large mirror in her powder room as she went through her morning ritual, preparing for another day. Amongst the other implements of beauty on the ebony tabletop before her sat an ornate wooden box, an image of the moon carved skillfully into its lid surrounded by nine gems. She placed her hands on the box's sides and sent power into it, releasing the magical wards that kept the box sealed to protect its contents. With the wards deactivated, she lifted the lid with her thumbs to reveal her most treasured adornment.
By itself, the jewelry that sat in the box wasn't particularly fancy. It was a single gold upturned crescent moon, with strings of golden beads extending several centimeters from each side, ending in a pair of hair clips. There were no precious stones. The craftsmanship was high-quality, but there were no embellishments or etchings to make it especially noteworthy. Even the style of jewelry – a browlace, as it had once been called – had fallen out of common use centuries ago.
Yet it wasn't the bauble's monetary value that made it so precious to Serenity. Where other monarchs wore a crown or tiara to symbolize their rule, this simple piece of jewelry, combined with her signature hairstyle and winged gown, was her badge of office. The golden crescent moon on her forehead was instantly recognizable by everyone in the solar system as the mark of the Moon Queen. It was so recognizable, in fact, that Serenity had extended the concept to magically marking her senshi's foreheads with their planets' symbols, and later using her own familiar upturned moon symbol to imprint the foreheads of her Mau advisors and her daughter. The crescent moon, which had once been nothing more than a favorite piece of jewelry, had become the symbol of the leadership of the Moon Kingdom.
Beyond its political significance, the browlace held even more meaning for Serenity, of a far more personal nature. For it had been a gift, given over a millenium previous, from her parents. The occasion had been her near-unanimous selection as the governor of the Moon colony, shortly after she had first learned to tap the power of the Silver Crystal to create the magical dome. The position had been given to her out of gratitude for her service to the colony, and perhaps out of a healthy respect for her growing power. Nevertheless, the office was still largely ceremonial: she had been little more than the figurehead of the colonial council, with a say in the discussions but no vote except to break a tie. This had mattered little to her parents, however, who were so full of pride in their daughter that they threw the biggest celebratory party they could manage. There in front of their friends they presented her with the browlace, a reminder of their love and support even as public life began to monopolize her time.
Obviously her power and authority had grown a bit since then.
None of these things made more than a fleeting pass through her mind this morning, however, as she clipped the browlace into place and began to wind one side of her long hair up into a ball. Her thoughts were on her own daughter. She smiled as she listened to Pandia whistling out in the hallway. Sometimes she wondered why she had waited a thousand years to have a child of her own. Perhaps she had thought that having a family would distract her from her royal duties. Perhaps she was afraid to face the pain of losing a child again, after her onetime ward, the dear Andora, had used her power as Sailor Saturn to end the Asteran Rebellion, sacrificing herself in the process. Knowing the grief that event had caused her - even though Andora had not been her own child - Serenity hadn't wanted to face the prospect of losing her own flesh and blood.
All of those excuses seemed so irrelevant now, paling in comparison to the love and joy that Pandia brought to all around her. For example, a few years back the girl had taken it upon herself to brighten all of the living areas in their own royal residence with fresh flowers, a habit that she diligently kept up with new arrangements every week. Even now her happy whistling reflected her enjoyment in bringing beauty to her environment as she worked on her latest arrangement, a bouquet of thornless red roses that had been imported from Earth. Pandia had started decorating with the roses a few months ago, and Serenity fully agreed with her daughter's appreciation of their beauty.
As she finished tying the second odango into her hair, a melodic tone sounded. It was a sound that she instantly recognized, and one that she knew only she could hear. Quickly securing her hair, she reached out and pulled a communicator from its subspace pocket, flipping the flat round device open in one smooth motion. On the device's small screen, Sailor Mercury appeared.
"Good morning, Your Majesty," Mercury said. "My apologies for interrupting you so early."
Serenity had complete faith in her senshi, and knew that Mercury wouldn't have used the communicator unless it was important. "Do not worry yourself," she replied. "What can I do for you?"
"I was wondering if you had time to meet with me before your morning audiences. We've received new evidence regarding the attack on Angwyn's parents that I think you will want to see."
One of Serenity's eyebrows went up. Mercury was right, she did want to see this new evidence. It would be gratifying to finally make some progress on the only unsolved terrorist attack that her realm had seen in centuries. "Of course. Can you meet me at the throne room in half an hour?"
"Yes, Your Majesty." On the communicator Mercury bowed her head before breaking the connection, and the communicator's screen reverted to its default mirror function.
As eager as she was to hear Mercury's findings, the queen wasn't about to miss breakfast. Quickly flipping the communicator closed and stashing it back in subspace, Serenity hurried to straighten up the vanity, shoving the main drawer closed with her hip as she stood. Striding out of her personal quarters, she paused in the hallway to admire Pandia's handiwork with the roses. "They look beautiful dear," she praised her daughter. "These are magnificent arrangements. You always do such a fine job!" She leaned forward and kissed the young woman on the forehead.
Pandia's gaze lingered on the roses for a moment before she turned to her mother, her smile bright like the morning sun reflected in the glistening waters of the Sea. "Thank you, Mother. Have a good day!"
Serenity returned the smile, and giving her daughter a quick squeeze, she headed for the kitchen.
Exactly 30 minutes after Mercury's call, Serenity stepped into the throne room through the private entrance in the back wall behind the throne. Rounding the dais, she strode toward the main doors, footfalls echoing in the empty room with its abundance of marble. "Mercury, I am ready to meet with you now," she spoke into thin air.
A couple of seconds later the door opened, admitting not just Sailor Mercury, but all four of the Inner Senshi, Angwyn Weaver, and a young man in a Royal Emergency Services forensics uniform. Serenity raised an eyebrow at the unexpected ensemble; upon further reflection, however, the members of the group seemed logical. Angwyn's presence wasn't surprising, as her parents were the subject of the meeting, and judging from the case he carried, the RES technician was bringing the evidence that Mercury had mentioned. The other three senshi, all in civilian clothes, were a bit more unexpected, though considering the way they hovered around Angwyn, Serenity suspected they were there for moral support.
"Come, we will talk in the sitting room," she instructed, leading the group to the smaller alcove in the side of the throne room. She sat in one of the chairs there, and gestured for Angwyn to sit in one of the others. Angwyn complied, looking a bit embarrassed at having been singled out.
"Now," she stated, directing her attention to the technician, "please show us what you have discovered."
The technician swallowed, nodded, and shakily began to fumble with the case's latch. Noticing his nervousness, Mercury briefly touched his arm and said, "Just tell her what you told us yesterday, Jens."
Emboldened by Mercury's support, Jens managed to get the case open and proceeded to present the evidence to the queen. He and Mercury had been up late the night before reanalyzing the attack, and with the knowledge of where the dust had come from, they had been able to piece together a more or less accurate account of what had happened on that fateful evening. Through it all Serenity sat silently and thoughtfully, nodding occasionally but otherwise allowing him to complete his presentation without interruption. Angwyn, for her part, had gotten all of her crying out the night before, and sat still with a determined - almost angry - expression on her face.
When Jens had finished, Serenity sat for a moment with her fingers steepled in front of her mouth, contemplating what she had learned. Finally she commented, "Three incidents is not much to go on, but from what you have shown me there does not seem to be any pattern to these attacks." She turned to Angwyn. "You may be relieved to know, my dear, that most likely your family was not specifically targeted. You need not fear another attack on your person. In fact, I consider your parents heroes for stopping the creatures that attacked them, and preventing them from harming anyone else." Angwyn nodded, but said nothing. She didn't look particularly relieved.
"What concerns me," the queen continued, "is that there is no record of people ever seeing these creatures except for on the few occasions that they have attacked someone. Where are they coming from? Do they have an agenda? Are they even intelligent, or just beasts? We need more information before we can even begin to make a proper threat assessment."
Athena spoke up. "It seems to me that their ability to take human form is reason enough to consider them a significant threat. They've already demonstrated deadly intent. Who knows how many of them are out there, hiding, waiting to attack again?" Juno nodded her agreement.
"As for intelligence," Mercury added, "the attack at the security station in Adalandis seems to indicate that they were gathering information. The incident report stated that the creature had been loitering around the station for some time before it transformed and killed the nearest guard without warning."
Athena nodded. "I suggest that we increase security in the city and especially here in the palace. Perhaps even double the senshi guard around yourself and the princess." Off to the side, Cytheria shot her a glare, clearly not pleased with the idea of pulling double shifts.
Fortunately for Cytheria's social life, Serenity shook her head. "No, that will not be necessary," she answered. "As I said before, the attacks have been random, not targeted. True, one occurred in a security station, but another was against a homeless man in a back alley, and the only attack here on the moon was on a small farm far from the city and palace. Besides, I do not wish to alarm the public, especially with so little to go on. No, for now we must simply remain vigilant. If there is another attack, whether here or on Earth, I wish to know about it as soon as possible. Understood?" When the senshi and Jens all nodded their understanding, Serenity smiled and rose from her seat. "Very good. Thank you for your diligence in this troubling mystery. You are dismissed."
The senshi and Jens all filed out of the sitting area and headed to the throne room doors. Angwyn started to follow, but hesitated after only a few steps. After a couple seconds she turned back toward the queen. "Your Majesty, can I ask you something?"
"Certainly, my dear, what is it?"
"You called my parents heroes. Did you mean that?"
Serenity smiled. "I most certainly did. In each of the attacks on Earth, it took a number of armed security personnel to bring down a single creature. Your parents, however, sacrificed themselves to stop not just one, but at least two of them. In the process they potentially saved a great many lives, yours included."
Angwyn stood silently for a moment in thought, staring down at the carpet of the sitting area without really seeing it. Finally she looked up. "I want to be a hero too."
Serenity raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"
Angwyn leaned forward in earnest. "Your Majesty, last year I asked you if I could be one of your senshi. Would you please reconsider? My parents may have stopped those monsters, but they payed for it with their lives. If there is a new threat to your kingdom, then I want to be able to fight it and win. I want to be one of the ones to protect you and your subjects. I've gotten to know your Guardian Senshi so well over the past year, and they've become my friends. I want to stand with them in your service." She straightened up and looked directly into Serenity's eyes. "Please, Your Highness. I know the cost. And I still want to be Sailor Sun."
Serenity sighed. She had a feeling that Angwyn was going to ask that. "Angwyn, I can see that you are in earnest, and I respect that. Over the past year your desire to be one of the senshi has not waned. But I can also see that there is more to your request than you have stated."
"What?" asked Angwyn.
"Revenge," Serenity stated simply. "These creatures took your parents from you. Your life has been turned upside-down in the past year. You know that you could not defeat one now, but with the power of a senshi it would be no trouble to pay them back for what they have done to you."
Though outwardly she kept her peace in the queen's presence, inwardly Angwyn bristled at the rebuke. What? That's not it at all! she thought. The monsters that killed my parents are already dead. I just want to make sure it doesn't happen to anyone else. Though... if one did show up it sure would feel good to be able to take it out all by myself. Does that mean I'm consumed with revenge? Well, maybe consumed is too strong a word...
As Angwyn debated within herself, the queen continued, "A senshi's heart must be pure, and her motivations perfectly noble. Otherwise, the temptation to use her power selfishly may be too great. It will lead to hurt and ruin, not just for her, but for everyone around her. Even if I needed another senshi, could you honestly say that your motivations for wanting that power are not tainted?"
Every fibre of Angwyn's being wanted to scream that yes, her desire was pure, but under Serenity's scrutinizing gaze she realized that she could do nothing but tell the truth. "No," she answered in a small voice.
Serenity stepped forward, and much to Angywn's surprise, she wrapped the girl in a hug. "I know the hurt you must be feeling," she said softly. "There've been many times over the years that someone has wronged me or someone I care about. Both my daughter and I have been threatened by those who coveted the throne. It would've been so easy to give into anger and hate and just let them have it. But I've always tried to live my life and rule this kingdom by a simple mantra, the same one the senshi have adopted: Love and Justice. If the senshi are truly your role models, then follow that mantra yourself, and seek peace."
Angwyn just stood there, stunned, in Serenity's arms. She wasn't sure what was more shocking: having the queen of the whole solar system embracing her like she was family, or the fact that Serenity had dropped out of her usually formal speech patterns and was speaking to her familiarly, like a friend. Or, for that matter, that she was essentially giving her a major hint as to how to take the first step toward becoming a senshi. Never mind that that probably wasn't the queen's intent, it was still something to go on. She looked up at the taller, silver-haired woman. "Thank you, Your Highness," she said. "I'll do my best."
"Good," Serenity said with a smile, breaking the embrace. "Now you should hurry along. I suspect your friends are waiting for you."
Angwyn bowed, and with a small wave hurried back out to the atrium, her mind awhirl. Mercury was holding the door for her, and closed it behind her as she left the throne room. In addition to Mercury, Cytheria and Jens also stood there waiting for her, Athena and Juno apparently having already gone on ahead. With a start, Angwyn realized that Jens probably wasn't waiting for her, but rather waiting for her to leave. The thought made her smile.
Judging from the way Cytheria was glancing at the other senshi and the technician, Angwyn surmised that the blonde was thinking along the same lines. "Come on, Angwyn," Cytheria said, "I'll walk you back to your apartment."
They walked back through the palace complex towards the south wing where Angwyn's apartment was located. Angwyn paid little attention to her surroundings as she reflected on what the queen had said. She still didn't think that her desire for revenge was as strong as Serenity seemed to believe, nor was it a primary driving force in her desire to be a senshi. Nevertheless, she couldn't deny that vengeance wasn't at least one of the reasons she wanted a senshi's power. She would have to work on that: maybe if she could exorcise the negative desires, the queen would finally grant her request!
Cytheria was growing restless waiting for Angwyn to say something, anything, about the events of the past couple days. The girl had been silent since they had left the throne room, and Cytheria's curiosity was getting the best of her. Finally she could stand it no longer. "So, that Jens guy seems kind of cute."
"Hmm," was Angwyn's reply.
"It's really sweet that he's working so hard to solve your case."
"You might have to fight Minerva for him."
Cytheria sighed and stopped. "Angwyn, you haven't heard a word I said, have you?"
Proving Cytheria's point, Angwyn walked nearly five meters further before finally noticing that her friend was no longer at her side. She looked back and shook her head sheepishly. "Sorry, I guess I'm a little preoccupied."
"No kidding. Well, that's understandable." Cytheria regarded the red-head for a second. "Come on, let's go to my place. I have something for you."
They turned around and started heading back towards the northwest corner of the palace. Angwyn looked up at her companion. "You got something for me? What is it?"
Cytheria grinned. "Well, it is your birthday tomorrow. Did you think I wouldn't remember to get you a gift?"
"Well, I just didn't want to presume..."
Cytheria waved her off. "Of course I wouldn't forget something for one of my friends! I was going to give it to you tomorrow, but I think now might be a better time."
They turned into a wide corridor with decorative stone walls and a tall crystal roof. It being lunar night, no sunlight shone through. Rather, the crystal itself glowed gently, providing plenty of light both to see and for the assortment of plants that grew in the center of the corridor. The area felt more like a courtyard than a hallway. Angwyn was in awe: this was the private residences of the Queen and her princesses, and the public rarely saw this area. Even having been friends with the Inner Senshi over the past year, Angwyn had never been invited here. She felt honored.
Cytheria stopped before a set of double doors. Reaching for the handle, she hesitated. "Um, I wasn't really expecting company. Would you mind waiting out here for a minute? I'll be right back."
Angwyn was disappointed, but nodded. She caught a glimpse of shoes and shopping bags piled in the entry way before Cytheria shut the door behind her. Angwyn grinned. She knew better than most people that Cytheria was just an ordinary person, with an ordinary set of faults, despite her status and true age. Still, it was strangely comforting to see the entirely mundane mess in the quarters of one of the planetary princesses.
A crash, accompanied by a yelp, sounded through the door. Angwyn's eyebrows raised in concern. "Are you alright?"
"Yeah, everything's fine!" Cytheria's voice came back. Then a more muted, "Aha! There you are." There was a second, smaller crash, some grumbling that Angwyn couldn't make out, and then footsteps approaching the door. Cytheria opened it, her hair somewhat tousled but a victorious grin on her face. She extended a large, flat package wrapped in shimmery green paper to Angwyn. "Here you go!"
"Wow, thanks!" Angwyn took the gift, noting that it was light for its size. She shook it. "Clothes?" she guessed.
Cytheria's grin got a little bigger. She was practically bouncing on her toes in excitement. "Why don't you open it and find out?"
Angwyn glanced around the corridor in surprise. "What, right here? Right now?"
Cytheria nodded enthusiastically. "Sure, why not?"
With big smile, Angwyn tore the paper off to reveal a plain box with silver highlights. It was a bit awkward to handle while standing, but she managed to get the lid off. Then her jaw dropped.
Inside the box lay a white body suit, with a red sailor collar and red skirt. Its chest sported a large yellow bow with a red heart-shaped crystal in its center. A matching yellow bow accented the back of the fuku. Angwyn lifted the senshi uniform out in awe, revealing a pair of red knee-high boots, white elbow-length gloves with red piping, and a golden tiara adorned with a small red crystal. Her mouth opened, but for the moment she was too overcome to speak.
In a flash of light, Cytheria transformed into Sailor Venus. Her own orange-and-white fuku just seemed more appropriate at the moment. "Happy birthday, Angwyn!"
"Th-thanks," Angwyn managed to get out. She set the box down and held the fuku up against her body. She really wished she had a mirror. "This is... amazing. I don't know what to say!"
"Aw, you're welcome," Venus replied. Her smile lessened slightly. "It's just a costume. I know you've dreamed of being a senshi, but you heard what the queen said when you asked her last year. Still, I thought you might like it."
At the mention of the word "dream", Angwyn almost visibly twitched as the images of her recurring nightmare from the previous year came flooding back to her, vivid in spite of the intervening time. She looked again at the fuku with its red skirt and yellow bow. It was a perfect match for the one in her dream. Angwyn's eyes went wide as she realized that she had never described the uniform to Venus. Could this mean... "I can be Sailor Sun!" she whispered in awe.
"What?" asked Venus. She was starting to worry about her young friend. She knew Angwyn would like it, but the girl's reaction to the gift seemed a bit extreme.
Angwyn shook her head to clear it. "Nothing. It... it's perfect! Thank you!"
Venus's smile returned. "Let's go back to your place, and you can try it on."
Angwyn nodded enthusiastically. She knelt and placed the fuku back in the box and replaced the lid. Then, on impulse, she pointed her finger at the wrapping paper and concentrated. A small flame flared into life on the edge of the paper; in a manner of seconds there was nothing left but a small pile of ashes and a black spot on the polished stone floor.
Venus shook her head with a chuckle, recognizing the candle-lighting trick that Angwyn had learned just the night before. "The janitor is not going to be happy with you," she admonished lightly.
"I won't tell him if you don't," Angwyn replied. She rose and they started back down the corridor towards her own apartment.
Venus took one last glance at the ashes. It gave her an idea. "Say," she said to Angwyn, "how would you like to play hookie today?"
Galen Prasinos glanced anxiously at the clock on the classroom wall. Class was scheduled to start in just a couple of minutes; even now the usual stragglers were hurrying into class to take their places at their desks. Yet the one desk he was most interested in, the one directly in front of him, remained conspicuously empty. As each second passed, it seemed increasingly likely that the owner of that desk wasn't going to show.
Galen sighed. It figured. Before today, Angwyn had had near-perfect attendance, and Galen had grown to take her presence in class for granted. Every day he would find himself entranced by that magnificent mane of vivid red hair and its shapely owner. Her smile could make his stomach do somersaults, and yet despite the fact that she was a generally cheerful person, there always seemed to be a slight melancholy just beneath the surface. Rather than detract from her attractiveness, that melancholy gave her an air of mystery. He knew little of her past, only that she had grown up in the country before moving to the palace, and apparently something bad had happened to her at some point. She never spoke about it, and after almost a year in the same homeroom, Angwyn was a mystery that Galen desperately wanted to solve.
Galen considered himself extremely fortunate that Angwyn even talked to him at all. With an average height, average brown hair, and an average face, he was the kind of person that would be overlooked in an empty room. He wasn't helped by the fact that he also had a reserved personality, not really interested in the cliques and social circles that the other royals tended to gravitate towards. While not shy - he had no trouble carrying on a conversation or introducing himself to a stranger - he generally preferred to keep to himself. Which was probably part of the reason why he found Angwyn so appealing, as she avoided the snobbish royals as much as he did.
Not that they would have given her a chance. Angwyn wasn't the only commoner at the Palace Academy, and like most of the other commoners, she was shunned almost universally by the royal girls. Unlike the other commoners, they seemed to actively dislike her. Galen had overheard some of the other girls talking on a few occasions, and had gotten the impression that they were jealous of her friendship with the senshi. He shook his head. He really didn't understand why they insisted on being so petty.
Most of the royal boys, on the other hand, didn't seem to mind that she was a commoner at all. Galen didn't need to hear the locker room talk to understand why.
Sometimes he wondered what was so great about being a member of the nobility, anyway.
He fingered the Rocket-Ball tickets in his pocket as the chime sounded the beginning of the school day. Why did she have to be absent today of all days? It had taken him nearly 2 months to convince himself that he should ask her out, and the Rocket-Ball match was tomorrow, on her birthday. He new asking her to do anything on the evening of her birthday was a huge risk - what if she already had plans? - but he had no control over the league's schedule. And this was a big match, too, pitching last season's unlikely champions from the farm town of Maskelyne in South Tranquility against the current Martian favorites from Nanedi. He hadn't even been sure that he'd be able to get the tickets, but an uncle with a season pass had come through for him at nearly the last minute. He knew she liked Rocket-Ball, and was pretty certain she would at least be interested in going to the match, but if he didn't ask Angwyn today there was a good chance that it would be too late.
Galen firmed his jaw in determination as the teacher finished taking the roll. He wouldn't chicken out. Not this time. He'd just have to pay her a visit after school.
"You asked her again?"
Angwyn nodded in response to Venus's question. They were in a small transport, flying quickly to the west. Out the window, the rough landscape of the Western regions flashed by, dimly lit by the half-Earth above. Ahead of them, a glow was beginning to illuminate the horizon, marking the edge of the dome which was still lit by Sunlight. Both women were wearing their senshi uniforms. In addition, Angwyn had accessorized her outfit with her bracers.
Venus shook her head. "If I had known you were going to petition Serenity about becoming a senshi this morning, I may have thought twice about giving you the costume. I wasn't trying to encourage you."
Angwyn smiled as she admired her outfit for what must have been the hundredth time in the past hour. "Well then, I'm glad I didn't tell you."
Venus smiled back, but there was a sadness in her eyes. "You put me in a tough spot, you know? You're my friend, and I think it would be wonderful if you could join us. But I have to respect the queen's wishes first. And if she doesn't think you should be a senshi..." She trailed off with an apologetic shrug.
Angwyn looked chagrined. "I'm sorry. I don't want to do that to you. But this is my dream. I can't just give up on it."
"I know," Venus said with a sigh. "For now let's just keep working on getting your magic sensitivity and skill back. We'll worry about the future when it comes."
Angwyn nodded. They flew on in silence for a short while, with the horizon growing increasingly brighter up ahead. "So where exactly are we going, anyway?" Angwyn finally asked.
"There's a piece of land out by the edge of the dome owned by the Mitsura clan. Supposedly they're distantly related to Sailor Pluto, but I don't know how, since they're not royalty. Anyways, for as long as I can remember they've kept it undeveloped, and let us use it for combat practice. I figured it would be a good place to go try to throw a few fireballs."
"But I can't throw fireballs," Angwyn reminded her friend.
"Well, Athena and I have a theory about that. We think you're subconsciously holding back."
Angwyn bristled. "But..."
"Let me finish," Venus interrupted. "Fireballs are dangerous and destructive. At the palace you can't let loose. I've seen your bracers when you and Athena practice your magic. If the brightness of those crystals is any indication, you have plenty of magic potential inside. And Juno's so impressed with your martial arts progress, that she thinks you may be tapping into your ki to improve your performance. All of us agree that you can probably do more than you realize. You just need an environment where you can let go and not worry about damaging anything."
"You really think so?" Angwyn asked, hope evident in her voice.
"You bet!" Venus nodded. "At least, I think there's a good possibility," she amended with a little more caution.
"Wow," Angwyn muttered, staring at her bracers. "You know, you may be right." She clenched her fists. "Let's give it a try!"
"That's the spirit!" Venus cheered. She nodded out the window. "We're here."
Angwyn glanced up, immediately squinting as the Sun, directly ahead just above the horizon, shone in her eyes. Down below the landscape had leveled out into a grassy flatland, interrupted sporadically by the occasional hillock and the overgrown hints of a few ancient craters. That surprised Angwyn: pretty much everywhere else in the dome, all traces of craters had been erased centuries ago, as people had cleared the land for farming or development.
Off in the distance to the north, she could just make out a small community of homes. She lost sight of it quickly, as Venus was already dropping altitude, and not just because she was preparing to land, either. Above and ahead, the translucent dome quickly descended to the ground, crowding down upon what had been their flight altitude. Where it met the moon's surface, the contrast was dramatic. Inside the dome, the grass was green and the landscape rolling and gentle. Even the few craters that remained were shallow, smooth, and covered with grass and other plant life. Outside, however, the landscape was grey and barren, the dusty surface pockmarked with countless craters of various sizes. Without the atmosphere, weather, and gravity that the dome provided, the rims of the larger craters remained sharp, leaving long black shadows in the setting Sun.
Angwyn's breath caught in her throat as memories washed over her of her family's camping trip several years ago near the dome's northern edge. Her emotions already raw from the events of the last couple days, she found herself unprepared for the onslaught. She squeezed her eyes shut to stop the unbidden tears that were threatening to escape.
Fortunately, Venus was too focused on landing the transport to notice her friend's sudden distress. By the time they touched down, Angwyn had managed to regain control. She surreptitiously wiped the moisture from her eyes as Venus shut down the craft and opened the hatch.
Angwyn took a deep breath as the fresh air rushed in and brushed her face. For just a moment she closed her eyes to enjoy the sensation. It wasn't like she stayed indoors all the time at the palace; on the contrary, she spent a fair amount of her free time outside. But even on the expansive grounds of the palace, there was still an unmistakable hint of civilization that permeated the air. This, on the other hand... this was fresh. This was nature. She hadn't realized just how much she had missed it until it had hit her. Even better, the memories of home that came with it were happy ones. Rather than reigniting her recent distress, she felt... peace.
"Ahem," Venus said, breaking her reverie.
Angwyn smiled and climbed out of the transport. Stretching her legs, she glanced around at her surroundings. From the ground it was apparent that the landscape wasn't quite as untouched as it had appeared from the air. Nearby was a small stump, splintered and burnt. A straight, deep trench in the ground had obviously not been formed naturally. Outside the dome lay the remains of numerous boulders and rocks that had been shattered by powerful blasts. And scattered randomly around the area were a number of meter-wide dead spots, where the grass and weeds had not reclaimed the exposed dirt.
Venus noticed Angwyn examining one of the spots curiously. "Pluto's Dead Scream," she explained. "It takes a while for things to grow back from one of those."
Angwyn unconsciously retreated a step. "Yipe," she muttered softly. Turning back to Venus, she asked, "So what's your plan?"
"Well, I thought we would start with some meditation. Really get in touch with your center and be aware of your ki and magic, you know?"
"Fun," Angwyn commented dryly.
"After that we'll move on to some kata to loosen up and get the energy flowing," Venus continued, ignoring Angwyn's sarcasm. "These are new for you, and a bit advanced. If you can keep your focus, they should help you to consciously channel your ki into your actions. I don't know if it will work, but I hope they'll help you channel your magic, too."
Angwyn looked interested now. "That sounds neat."
"Then we spar," Venus concluded with a twinkle in her eye. "And don't hold back. Give it all you've got and try to mix some magic into your attacks. Don't worry, you won't hurt me."
Angwyn returned the grin, chuckling. "Yeah, let's do it!"
Nodding, Venus found a nice patch of short grass and knelt down, her upper body upright but relaxed.
Angwyn's grin faded. "Right, meditation first." She knelt as well, facing Venus. She closed her eyes, breathing deeply as her mother had once taught her, clearing her mind of distracting thoughts. One of which was just how boring meditation could be. "Okay, I'm ready."
Three hours later, Angwyn was far from bored. Gasping for breath, she dove out of the way as a cry of "Crescent Beam!" rang out from across the field. Less than a second later, a golden ray of light passed inches from her back, blowing a small hole in the dirt beyond. Venus had upped the ante in their sparring, introducing magic attacks and forcing Angwyn to put some distance between the two of them. Angwyn's options were pretty limited at this point: either go purely on the defensive, or learn how to throw some magic back in a hurry. Unfortunately, her attempts to manifest her magic weren't going so well, as Venus wasn't giving her a whole lot of time to focus. She was just glad that Venus had scaled back her signature attack so that it wasn't truly dangerous.
Just because it wouldn't injure her didn't mean the Crescent Beam didn't hurt, though. A lot.
Angwyn came out of her roll into a kneeling position. This just wasn't working; she was tired, and wearing herself out wasn't going to help her call forth the magic that she could feel humming inside of her. "Yield!" she called out, raising her hands to end the contest before Venus blasted her onto her rear end again.
Venus jogged over to Angwyn and extended her hand to help the dirty, tired girl to her feet. Angwyn glared at Venus' near-spotless uniform. The blonde wasn't even breathing hard.
"How do you stay so clean through all that?" She wiped at the grass clinging to her own fuku. "It's not fair."
Venus just laughed. "Centuries of practice. A little senshi magic doesn't hurt, either." She glanced at Angwyn's bracers, which were glowing steadily. "Speaking of magic..."
Angwyn took a few deep breaths to bring her heart rate down and get her breathing under control before replying. "Well, the bracers are working: I can definitely feel it. Your idea seemed to work, by the way. I'm pretty sure I was using ki in the sparring there. I never could have lasted this long without it. And being aware of that helped me be more aware of my star crystal and magic. I can feel it in there, but I'm still having a hard time using it."
"Hmm," pondered Venus, tapping her cheek in thought. "I suppose that's progress, at least."
"Yeah, I just couldn't focus with you shooting at me," Angwyn explained. "I feel like I'm so close... I just need a few minutes to really concentrate."
Venus nodded and stepped back to avoid being a distraction.
Angwyn took a deep breath and closed her eyes, turning her concentration inward. She focused on her core, and in little time recognized the cool flow of her ki. Underneath it all was the steady warmth of magic, with what she now knew to be her star crystal at its focus. To her mind's eye, it seemed as if small flickers of the magic would break away and be caught up in the flow of ki as it circulated through her body. Ignoring a powerful sense of déjà vu, Angwyn began to pull on the warmth.
At first it seemed like nothing happened. Unlike the first time she had attempted this, the magic stayed fast. She wasn't going to just give up though, not when she was this close. Sweat began to break out on her forehead as she struggled to maintain the pressure on her star crystal. Then, slowly but surely, the warmth began to move. The tiny flickers of magic that had been mixing into her ki flow turned into a small trickle. It was unfocused and too little to use for much of anything - except maybe lighting some candles - and she was quickly tiring out. Doggedly, she refused to let up, mentally keeping the pressure on the magic flow.
Suddenly the flow began to increase, as if an invisible dam had suddenly reached its limit and given way. "Yes!" she cried out loud, as for the first time in almost a year the magic began to flow freely once again. Her exultation quickly turned to worry however, then to outright fear, as the magic surged forth uncontrolled. She was no expert, but she was pretty sure that allowing the energy to fill her body unchecked would be a Bad Thing. Images of self-immolation from her nightmare of the year before danced across her imagination.
"No-no-no-no-no," she panicked, quickly releasing her pull on her star crystal. Much to her relief, the flow of magic obediently ceased, but there was still the matter of the potentially dangerous amount of energy still charging her body. "Come on," she said, gritting her teeth as she lifted her hands in the air, mentally struggling to bring the unruly magic under control. "Channel it... feel it..." Her eyes snapped open, and she swung one arm down, pointing her cupped hand at the ground.
The magic rushed out along the path she had provided, manifesting itself as a foot-wide ball of flame that blasted out of her hand and instantly reduced an unsuspecting clump of weeds into a smoking pile of ash.
A few meters away, Sailor Venus let out a whoop. "You got it!" she cried out, clapping vigorously. "I knew you could!"
Angwyn lowered her hands, blowing out her breath. Suddenly she felt exhausted. "Yeah," she said with a small smile. "I think it will be easier next time, too. At least I hope so."
Venus stepped over and put an arm around Angwyn's shoulders. "I think your mother would be proud."
Angwyn's smile faded a bit. She lifted her arms again to look at her bracers, the only physical reminder she had left of her parents and her old life. "I miss her," she replied. "Dad too."
"I know. They were heroes," Venus said softly.
For a minute Angwyn just closed her eyes and said nothing. Unconsciously fingering the skirt of her costume, she finally asked, "Why can't I be a hero too?"
Venus sighed. Once again she found herself torn between loyalty to her friend and loyalty to her queen. There was really no contest, but that still didn't make her answer any easier. "Because your safety is more important," she stated.
"I know," Angwyn grumbled. "The queen told me this morning that without a pure heart, the power of a senshi could be dangerous for both me and those around me. I just don't know if I can ever really stop hating those monsters that killed my parents."
Venus blinked. She had been thinking more along the lines of Angwyn's physical protection. One of the original reasons for bringing Angwyn into the palace after all, besides Serenity's natural compassion of course, was to keep her safe. While Venus was relieved that Serenity no longer felt that Angwyn might be in danger, there was still a chance, however unlikely, that Angwyn may yet have been the target of the attack. Venus wasn't privy to all of the queen's justifications for her repeated denials, but she did know one thing: appointment as a senshi would make Angwyn a public celebrity - and a potential target once again - overnight. She hadn't considered the risk that Angwyn's well-hidden bitterness might cause if she possessed the power of a senshi. Once again Venus was struck with Serenity's wisdom.
Giving Angwyn's shoulder a tug, Venus steered her back towards the transport. "Come on," she said. "Let's go home."
Galen walked nervously down a hallway in the south wing of the palace, eyes flicking from one nameplate to the next as he passed the doors to each apartment. He'd been unable to discover exactly where Angwyn lived, and so was reduced to simply walking the halls of the residential areas, scanning names and generally feeling like an idiot. Despite his earlier resolution to not chicken out, the urge to just give up and forget the whole thing was growing with each door he passed.
Cirone... Kondratyev... Gregory...
No way, he chided himself. You've already made up your mind that you're going to ask her to this match, so that's what you're going to do. Besides, you already have the tickets. What would you tell your uncle if you didn't use them? He tried to convince himself that it wasn't even a date: just a couple of friends going to a sporting event. He didn't have much luck.
Howell... Grainger... Mullenix... Weaver...
He abruptly stopped walking as he realized that he had finally found his destination. For a moment he just stood there, staring at the door. Then, slowly, he lifted his hand. Much more rapidly, he put it back down again. Taking a deep breath, he gathered his courage, lifted his hand once more, and quickly rapped on the door before he could lose his nerve.
He was almost relieved when there was no answer.
A bit more confidently this time, he knocked on the door again. Still no one answered the knock, and he scratched his head, wondering what to do next. Should he come back later? Or should he just give up on the whole idea and not risk making a fool of himself?
His internal debate was derailed as voices sounded down the hall. He glanced that direction just as two women rounded the corner, headed toward him. His eyes went wide as he realized that he was in the presence of not one, but two of the queen's senshi. Venus and Mars, judging by the colors on their uniforms. He quickly bowed his head out of respect.
The senshi's chatter stopped as they drew near to Galen, as did the click of their heels on the stone floor. "Galen?"
Galen's heart skipped a beat. One of them had spoken to him! Wondering how she had known his name, he answered, "Yes?"
"What are you doing here?" the senshi asked.
Ah, man, why did she have to ask that? Slowly Galen looked up at the senshi that had spoken. "Well, um, you see, Sailor..." He trailed off as it occurred to him that Sailor Mars didn't wear knee-high red boots. For that matter, she was taller and had a dark blue bow, not yellow. And her hair wasn't red...
The blood drained from Galen's face. He really should have recognized that voice...
This chapter's title is in reference to 1 Corinthians 13:13. Also, several of my college instructors from oh-so-long ago got cameos in this chapter. Or at least their names did.
Given my typical lag time between chapters, it looks like poor Galen's going to be left hanging there for a while. Will he succeed in wooing our heroine? He may not realize it, but with the Senshi of Love on the scene and itching to get involved in Angwyn's love life, he may have a better than average chance. Time will tell.
I always enjoy when I get to write scenes from the webcomic. There aren't a lot of flashback scenes, but I got to do two of them in this chapter. The first was when Venus gave Angwyn the costume, from comic chapter 7 page 28. That scene was actually a little confusing to many people, as the Sailor Ranko novel had made it clear that Serenity had only made Sailor Sun an official senshi posthumously. If I recall correctly, Becky clarified in a forum post that Angwyn's comment of "I can be Sailor Sun!" was more to reassure herself than to repeat a royal declaration. The second scene was when Angwyn finally fired off a fireball, from comic chapter 8 page 5. That scene took up a whole page, and gave me a lot more dialog to work with. Still, comics are a purely visual medium, so it's fun to explore what's happening "behind the scene" as I convert it into prose.
At the beginning of the chapter I described Serenity's "browlace" in some detail. There's a reason for that; not a big one, but there is a reason. I initially had her placing jewels in her odango, until I looked at some artwork again and realized that she did not wear jewelry in her hair. One thing I did notice, however, was the dots that extend from both sides of the moon on her forehead, disappearing under her bangs. Those are unique to Queen Serenity, and do not appear on Usagi or Chibiusa. While it's possible the moon and the dots could be a magical sigil just like on all the other characters, they could just as plausibly be a piece of jewelry. That met my requirement for royal jewelry, something Serenity would wear in place of a crown, and the browlace was born.
On a final note, this is one of the few chapters that doesn't feature a scene from Earth. As the events on Earth, particularly regarding Beryl and Endymion, are crucial to this point in the Moon Kingdom's history, I like to show how things are progressing there as sort of an ongoing side story. Occasionally the events of one chapter will run right into the next, however, and it makes more sense to keep the focus on Angwyn. She is the main character, after all. If you're a fan of Beryl, though, she will get another shot in the spotlight in the next chapter.
The characters and stories of Sailor Moon and Ranma ½ are Copyright © Naoko Takeuchi and Rumiko Takahashi, respectively, and are used here without permission or license.
No claims to the above copyrights are made by the author of this work.
This work is for non-commercial use ONLY, and is produced for the enjoyment of fans only.
This work is the expression of the author and the depiction of the Sailor Moon and Ranma ½ characters herein are in no way represented to be a part of Sailor Moon or Ranma ½ as depicted by the original authors and copyright holders.