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Title: Summer Rain
Author: Crystal Saturn
Chapter: 45 – Trust No One. Especially Your Own Heart
"Just give me a reason to keep my heart beating
Don't worry it's safe right here in my arms
As the world falls apart around us all we can do is hold on."
[The Beginning – One Ok Rock]
"So, what are our options?" Serena paced back and forth across the tatami floor of the shrine room. "I mean, just because Mina's watch comm. isn't returning a pulse signal, it doesn't necessarily mean that the Dark Kingdom has killed her right?"
"Serena's right," Ami added. "If they had any brains at all, they would have stripped her of all her weapons and tech, and they'd be keeping her alive to gain information."
"But the fact that we haven't seen or heard anything from the Dark Kingdom for nearly four weeks-" Artemis began, only to be interrupted by Serena.
"Four weeks, Artemis. We've left Mina in the hands of the enemy for four weeks!" She paused momentarily for emphasis, before continuing her pacing.
"I think we all have to be prepared to face the reality that Mina will not be coming back to us." Luna lowered her head as she spoke. "If the Dark Kingdom was able to extract any useful information from Mina, they would have come for us by now. I think that the radio silence is a sign that she has given them nothing, and therefore… she's useless to them alive."
"I haven't been able to gain anything from my fire readings. No hint of Mina's life force, or Darien's." Rei added solemnly.
A heavy silence befell the room, disrupted only by the sound of Serena taking in a deep breath and expelling it forcefully a moment later.
"We still can't leave Mina's… body… in the middle of hell central." Serena flexed her fingers, clenching and releasing them repeatedly. "We need to bring her home."
"I agree with you," Artemis watched Serena pacing with anxious anticipation. He hated to admit it, but it was good to see Serena's fighting spirit returning. "But I think our main priority right now is to prepare ourselves for an attack. The Dark Kingdom already knows that Mina was a proxy, and they'll surely be upping the search for the real Moon Princess and the Silver Crystal now. It's only a matter of time… we can bet that an attack is imminent, and the more prepared we are, the better."
"So I guess we need to start training?" Lita cracked her knuckles in mock preparation. After the events that had played out recently, she was gearing for a fight, and revenge was on the cards.
"Yes, and as soon as possible." Luna affirmed. "Each one of you girls needs to be at your best in case of a battle, and Serena, you need to learn how to use and control the power of the Legendary Silver Crystal."
"It doesn't seem to be very 'legendary' to me." Serena held up the lacklustre gemstone that hung from a thin gold chain around her neck. "I'm not even sure it does anything other than act as a paperweight."
"That probably has something to do with the light disappearing into you soon after you awakened." Luna observed the stone carefully. Serena was right. It didn't seem to hold the power that it had been famed for. Its glimmer was dull and the gem itself was cloudy. "Nevertheless, we have to try."
"Shall we meet back here after school this afternoon?" Artemis suggested.
"I have to stop by at the arcade after school to check on the new temp worker, but I'll be here soon after four." Serena offered and the others agreed.
"We should hurry, or we're going to miss the bus to school." Ami reminded, reaching for her book bag and rising to her feet.
As the number 66 bus arrived at the stop outside the temple, the wind picked up and a few autumn kissed leaves began to flutter to the ground around the three girls. Lita and Ami boarded the bus and just as Serena stepped a foot up onto the platform, a familiar scent carried through the wind and rushed past her.
The thought was instant, uncontrolled, and intense. Serena glanced around for a glimpse of his familiar figure. She inhaled deeply and detected his scent in the air once again. It was unmistakable. It had to be him. Her heart skipped a beat before pacing into overdrive. Looking over her shoulder, she desperately searched the faces that passed on the somewhat busy footpath behind her. None that fit his description passed.
"Excuse me Miss," The bus driver cleared his throat. "Are you coming aboard?"
"'Rena, is everything okay?" Lita walked back to the front of the bus to check on the startled looking blonde.
"It's Darien," Serena continued to look around her with one foot still on the bus. "He's here somewhere, I know it. I can sense his-" Serena's eyes met Lita's concerned gaze and her voice stalled. She turned her attention down the bus to Ami, who also met her with a worried look. Serena's shoulders slumped momentarily as she shook her head to clear her thoughts. Taking in a brief breath, she stepped on board the bus and with one last glance over her shoulder, resigned herself to the fact that she was probably just imagining it.
Or at least she would have, if she didn't catch a brief glimpse of a familiar tall, slender build and the twinkle of those unmistakable sapphire blue eyes as the bus pulled away from the transit stop.
"Hi Yuuki!" Serena greeted her cousin's second-in-charge as she entered the Crown Arcade. It had been a while since she stepped foot in the game centre. Between senior year, the rapidly fluctuating state of her love life, her new and abrupt ascension to an ancient monarchy, and the continual threat of the Dark Kingdom lingering on the fringes of her consciousness, maintaining her high score on the Sailor V game now seemed to be the last thing on her mind.
"Hey Serena, long time no see!" Yuuki greeted, bowing deeply.
"I know, I've been so busy lately. What I would give to go back to the good old Junior High days when I could spend whole weekends planted in front of the Sailor V game." Serena sighed deeply. "I'm actually here to check on the new temp guy that Andrew hired, Endou."
"Oh yeah," Yuuki smiled warmly. "He's really great. Funny you should mention the Sailor V game, Endou's taking his break at the moment, and I think he's threatening to challenge your High Score on V."
"Oh, really?" The blonde teen tilted her head to the side slightly. "I suppose I should go introduce myself and defend my title then." Serena winked playfully before heading over toward her favourite game machine.
Rounding the corner past the rally racing cars, her feet stalled mid step at the sight of the figure sitting at the game. Her chest began to immediately throb at the speed of her racing heart. From behind, he looked just like…
"Darien…" His name barely rolled off the tip of her tongue when he turned around to face her. Serena's breath snagged at the back of her throat, dying abruptly with a strangled gasp. It was him.
"Hi," He greeted casually, standing up from his seat. "My name is Arata, Endou. You must be Serena. Andrew mentioned that you'd be passing by."
Serena simply stared back, mouth slightly agape in shock. He smirked and that all too familiar mischievous twinkle lit up his eyes. "I…" Eventually, Serena managed to choke out a single syllable. She tore her eyes away, rubbing them furiously before glancing back up at the towering, dark haired man standing coolly before her. "You…" Something changed in his eyes. The deep, intense shade of blue that she knew so well swirled and darkened into an almost impossibly deep carmine red.
"I attend K.O. University and major in biology and crystallography." He held one hand out, slipping the other into his pocket casually. "It's nice to meet you."
Serena gingerly placed her trembling hand within his, giving it what she thought was a decent hand shake, but with the fluttering in the pit of her stomach and the adrenaline in her muscles making her feel giddy and somewhat skittish, she couldn't be entirely sure if she even managed to shake his hand, or if she simply quivered. Immediately, she was struck by just how gentle and icily cold his fingers were.
"You…" Serena attempted once more, feeling herself becoming drawn to him. "Your eyes just… changed colour."
Endou smiled and casually shrugged. "Yeah, they do that depending on my mood."
"And what is your mood now?" She dared to counter, remaining still as he leaned in just that little bit closer. Her breaths became low and shallow as he slowly inched into her personal space, just close enough to make her feel intimidated. He even smelled like Darien. He tilted his head down towards hers and Serena unconsciously licked her lips. She could feel his gentle breath dancing along her lips and her heart skipped a beat. He looked just like him.
A beat passed and Endou took a slow step back, rocking on his heels as he watched her. "Has anybody ever told you that you look remarkably like Sailor Moon?"
Another breath caught at the back of Serena's throat and she felt her cheeks flush. She had almost let him kiss her. Shaking her head in response to his question, Serena pulled away and took two quick steps back to distance herself once more, but as soon as she did, she could feel something in her chest yearning, aching to be closer to him again.
"Funny," Endou mused, analysing every one of her fleeting micro expressions. "Because you even have the same hair style. It must be popular." He reached over, gently squeezing one of her hair buns in a gesture that seemed almost nostalgic to the both of them.
"I-I have to go." Serena stammered, pulling away once again. She found her feet and stumbled back away from his touch. "I-It was nice meeting you, Endou."
"Serena," He called out to her just as the edgy girl was turning to leave. She turned back to face him once again, but not before taking a few more steps toward the exit, just for extra measure. "Will I see you tomorrow?" Endou shot Serena a cool smile. Although his resemblance to Darien was almost identical, this was not a smile that Serena had ever seen Darien give her before. It was distant, cold, almost predatory. Even still, she couldn't deny him.
"S-sure." Serena stammered, remembering that she had promised Andrew that she would check on his new staff member. And even though she repeated that fact over and over in her mind as a way to convince herself that that was just the simple truth of the matter, she knew that it was simply a weak excuse for her to return again; to be near him again. He looked so much like Darien.
"Great, I can't wait." He smiled again, this time, a little more naturally. Serena felt her heart flip in her chest and a warm giddiness danced in the pit of her stomach before she forced herself to turn and stride out of the Crown Arcade.
Mina glanced up at the sound of heavy leather boots thumping against the uneven stone steps leading down to her dungeon home. As Kunzite approached her cell, he placed a tray of food down onto the floor and slid it beneath the black iron bars. Mina averted her gaze, redirecting it toward the dark, cold, hard wall in front of her. She wrapped her arms around her knees, pulling them closer to her chest in silent protest.
"You need to eat, Venus." Kunzite's voice bounced across the bare walls, echoing through the dim room.
"Is it poisoned?" Mina stubbornly refused to look up at the man's face. It was demoralising and she was better than that.
"Have any of your previous meals been poisoned?" Kunzite partially rolled his eyes at her immature games and pseudo-stubbornness. "If I were going to kill you, I would have already."
Mina's stomach grumbled loudly and she shifted uncomfortably, digging her elbows into soft flesh of her abdominal region, attempting to stifle any further sounds of betrayal from her body. It didn't work. Her stomach simply returned another growl, one that echoed across the walls and caused a smirk to appear on Kunzite's face. Mina scowled, releasing her legs as she turned and abruptly pulled the tray of food toward her. Picking up the titanium spoon, Mina hesitated, instead choosing to swirl figure eight patterns into the slop.
"Not to push my luck or anything," Mina began, the slightest hint of a defiant tone contradicting her initial statement. "But for a Dark Kingdom General… you're really horrible at torturing your captors." Her eyes made contact with his for the briefest of moments before she returned her attention back to her meal. "In fact, not only have you not tortured me at all since I've been here, you haven't even asked me any questions about the Silver Crystal, or the Moon Princess, or the location of our super-secret hideout." She waited for a response from him, and when she received none, Mina tilted her head to look at the silver haired General in the eye. He broke eye contact, instead finding a point of interest on the adjacent wall, numerous silent thoughts seemingly running through his mind. "I mean, don't get me wrong or anything… It's not that I particularly want to be tortured and killed, but-"
"Your memory wasn't the only one fully restored when Princess Serenity and Prince Endymion reawakened." Kunzite finally broke his silence.
"Kunzite?" Mina searched his face for more information.
"Yes, Mina." His eyes softened as he turned his head and held her gaze for a moment. "I remember who I am; who I was… in another life" He corrected. "I am Kunzite of the four Heavenly Kings, commander and protector of the Middle Eastern division of Earth…" His voice momentarily faded away in thought. "And faithful servant and guardian of Prince Endymion."
"Kunzite, if you remember," Mina lowered her voice into an excited whisper. "Why are you still here? Why haven't you fought back at Beryl?"
"Beryl promised that once I helped her obtain Endymion and turn him over to the side of the Dark Kingdom, she would resurrect the remaining Shitennou." His gloved fingers curled into tight fists by his side. "She lied."
"Then why are you still here? If you remember who you are, then you're in danger. She'll find out and kill you."
"Without the remaining generals, I'm the only one left who can protect Prince Endymion. It's all up to me. It's my duty to make sure no harm comes to him."
"Endymion doesn't remember who he is anymore. He's now working as an agent of the Dark Kingdom." Mina found herself pushing the tray away and leaning against the iron bars, gripping them tightly in her hands. "But you remember who you are. You remember what Endymion was like before he was corrupted. So will you aid him, or stop him? Who's side are you on?"
"My allegiance is to Prince Endymion." "I've sworn to dedicate my life to his protection, and I intend on fulfilling my duty until the end." Kunzite turned on his heels and began his retreat towards the stairs.
"Kunzite, wait," Mina gently called out once more and he stopped to glance over his shoulder. "Do you…" She nibbled on her bottom lip nervously. "Do you remember anything more about our past lives?"
Her choice of words caused Kunzite to contemplate deeply the meaning behind what she was asking. 'Our past lives.' An uncharacteristically playful smirk graced his lips and his gaze fell to the floor as he reminisced. He turned his head to catch another fleeting glimpse of Mina's face. Her clear blue eyes pierced his as she stared up at him eagerly. Slowly, Kunzite straightened his posture and retrained his line of sight to the staircase straight ahead of him. He could almost feel her staring at the back of his head.
Kunzite lowered the tone of his voice in an attempt to mask his amusement. "You had a heart-shaped beauty spot on your left upper inner thigh." He could almost see her reaction; the bright shade of crimson that flushed her face and chest and her pretty pink lips that parted with a shocked gawk. Kunzite waited to hear Mina's gasp before scaling the stairs back up to D-Point palace with a broad grin on his face.
"Instead of concentrating on the crystal, try to focus on your own inner energy. The energy of the crystal is within you now, so try to tap into that."
"I'm trying." Serena sighed in frustration. She squeezed her eyes shut and tried to focus on some sort of vague, abstract concept. It was useless. All she could think about was how his eyes looked. The way he smiled at her. The way he smelled just like him. "I can't do it." Serena released a frustrated breath as she relaxed her shoulders and leant back against the doorframe. "Nothing's happening."
"Just…" Luna could see the frustration in her charge's eyes. There was something, some sort of barrier, holding her back. "Keep trying. Don't give up. The power is there within you, we've all seen it, we just need to try to bring it back up to the surface."
A silence befell them. Serena stared off into the distance for a while, letting her mind return to thoughts of Endou, and how much he resembled Darien, and how much she missed him. "I have to go to the arcade." The words slipped out of her mouth before she could even process the thought.
"Right now?" Luna watched as Serena seemed just as confused at the suddenness of her statement as she did. "Whatever for? It's seven in the evening."
Serena blinked a few times, mentally grasping for excuses. "There's a new staff member that Andrew wanted me to check on before he left." It wasn't a lie, but it wasn't the real reason why she felt like she suddenly had to see him. Something in her called for him. Something in her needed to be near him again. She needed to see him. Deliberately slowing her movements to mask the urgency she suddenly felt within her, Serena began to pack her belongings into her bookbag. "I need to make sure he's alright."
It didn't fool Luna. She could see that something had changed within the last few moments. The atmosphere in the room was suddenly tense. Serena was distracted, more than she had been when she first entered the room. "Okay, fine." Luna knew well that nothing she could say would break Serena's train of thought at the moment. "Just be careful."
. . .
Serena's footsteps pounded against the pavement as she ran, hard, towards the arcade. She knew that it was late. She knew that the arcade would be closing if not closed. But she had to try.
As she rounded the last corner before the arcade, her footsteps slowed. There he was, locking up the outermost security gate. He sensed her presence and glanced up at her. A small smile graced his features as he mumbled a simple "Hi," and secured the lock.
"Hi." Serena returned, her voice cracked with the dryness of her throat.
"You're a little late, I just locked up."
"I know, I just wanted to check to see how you were going… with everything." She lied.
"It's going well." Endou gave a casual, somewhat dismissive shrug. "Yuuki's training is very thorough. I think I'm up to speed with how the place operates."
"Already? It's only been your second day." Serena mentally ran through all the tasks that she knew Andrew was in charge of when running the arcade. It was an extensive list.
"I'm a quick study."
An awkward silence fell between the two. Truth be told, Serena was still silently trying to figure out how it could be that Endou would be able to learn everything so quickly. A few more moments of avoiding eye contact passed, before Serena decided that she needed to break the deafening silence.
"Well, I better-"
"Let me walk you home." Endou offered, a gentle smile gracing his features. He seemed a little warmer today, less intimidating. "It's getting late, and dark. You shouldn't be so lax about your own safety."
Something about that sentence jarred a nerve within Serena. She racked her brain trying to find the connection. There was something familiar. She had heard that same sentence before.
"We live in a city area, and there are some pretty crazy people out there. You can't trust everyone you meet-"
Dumpling Head. Her memory filled in the missing words with the exact same tone in his voice. I guess you're still too young to know about the evils of the world.
"You should always be careful." Endou gave one of Serena's hair buns a little squeeze, the simple action ripped her back to reality. "Let me walk you home."
It was Darien. He had said almost the exact same words to her the first night that he had walked her home from work. It couldn't have been a coincidence. Endou was Darien. He had to be. Serena nodded her head and the two began their slow walk back to the apartment. Every step was heavy with the feeling of nostalgia. Serena could almost smell the warm aroma of hot chocolate, wafting through the air as her fingers gripped tightly on the memory-formed paper take away cup. How many times had they walked home together like this? She knew his energy, his air, the feeling of his presence. Shutting her eyes for a moment, it was like he was back. Darien was back. It was definitely him.
"So, tell me more about yourself, Endou." It was almost like she needed to hear his voice again. Serena knew that she shouldn't dare to hope... but it was too much of a coincidence. How could it be that someone who looked exactly like Darien could just stroll into her life. Could it be possible that it really was him, and for some reason, he just couldn't remember?
"What do you want to know?"
"Well, do you live very far from here? Do you live with your parents? Why did you decide to work at the arcade?" Serena held back from asking any more questions for now, but her heart leapt in her chest. As much as she refused to admit it even to herself, she wanted to test him.
Endou's demeanour remained constant. He didn't flinch, didn't hesitate as he answered her questions. "I live in Higashi-Azabu, in an apartment on my own. I've lived there since I was eighteen, after I moved away from my mother's home in Sapporo, to attend university. I applied for the job because it's close to home, and I need some extra money for bills, rent..."
"Oh, right." The more she asked, the more he seemed to have a convincing back story. Could it be that she was wrong? Was he really just an ordinary guy who just coincidentally looked exactly like Darien? "I thought I detected a bit of a Hokkaido accent." Serena smiled, trying to find something more to say. "So you must have a pretty good view of Tokyo Tower then."
"Yes, I live right nearby, actually."
They rounded the corner and Serena could see the lobby of her apartment building. Awkward anxiety knotted in the pit of her stomach. They must have been two minutes, possibly three, away from the door. Should she start up another conversation? Did she have time? Two minutes of silence was still a long time to be silent around a total stranger who looked like the spitting image of one's now-deceased boyfriend.
"So uh…" Serena nibbled on her bottom lip, pausing awkwardly to draw out another few seconds. "This is me." She nodded up at the apartment building and turned to face Endou to say goodbye.
Maybe it was the darkness that shrouded them both. Maybe it was a trick of the light. Maybe she was just seeing things, but for but a moment, Serena could have sworn she saw his eyes flash a deep red.
"Would you like to come up for some coffee?" She felt the words slip out of her lips before she could even think to hesitate.
"I'd love to." Endou smiled warmly and gave a gentle, polite bow.
Serena fumbled for her key tag in her pocket. As flustered as she was, it was done. She couldn't very well rescind her offer now without looking like a complete moron. And besides, what harm could come from it? He worked for her cousin, his backstory seemed to check out, and the apartment had been much too quiet for her liking lately.
"So, tell me more about you, Serena."
"What would you like to know?" The petite blonde held the security door open, allowing Endou to pass through before heading toward the elevators.
He paused in thought for a moment. "Everything." His tone was smooth and calm, and as her cool blue eyes met his smouldering cornelian ones, he offered her a gentle smile. He seemed so genuine, so caring, so warm; which was why Serena found it somewhat alarming when the thought popped into her head, accompanied by a quick shudder.
She wanted to tell him everything.
. . .
So it turns out, 2017 is not meant to be my year either hah! Well at least I managed to get this chapter out. I'm working on the next couple too, so.. fingers crossed! Add me on facebook for updates and y'know… if you wanna chat ^_^ Link is in my profile, or just search my pen name.