Disclaimer: Sailor Moon characters belong to Naoko Takeuchi, everything else belongs to me.
AN: Let me preface this with a message to all of my loyal readers. This story is nothing like what I've written before in a sense of time period, style and the main characters. I need a break from Haruka and Michiru - thus the reason why I am taking this breather. I will finish the sequels, I just find myself unable to do so right now. This story is about Usagi and Mamoru, it is rated M for adult content - if you read any of my stories you know I lay it out. Which is another disclaimer to my loyal readers. If you're not into this pairing - stop now.
Now to everyone who decides to continue reading past the author's note, this story is a classic romance, perhaps with a dash of mystery (still getting to that part) and a pinch of Feisu (meaning I don't like to end my stories with a chaste kiss, so in this sense it is nothing like a classic romance). I've never written anything like this before, so I would appreciate your comments - both constructive criticism and general thoughts are welcome. Please review and thanks for reading!
The small garden tucked in behind the grandiose mansion, as though an afterthought, was stifling in the midday heat. The shrubs and decorative trees stood still, almost afraid to move in anticipation of the prearranged meeting. Their height, barely reaching above the heads of a small group of people moving through the garden, did not provide any shadow either. There was no escape. The young woman at the front of the group tilted her umbrella, hiding her face as she wrinkled her delicate nose at the bead of sweat that traveled down her neck. She wondered who thought it to be a good idea to have this meeting outside, in the scorching sun, when she was obligated to wear layers upon layers of clothes. As her mind drifted that way, she wondered what the outcome of the meeting would be if she wore her gown without the stays, the petticoats, and the shift. A sly smile crossed her lips at the thought.
"Lady Endymi, darling, it is such an honor to receive you on our humble grounds," a portly man exclaimed as he intercepted her at the end of the path and bowed low. He was overdressed for the occasion, his outfit more appropriate in a ballroom than a walk through the grounds of his residence. His outfit, his mannerisms and his general unremarkable looks made him hardly impressive.
Lady Endymi eyed him skeptically, before remembering her manners and extending her gloved hand, which he kissed eagerly. No longer thinking that gloves were an absurd notion in this heat, Lady Endymi retrieved her assaulted hand and felt two of the accompanying gentlemen step in line with her, ready to prance should the owner of the estate decide to act ungentlemanly.
"Lord Kunzite, Lord Jadeite," the man greeted the two.
"D'Mye," Jadeite, a blue-eyed tall man with short blonde hair, returned lazily.
Their attention was redirected to a group of people arriving behind D'Mye; a middle-aged woman followed by two younger blondes and a few ladies in attending. "Allow me to introduce my wife, Lady Alessandra D'Mye, her niece Lady Amina D'Mye and, of course, our daughter, Serenity D'Mye."
As the women curtsied to each other and exchanged pleasantries, Lady Endymi's eyes remained on the petite blondes in front of her. Both the daughter and the niece looked to be the same height and same slim, though correctly proportioned, form. Their hair was of a different shade, Amina D'Mye's resembled the color of ripe wheat crop, while Serenity D'Mye's was much lighter and cooler, it had more platinum in it than gold. Lady Endymi wondered how their faces compared, but that remained something to be seen, since Serenity had yet to raise her eyes from the ground.
As they walked another path in the garden, Lady Endymi kept sneaking peaks at Serenity. Her ivory dress had a pink flower pattern and seemed to be of the same style as everyone else's, but the flowers gently woven into her hair seemed to accentuate the material much more than any of the jewelry worn by the rest of the women. Her soft curly locks that intentionally escaped the updo shielded her face from unwanted attention, the kind Lady Endymi was most likely paying now. She was a picture of innocent beauty and her mild manners, her downcast eyes and her merely contributing verses made her seem like a meek, malleable creature. Lady Endymi sighed, noticing only then that one of her companions was studying her study of the young woman. She averted her eyes back to the path and wondered when this torture would be over.
The small confines of the carriage were welcome after the hour in the garden and another two at a dinning table. Lady Endymi leaned back against the hard surface of the bench, wishing she brought more pillows, and closed her eyes. It was quiet inside, only the monotone rumbling of the wheels and the hooves interrupted her thoughts. Feeling oddly, she opened her eyes and stared straight in the blue ones belonging to one of the blonde men sitting across from her. Instead of asking a question, she raised one of her black manicured eyebrows.
"You didn't like her," he stated more than asked.
"Did you?" She challenged.
As the two stared at each other for a long moment, their companion, a man with steel-gray eyes and platinum blonde hair that was held behind his neck in a slick ponytail, voiced his own opinion. "She's a beautiful girl."
"Just that, a girl," Lady Endymi replied slowly.
"She is of the same age as you m'lady," the blue-eyed man, Jadeite, replied.
A dangerous sparkle lit in Lady Endymi's violet eyes before she put it away and replied without feeling. "She is too timid. He needs a wife, not a child."
"Pray tell what you mean by that Lady Raye," Jadeite prompted. After she just stared at him for a long moment without reply he continued. "Many men wish for a timid wife, one that obeys their orders-"
"Just because you have that notion for yourself, doesn't mean my brother has also," Lady Raye Shields, the Dutchess of Endymi, snapped unladylike.
Afraid that his friend was about to cross boundaries of propriety, Kunzite spoke ahead of Jadeite. "You're right m'lady, the young lady we met may not possess the ideal character for the Duke, but the arrangements have been made. Whether they like it or not, whether any of us feel that it is the right way, the King has arranged this marriage and nothing will change that."
She let out a long sigh and relaxed back into her seat, seething on the inside. She knew Kunzite was right, they were powerless in that instance. "It is the exact reason I wish she was different. Darien needs someone who can stand by him, who can understand him… someone who has a spine." She opened her violet eyes again, an angry blaze still aflame in them. "And that girl is nothing short of spineless. No wonder her head doesn't come up, there's no shaft to support it."
A storm gathered on the horizon soon after the Duchess departed, then swept in and raged through the garden, almost as though it wanted to crush down everything on its way. The intermittent spurs of heavy rainfall and strong winds raged outside, shaking the window Serenity leaned against. Just like the weather, she was unsure whether she wanted to cry or throw a temper tantrum. Neither would give her the result she wanted, neither would free her from her destiny.
A door opened with a soft creek and Serenity turned to find her cousin cautiously walking through the drawing room. "How are you feeling?" she asked as she sat down across from Serenity in the window seat.
"I don't believe I am. Feeling that is." She closed her eyes for a long moment, not allowing the traitorous tears to spill, until she had a handle on herself. "I have a request to make, Mina."
"Anything you need, Sere."
Serenity exhaled slowly. "I need you to come with me."
Her cousin's eyes widened a bit before she stood up abruptly. "You want me to come with you?"
Serenity nodded. "I will need someone by my side. It's not asking much, they can't deny it to me." She felt a lot less certain than she sounded. And if they do, I will send for you anyway, Serenity thought bitterly to herself.
Mina sat back down. "But you will be surrounded by people. Besides, Lady Endymi and the two Lords with her seemed nice." She searched her cousin's eyes. "You haven't looked at them once, have you?"
Serenity shook her head, then tilted it towards the candle that hang on the wall. "How could I?"
Mina's eyes widened again at the sight of the discoloration of Serenity's cheekbone. Her lips tightened in a thin line, her hand searching blindly for Serenity's. "Why?"
Serenity chuckled. "Why? You know why."
Mina knew. She knew Serenity's step father was a ruthless man, but she did not think he was that stupid. "How did it happen?"
Serenity stared out of the window and watched the flowers being devoured by the rain and the wind for a while before speaking.
It was a glorious morning and Serenity did not fail to take advantage of the weather. Early in the day, long before the sun made being outside unbearable, she escaped to the stables and quickly saddled her mare. Quickly, before any of the servants noticed and reported to her step father, she raced out of the stables and into the open fields behind the mansion. Her bliss lasted for two hours, until she reluctantly brought the horse back. She snuck in through the side entrance and was hastily walking down the hall when her step father's voice boomed through the first story. Serenity froze in her tracks, afraid to turn around and face him.
Riding was her only outlet as of late. Naturally, Serenity found that riding ladylike was boring and riding habits where stifling contraptions. Instead, she rode with her legs on both sides of the horse's torso, a pair of trousers worn below one of her old gowns. Now, as she stood in the hallway dressed like a clown, Serenity desperately searched for a reason to escape the scrutiny. No such luck.
"Serenity Alessandra Constance D'Mye! Get here right this second."
Serenity slowly turned and entered a parlor on her left. She stood there, facing the window, when her step father approached. "Today is a very important day, Serenity, you should be getting ready."
"I will be ready on time," Serenity replied evenly.
She felt him scrutinize her from behind her back. Suddenly, he grabbed her elbow and turned her around. "What in the God's name are you wearing?"
She raised her chin in defiance. "I went for a ride."
"Dressed like a common whore?"
Serenity flinched from the words and the snarly tone in which they were spoken. "Isn't this what I am? A whore sold to the highest paying customer?" The hard slap almost made her fall over sideways, but Serenity stayed rooted to the floor. She blew stray hair away, gently holding her cheek. "Careful sir, you will damage your merchandise."
He did not make the same mistake again. Her step father yanked his horse whip out of his boot and hit her across the ribs. Her back and midsection where delivered carefully executed blows, until Serenity lay on the floor, hugging her lithe form from the vicious leather.
A week had gone by too quickly and in a flash Serenity was in a carriage, accompanied by her cousin Mina, on her way to the Capital. The bruising on her face was gone and the rest of her body was healing somewhat, but she did not worry about that. Her wedding was not scheduled for another two weeks and she knew she would be presentable by her wedding night. Her wedding night. The thought made Serenity shudder. She was not naive, nor was she oblivious, she was seventeen, an age long past that of legal marriage. Besides, she spent enough time hiding in the library to find all sorts of books that were never meant to cross a lady's lap. Education was a double-edged sword.
"Have you seen him before?" Serenity asked quietly.
Mina looked at her from the opposite seat. She has been to the Capital with her family for the Season twice now, ever since her coming of age. Serenity was tucked away in the country, her future sealed long ago. "No, I haven't. I've heard rumors though."
Serenity glanced at her without expression, prompting her to go on.
"He is the only remaining duke, so he naturally causes a lot of conversations. Besides…"
Serenity looked to her again. "Besides?"
Mina blushed. "He's available, so he made every madame dream of her daughter catching his fancy."
Serenity's brow furrowed. "How can someone catch his fancy if he's not there? You said you haven't seen him before."
"Just because I haven't seen him, doesn't mean he wasn't there." Mina explained quickly. "He was at the Capital last Season, my parents just… they didn't let me near him."
Now Serenity was genuinely curious. "Why?"
"You of course. He is your betrothed, they did not harbor the same hopes those silly women did."
"But you would never pursue him anyway, even if you met him. I don't understand."
Mina bit on her lower lip as another blush brightened her cheeks. "They weren't afraid that he would fall in love and marry me, Sere. They were afraid he'd take advantage of me."
"Oh," Serenity exhaled. "So that's why people speak of him."
"Among other things."
It was Mina's turn to look away. She eyed the passing fields in thought before deciding to contribute at least something for her cousin's benefit. "He is viewed as odd, or so I heard."
"He is viewed as odd, but madams dream of him marrying their daughters?" Serenity almost gasped.
"But of course, he is the only remaining duke."
"You mentioned that before." Serenity instantly regretted her snappy tone. "Odd in what way?"
"I don't really know for sure. There are many rumors circulating of him. Some say that he is a pirate, others say he uses black magic. Very few people have been to the Duchy of Endymi and those who have don't speak of it. It's like he has a country within a country and he doesn't let strangers there without permission. Some say he has an army as large as the King's, some say he imports slaves to work the lands and protect him. The stories go on."
Serenity felt her head spin. "That doesn't sound odd, that sounds terrifying."
"I didn't mean to frighten you," Mina said hastily. "Those are probably just rumors made of jealousy."
Serenity looked out of the window again. "Maybe I'll be better off escaping now."
"What are you speaking of?"
"I can't return home, not back to that man… but I can't bear the thought of living with a man who steals young women's innocence and is a cause for such dreadful rumors. I can barely accept the thought that I am to be married at all."
"We still have another day of journey. What if I escaped when we stopped for the night? I could live in a village somewhere, work for my living and not ever have to worry about the Court, the King, my parents."
Mina felt tears prick at her eyes at her cousin's visible despair. "Sere, you cannot defy a King's order."
Serenity looked into the bright blue eyes of her cousin. "What do you think he would do?"
"He'll send his army to find you."
Serenity let out a bitter laugh. "I'm hardly worth it."
"Your line is worth it."
"My line," Serenity mumbled as her thoughts returned to the wedding night and her spirits left her altogether.
The next day both girls watched the passing scenery in awe. Though Mina has been to the Capital twice, the views did not stop fascinating her. Their country was one of a kind, remote from the rest of the world and yet capable of absorbing many other cultures in their surroundings and lifestyle. An outpost of civilization, tucked in on an island between the waters of Atlantic Ocean and the Celtic Sea, this was a jewel to those weary of its existence. Occasional pirate raids on the outlying towns and past advances from countries that wished to claim it as a territory were evidence enough.
The two blondes, however, were looking at the other proof of the uniqueness of their homeland. The Capital was the most fascinating city in their country. As the carriage rumbled slowly through the outskirts, the forests and the fields disappeared, replaced with houses ranging from large manors to small estates, their grounds finally giving way to row houses just before they passed through the first square. The architecture of the city was as mixed as its population. Anyone who came upon their land with no malice and willing to contribute was welcome, their past left before their journey had begun, but their culture still apparent in the diversity of the surroundings.
Serenity's mouth parted at the sight of houses of worship she has never seen before, their oval roofs topped with quarter-moons. There were public buildings without doors, their entrances casting shadows, welcoming their visitors into interwoven patterns of hallways and gardens inside. The climate on the island was very mild, almost tropical in the summer, and only slightly chilly in the winter. It only snowed at the mountaintop, but Serenity has only seen the white at a great distance, never up close. They passed through sprawling park, the aroma of flowers in it permeated even inside the carriage. Serenity felt her lips curl up, until her eyes fell on the sight in front of her.
The Palace was a breathtaking sight. It sat on a platform carved into the side of the mountain, elevated above the rest of the city. Serenity only noticed then that they have been climbing upwards at a gentle, but steady slope. The park touched it on one side, the other was faced by an enormous cathedral and a succession of smaller buildings, town houses belonging to the richest of men. Its back was supported by a wall of rock, inaccessible to any invaders. The Palace was built in a shape of a horse shoe, its center four-story and toppled by many sculptures. The inner side of the shoe housed an outside terrace, massive jade columns supporting the heavy weight of the two floors above them. The Imperial Garden was tended carefully inside the shoe, some of the vines creeping up the columns, their flowers accessorizing the shadowed walkway of the terrace. In the middle of the Garden was a decorative pond. As the horses pulled their carriage in front of one of the wings, Serenity was unable to close her mouth. She turned to Mina, wide-eyed with excitement.
The older girl, though only by a month, smiled, as she too took in the beautiful view. The carriage door opened and they were helped out. A group of Ladies of the Court greeted them, making the introductions and taking them under their wing. Serenity could hardly remember their names, she was looking at the garden as they walked slowly through the terrace, bathing in its coolness. To their right oriental windows with metal grates instead of glass filled the length of the walls. Every so often they passed a door with a guard posted outside. Serenity could not see the other side of the wing of the Palace, but she remembered from when they exited the carriage that the windows above the first floor where of the same shape, but with colored glass windows. It was an odd combination of East and West, she knew from the drawings in the books she has read.
"…be staying in the guest quarters for now, until the wedding. Lord Endymi has a townhouse nearby, perhaps you will be staying there after." Serenity caught the end of an explanation given by one of the women, Lady Alesse. She looked at Mina as the latter grabbed her hand gently and pulled her through one of the doors as the guard opened it. They walked up the marble stairs to the second floor and down the hall. Lady Alesse showed them to their adjoining rooms, and then left with the rest, assuring that the maids would be over with their belongings.
Serenity walked through the large room filled with light and felt herself smile, despite the nervous trepidation of her heart. The windows looked out into the Garden below and if she stood all the way to the right of the room, she could see the mountain peak. The room was not pristine white as she expected it to be, instead it was colored a light, but warm, yellow tone, bringing out the intricate pattern of the glass more. The four-poster bed was made of dark wood, sheer yellow fabric falling softly over the wood. There was a fireplace in the corner, perhaps used on those rare cold days, and a set of comfortable-looking chairs surrounding it. A large armoire was nested in the other corner, right next to a side table with a large mirror. Serenity giggled and ran to the bed, jumping up and twisting in the air to land on her back with a bounce. She has not felt like this in years, not since her carefree childhood was ripped away from her. For once, she felt like she was excited, alive. A strange thought entered her mind for the first time: maybe it wasn't so bad.
The enormous ballroom on the first floor of their wing was filled with people dressed up for the occasion. Serenity, having never been out with Society, did not realize that it was the middle of the Spring Season. Her wedding was supposed to be its culmination, right before the majority of the nobles departed the Capital and headed back to their estates for the summer. She stood in the corner of the room, Mina by her side, feeling extremely out of place and underdressed. Though she brought her best outfits with her, Serenity still looked like she was a country girl compared to the other women around her. Well, in the end that was exactly what she was. A country girl.
She turned to her cousin, worry clearly in her features. "What do we do?"
Mina gave her an encouraging smile. "We mingle, we meet people, when the music comes on we dance."
Serenity swallowed and looked down. It was easier said than done. The meal they had earlier in their rooms seemed to hardly settle in her stomach and the young woman wondered if she could feign sickness and excuse herself. As soon as the thought came she chastised herself for it. She was stronger than this, none of these people mattered. She was going to be the Duchess of Endymi and if they knew who she was they would be feeling nervous at meeting her, not the other way around.
"Ah, there you are."
Serenity felt a chill run down her spine at the familiar melodic voice. She knew that voice from when she had to listen to it for three hours just over a week ago and suddenly she felt all of her resolve melt away. The real Duchess of Endymi. She curtsied and then slowly brought her eyes to see her future sister-in-law. Serenity's breath caught at the beauty in front of her. She was a little taller, her voluptuous body accentuated, not hidden, by the burgundy red dress she wore. Her black hair was curled and pinned up, her face only slightly powdered. Her eyes were the most amazing sight Serenity has ever witnessed. They weren't exactly blue, they were violet. Those eyes stared at her with a little amusement and… disappointment?
"Lady Endymi," Serenity breathed out.
Lady Endymi forced a smile. "It's Lady Raye. We are going to be sisters, after all." She turned to Mina and her smile brightened a little. "Lady Amina." With a flick of he wrist she beckoned four men that stood behind her to take a step forward and they did as one. "These are Lord Kunzie, Lord Jadeite, Lord Nephrite, and Lord Zoicite. They are harmless to you." She looked pointedly at Serenity as the latter curtsied and lowered her eyes as a blush warmed up her cheeks. The men seemed to follow Lady Endymi's every unspoken command and she could not blame them for it. Lady Raye had a magnificent presence.
Her heart sped up dangerously as music fluttered to Serenity's ears and she saw people around them move to clear the center of the ballroom out of the corner of her eye. "May I have the honor?"
She turned her head to the brunette man in the group. His long hair was braided down his back, but somehow did not look out of place with his outfit. His kind green eyes seemed to send her a message but she failed to decipher it. With a slight nod Serenity accepted his hand and walked to the dance floor.
She was taught to dance, it was not the first time she was held by a man either, but Serenity could not help the blush that warmed up her cheeks. Their bodies brushed against each other innocently, then separated as they exchanged partners, then came back.
"You look a little lost," he said for only her ears to hear.
"I've never been to the Palace before," Serenity confessed. "I guess I'm a little nervous."
They parted again and his eyebrow was raised in amusement when they reunited. "Of what?"
"Won't the King be in attendance?" She heard him laugh softly as they parted and it irritated her. How dare he laugh at her absence of knowledge? She just told him that this was new to her.
"The King never attends these balls. He is a bit of a recluse, only letting a chosen few close."
The dance ended and Nephrite escorted her to a station where she was offered different wines. After she made her choice, he walked her back to where she stood before. To her surprise, neither Mina nor Lady Raye were there. A quick search of the crowd revealed them both dancing.
"I beg your pardon, but I see someone I need to speak with."
She turned to him and gave him a shy but honest smile. "Please, I will be alright. Thank you for the dance."
He smiled down at her and suddenly picked up her hand, placing a quick kiss on the back of it. "The pleasure was all mine m'lady."
Serenity watched him walk away towards someone she could not see in the crowd, then sipped on her wine. She took a few steps over to an alcove and leaned against the wall, not wanting to have to find someone to converse with. Instead, she caught on to a conversation in the alcove next to hers. She scolded herself for eavesdropping, but then the subject of their conversation fully reached her.
"But have you seen her? She is quite pretty, even under-groomed."
"Oh please, like it would matter if she looked like a pig. He doesn't have a choice but to marry her, it's the King's wish."
"You don't seem upset about it."
"Why would I be? A man like the Duke needs someone to tame and his bride looks in no need of that. I'm sure he'll be over her as soon as they conceive, if not before."
The other woman seemed to have gasped. "But you are married."
"All the more reason for him to enjoy my hospitality. I hear he is quite worth the trouble."
Serenity held tight to her glass as she dashed to the doors. She set the goblet on a mantel and ran through the doors, out of the bright lights of the ballroom and into the dimness of the terrace. She stood there, breathing hard from her mad dash, until her eyes found an entrance to the Garden. She ran down the terrace until she reached the path, then her legs followed it unseeingly. Tears prickled at her eyes, tears of despair and anger. How dared they speak about her? How dared they speak of sleeping with her husband? She may not have met him, she may not have been to keen on the arrangement, but her pride was wounded by the notion. She almost laughed at the sudden realization of possessiveness that overwhelmed her senses back in the ballroom when she heard those words. She may have been a country girl, she may have not known the ways of the Society, but she was Lady Serenity Alessandra Constance D'Mye, and like all the women of her line, she was going to be strong.
She plopped on the grassy ground as she reached the pond and stared at the reflection of the moon. The gentle wind dried off her tears and Serenity became aware of a potent fragrance the enveloped her. She blinked, looking around to find the source and then she saw it - all around her white lilies glowed in the moonlight. They were so fragile, so beautiful and so tantalizing. Yet, despite their innocence, Serenity knew that their potent scent could make a person suffer. A smile crept into her face as she reached out and plucked one, inhaling the fragrance.