Go the Distance

"This way, your majesty! Follow me!" It was his friend, the one he had never met before but knew he could always trust. There were four of them, four young men that he felt he had known forever in this green kingdom of life; sometimes he knew their names, others he just felt who they were, recognizing them without a word to call them. He was on a horse now, speeding after them, their features shifting and changing from dark to light, from long hair to short, but the changes never bothered him. They peaked a hill and came across a cobble-stoned city, the center of which hosted a palace straight out of a fairytale.

"We're home!" his friend cried, and the four of them galloped their horses down to the front gates of the city as he urged his own horse forward to keep up with them. As they neared the gates were flung open, men and women dressed in military garb stepping back with a bow. The streets were lined with people, all smiling, jumping and cheering for him. They chanted his name amongst whistles of appreciation, shouts of joy, and he and his friends were showered with hundreds of flowers.

"Welcome home!" he heard over and over, "Welcome back!"

He felt whole here, as if this place, out of any other on Earth, was where he was meant to be…

When the road ended he alone dismounted and approached the massive doors to the splendorous castle, eager to get inside because he just knew that something for him awaited his arrival, something that was incredibly important. But as he pulled the doors, they wouldn't budge. The more he struggled, the more the doors refused his attempts. The world dropped away around him; all that existed was he and these doors, and whatever secret they guarded. Desperate, his strength leaving him, he dropped to his knees and peered through the tiny keyhole for any hint of what was hiding there…

A figure, masked in fog and shrouded in an odd, familiar light, was reaching out for him, her impossibly long hair reaching out all around her, "Find the Legendary Silver Crystal!"

He awoke all at once, staring up at his ceiling above him. He had never gotten that far before. Finally, he had a clue to this strange, recurring dream, wherein his feelings shone brighter than he had ever felt during waking hours. This was who he was, that person he was in that dream. It was there that he belonged – That was his home, not this apartment, not this dreary world where he was neither wanted nor accepted. It was as though everything was suddenly clear. He knew what he needed to do – to find out whether that dream was just a fantasy or a reality, he needed to do as the figure asked – he needed to find the Legendary Silver Crystal!

Someday he would find it – he was sure of that. He had everything he needed. He lived in Tokyo – if there were a gem called the Legendary Silver Crystal, he would find it here! He had left the children's center, he was on his own now, so he was free to come and go as he pleased; if he were diligent, if he never wavered in this, he was sure he would make it! No matter how long it took, he would find this crystal and he would find out whether this dream was real. He would find where he belonged.

He would start now, right then and there, at 3:30 on a Monday morning in his small apartment, wearing nothing but the boxer shorts he slept in. He would start by searching the jewelry stores he knew of – nothing near his place to be inconspicuous. He crossed the room quickly, flinging open the closet doors and scanning his everyday attire for something to wear. He would need to blend in, to become part of the crowd, just in case he had to break into the stores to check them out. He might not finish with time to come back and change, so he quickly stuffed his school uniform into his book case, then returned to the problem at hand.

But then the solution stared him right in the face. A tuxedo. Sitting in the depths of his closet, still wrapped in the plastic of the dry cleaners, was a black tuxedo; a remnant of his awards ceremony for winning that scholarship that let him rent this apartment. His teacher had insisted he buy it, sure that he would need it in the future… and now Mamoru had to agree. However, his need for it now was not to accept more awards, but rather to be so out-of-place as to be a non-suspect in what could be a spree of break-ins. Why would someone so wealthy that they wore a tuxedo out in public be suspect in a case of breaking-and-entering? They wouldn't.

Quickly he dressed, throwing on socks, the shirt, black pants and shiny black shoes; he pulled on the white vest and buttoned it, and slipped into the jacket. He looked at himself in the mirror, tying the little white bowtie atop a red tie base, and looked himself over. Other than his face, he could pass for just about anybody. To solve that problem he reached into his desk drawer and pulled out a pair of large dark sunglasses and put them on – perfect. With nearly half his face covered, he couldn't be pointed out easily at all; he doubted his own classmates would recognize him.

He took his bookbag in hand and moved through his apartment, gathering his keys in hand. He paused before the door, wondering if he was really going through with this… but he was. There was no going back – he would go the distance. He opened the door and turned down the hallway, embracing his fate as he stepped onto a road he was nearly positive had never been traversed before.

Weeks passed, turning to months, and still Mamoru had not unearthed the Legendary Silver Crystal. He had crossed off many jewelers across the city, working through streets diligently in his pursuit of his past, of finding the tool that would allow the girl in his dreams to unlock his true memories. The time meant nothing to him – even if it took him his lifetime, he would still be happy with knowing the truth on his deathbed: were the dreams a fantasy created by a young orphans dreams of acceptance, or some hidden memory, waiting to be unlocked? Perhaps when he saw this crystal it would all come back to him, perhaps that was what the dreams meant. He was determined to find it.

Nearly two months into his hunt, his daily search for oddities was fruitful – a surprise super sale at a Juuban shopping district jewelry store seemed promising; with new merchandise coming in to supply the demand, the crystal might be there. When he returned to the store after hours he felt a warm sensation rush through him, like the feeling that filled him whenever he healed a cut or scrape with that strange energy he commanded, and suddenly his tuxedo had additions to it – instead of sunglasses, he had a stylized white mask; he was now wearing a top hat, and a cape draped dramatically off of his shoulders, reminding him faintly of the Phantom of the Opera. He smiled at the comparison – maybe now if spotted people might start blaming a ghost. He entered through a high window, knowing that it would be the least searched entrance should he find the crystal and remove it, but only then came across a strange scene – a monster, one so ugly and cold that it made his skin crawl, and a girl, not too much younger than he, caught in combat.

She was very pretty, dressed in some sort of shorter version of the sailor uniforms at the local middle school. Her hair, long and blonde, was familiar to him but he couldn't quite place it. In this scenario, if there was a good guy and a bad guy, she was definitely the good, and she was in trouble. Without pausing to consider, he jumped down to help her out.

By the end of the night, the monster was utterly destroyed. He left the girl, knowing that the Legendary Silver Crystal was not there; on his way back to his apartment he wondered if this was an isolated incident… and decided that if she ever needed help again, he would assist her in whatever way imaginable. This journey of his to discover his past was starting to wander, what with his new persona of "Tuxedo Mask", a name he threw out casually and without really thinking; but perhaps this development was necessary.

The longer he spent around her, the more he wanted to be near her: Usagi, the slightly-flighty girl with bad grades and a personality and aura about her that he found completely addictive, and Sailor Moon, the masked heroine who stopped the evil forces that were springing up around Tokyo at an alarming rate. He seemed to know before he actually found out that the two were the same, that careless Usagi was the 'Pretty Sailor-Suited Senshi of Love and Justice," and his revelation to her of who he was seemed to throw her only for a moment. He had tried to stay away from her, to concentrate on finding the Legendary Silver Crystal to solve his own mystery, but no matter what happened he just couldn't leave her, and it seemed she was the same way. He seemed to always know when she was in trouble, feeling a strong pull in the direction of the battle, reaching the scene just in time to be useful.

But she was always saving and protecting him, and one night, on Tokyo Tower, it was his turn to protect her. He caught her when she fell, and, as always, she told him to be safe, to run away because they were fighting the enemy. She had kissed him… and returned to battle the newest threat from the Negaverse. She had just thrown her Princess away with her team to protect her against the latest attack, but he knew that she wouldn't be able to survive the burst of negative energy; so he put himself in front of her. There was no going back now – no chance at finding the Crystal, but he wouldn't have it any other way. He would trade knowledge of his past for this girl any time, any place. He would save Usako, even if it meant sacrificing himself and the key to his past.

But after the blow, as his shoulder bled and she screamed out his name, he opened his eyes and it was as if two images focused to become one. The girl in his dreams, the one with the long hair that was always calling him, who told him to find the crystal… it was her, Usako. But she was so sad… Then everything came back to him, just as the dream had promised. She was Princess Serenity, and he was Prince Endymion… they were reborn here and at this time so that they could meet again.

One thousand years was well worth the wait.

The next time Mamoru was himself he was blind to the world, but knew that Usako was there with him. They had faced so much and had suffered so much at the hands of these enemies; his shitennou had all lived and died by this witch, both of their kingdoms destroyed, their lives lost and miraculously regained, and still this witch lived. They would not accept defeat this time; so long as they both were together, they would be invincible – he was sure of it. Though the battle seemed one-sided, a giant force of evil verses one girl with an ancient force of good, he never lost faith in his love and dedicated all of his strength and energy into aiding her in this final, decisive battle for the past and their future.

And they won, for in this struggle, strength was measured not by deeds, glory and achievements, but by what was within their hearts.

The healing power of the Legendary Silver Crystal swept over them, mending the hurt caused by the evil Queen Metalia; he was able to channel his powers and use them to locate Usako's friends, barely alive from their sacrifice of power; it had seemed that they had won. At last, they were freed of the burdens of their past, free to live together and love each other. And at that moment he felt his journey was complete, for there, in her kiss and in her arms, he had found his hero's welcome.

And he knew at that moment that for the rest of his life, and beyond, as the case may be, he would forever search the world to find her. He would face any challenge, combat its evils, and he would always find her, to keep her safe within his arms.