"Mama, what was it like when you were a princess?" the pretty young girl turned around in her seat, looking back at her mother with large, curious eyes.
Neo Queen Serenity quirked an eyebrow, offering a small smile, and went back to brushing her daughter's thick pink hair unconcernedly. "When I was a princess?" she repeated with a doubtful air; she had never hinted before that she had even been a princess – for sure, the time before she assumed the title of Neo-Queen Serenity was anything but something her young daughter could relate to. The sound of the brush traveling through hair was rhythmic and soothing, a slight yet deep swoosh as it travelled from root to tip that somehow unwound some of her tension from the day of court sessions and meetings, just as it straightened the pink strands. This was one of her favorite parts of the day; she didn't get to spend a lot of time with her daughter, so these small moments before bedtime were a treasure.
"Yes, when you were a princess," the child repeated, her pink eyes focused on her reflection in the mirror. Their eyes met, and she continued with a hint of a shy smile, "in the Silver Millennium, when you and Venus and everyone lived on the Moon."
The brush froze in her hand as she seemed to lose focus on the world, remembering that last, terrible moment when Endymion died and she turned the tip of the sword upon herself. The thought of Endymion's death still caused a sharp pain in her chest that she could not ignore, but she had long ago come to terms with her own actions; Endymion had died, and with that, there was no reason for her to live on. She understood her reasons, but she had grown so much now, she had matured, and she could accept them. Her daughter, on the other hand, was only five years old. Theirs wasn't a story one should share with a five year old; theirs wasn't exactly an example to be followed. … but someday, someday she would have to tell her precious daughter that she had committed suicide.
"Mama?" her child prompted quietly, waking her from her trance. She started brushing her hair again, smiling.
"Who told you about that?" she asked lightheartedly, wondering if someone had mentioned that time in a slip of the tongue.
"Luna," the young girl replied with a blush and a fierce, pleased smile, "She said sometimes I am as mischievous a princess as you were."
Serenity smiled, her heart overfilling with emotion at the pride in Small Lady's voice at the comparison. "Yes," she assured, turning her daughter around to tap her on the nose, "You most certainly are!"
Her smile grew to a grin, her Small Lady, and they sat looking at each other and smiling foolishly for a moment. "Um… Mama?" she asked at last, embarrassed, "What does "mischievous" mean?"
Serenity laughed and picked up the little girl, "It means you're a troublemaker! " she teased, giving the young girl an Eskimo Kiss as she walked over to the fluffy pink bed. She parted the fine drapes with her shoulder and sat down on the duvet, still cradling her daughter in her arms. "Don't think I haven't heard about your escapes from the nanny's care to go sneaking around the castle!" she admonished with a smile.
"Did you ever escape from your nanny?" she asked shyly, and Serenity sat her down on the comforter beside her, considering an answer, remembering back to times more than a lifetime ago…
"Yes," she replied at last, "but it wasn't all that hard; Luna was my nanny back then."
"Luna?" Small Lady repeated with awe, "Really?"
"Yep," she returned, "She and Artemis were in charge of keeping all of us in line – all five of us. And when you had five girls your age wanting to escape to run amok, things got easier."
She smiled excitedly, "You mean you got to grow up with Venus and Mercury and Jupiter and Mars?"
She nodded, "Yep! And we had a lot of adventures… until they started to understand their roles as my guardians. Things got a little less fun then, but we still had a few adventures together." She smiled, recalling the balls and parties and hiding in the gardens, and shared a few of the funnier (and safer) stories with her daughter, adding in a few embellishments to make her laugh even harder. But even as she told of their escapades on the moon, she couldn't help but remember her forays on Earth…
"How did you and Daddy meet?" the girl questioned, as if reading her mind.
"Well," she replied thoughtfully, "I kind of knew him before we actually met." Small Lady looked at her with confusion, and she continued, "You see, the Moon Kingdom was in charge of keeping the Earth Kingdom safe from evil, and so we had this great big viewing screen to check out little problems on Earth before they became really big problems, and one time there was a little problem in the court of the Earth Kingdom. I saw him on the screen then, and it was love at first sight for me." She laughed, "He was so handsome I couldn't resist sneaking down to Earth to see him."
"You snuck down to Earth ?" she repeated in awe.
She paused, considering, "Yes…" she finally admitted, sternly looking at her daughter out of the corner of her eye, "but don't you ever sneak away from here to visit another planet, okay?"
She giggled, "Okay."
She turned and pounced on her daughter playfully, pinning her down to the bed and snarling playfully, "Promise?" she prompted.
She laughed, squirming "I promise!"
"Good." She kissed her forehead and sat up, releasing her and continuing as though nothing had happened. "So, I set up a distraction on the moon and snuck down to Earth to see him in person." She paused, recalling their first encounter, "I hid in his garden, actually, but he caught me. And then Venus and the girls found me and dragged me back up to the moon, but that wasn't my last visit to Earth."
"You went again?" she prompted with enthusiasm.
"Yep," she nodded, "And again after that, and again – I forget exactly how many times I snuck away, but it got harder and harder to leave. We fell in love, despite how dangerous it was back then." She looked over at her daughter conspiratorially, "It was forbidden, you know."
But Small Lady didn't look back teasingly; instead her eyes were serious, if still shy, as if she wanted to ask something but thought she couldn't. Serenity smiled encouragingly, and eventually she found her voice, "Mama… What's it like to be in love?"
"It's the best feeling in the world," she replied honestly, leaning back to stare at the pink canopy overhead, "When you find your soul mate and you are in love… nothing can beat that feeling." She closed her eyes, "You're on top of the world, confident and invincible so long as you are together. Being with him then, and now, makes me feel complete, and powerful, like energy is welling up within me. It's like my heart is so light it's transparent, and always warm, like a star shining brightly."
They were silent, her in her memories of stolen kisses and flowering gardens, of seas almost as blue as his eyes, and of peaceful moments of the Silver Millennium; her daughter in her hopes of feeling the same way one day. Small Lady took her mother's hand, and Serenity's eyes opened to look up at her. "Mama," she asked with a smile, "How did he propose? Did he go up to the Moon Kingdom and talk to your parents? Or did you two run away together?"
Her euphoria died down a bit, knowing which way this conversation would lead, unsure how to continue. She could lie a bit, and talk about how he proposed to her in this lifetime… but… She sat up, curling her legs beneath her. "He didn't get to propose to me," she answered honestly. If she could help it, she would never lie to her daughter, even when there was a way she could trick her way around the truth. Small Lady's pink eyes were confused, her eyebrows knitting together in puzzlement, a question on her lips that Serenity answered before she could ask, "Not back when he was the Prince of Earth and I the Princess of the Moon. He proposed to me later, when he was Mamoru Chiba, and I, Usagi Tsukino."
"But why not?" she asked, "You were in love, why didn't you get married?"
"Well, sweetheart," she started nervously, glancing at her daughter as she tried to figure out what to say, "something… terrible happened before he could. There was this evil force that took over a woman on Earth, who then led the Earth army to fight the people of the Moon Kingdom."
Her mouth opened in shock, "But Daddy was from Earth."
"Did… Did Daddy fight, too?" she asked hesitantly.
"No. You father was the only person on the entire planet that didn't fall under her evil spell." She looked relieved, "He actually rushed up to the moon to help us, to defend me."
"True love wouldn't let him fall under her evil spell!" she gushed, "But then you had to have won!" she cried out enthusiastically, a smile on her lips, "'Cause you said that you were invincible when you were together!"
She wanted to leave it at that, with stars in her daughter's eyes and conviction in her voice about the power of people in love, but if she didn't tell her the truth now, she would be a liar later. So, softly, she smiled, and took her daughter's hand in hers. "Not that time, sweetheart."
Confused, her pink-haired child deflated completely, looking sad. "But…"
"Your father jumped in front of a sword that was meant for me, and tried to talk sense into his people, to tell them that the war wasn't right or deserved, but they wouldn't listen to him. Angry, the woman that the evil had possessed struck him down. Your father died, protecting me, and I… oh, honey, I was sad and heartbroken and desperate – I went crazy at the thought of losing him, and I," she paused, taking a deep, distressed breath to the side, wishing that it hadn't gotten this far but knowing that there was no other way now. She looked her daughter in the eye, facing the bewilderment and uncertainty there, and held her pink gaze with her eyes, desperate to tell her what happened and, on some crazy level, hoping for her daughter's forgiveness for her weakness, "I killed myself."
Small Lady's eyes became even more confused – she could practically see the thoughts running rampant in her mind, "I'm sorry! I was young and rash and filled with despair," she explained quickly, searching for reasons that she might understand, "And I was stupid, my darling, I was stupid for—"
Small Lady's little hand covered her lips and she froze, waiting to see what would happen next, wondering if she had done something too terrible to ever make up for, her heart racing with the possibility that her daughter might hate her now for doing something she had always known to be terrible. "You…" she started, her brows furrowing as if gathering her words, "You loved him, and you said that when you love someone, they make you heart lighter and give you strength. When he died, your heart got heavy, and fell and broke, and you lost your strength." She stopped, as if the matter were finished, and smiled supportively.
Neo Queen Serenity almost laughed; she was being comforted by her five-year-old daughter, and she was doing an excellent job! She felt better, a little relieved, but still guilty about telling her daughter something so shocking when she was still so young. The matter was still unfinished, however. Small Lady took her hand away and looked at her, a small light glowing fiercely behind her eyes, "But you're alive now because of the power of love, right?"
She laughed, "Yes; love saved us and gave us a second chance at life, where we found each other again and fell even deeper in love." Her daughter smiled happily, assured in her belief that love is invincible, and she continued, " Then he proposed to me in an airport before he went to study abroad in America, and we got married in a big church, and I wore a beautiful wedding gown covered in roses, and he wore a tuxedo accented with green leaves. Then we have a beautiful baby girl with pink hair," she ruffled Small Lady's hair and she giggled with pleasure, and then pulled her close in a hug, "and we lived happily ever after, the end."
"Happily ever after?" a familiar voice called from the doorway, and both of them smiled excitedly as the shadow of King Endymion fell across the drapes. The sunrise-cloaked King crossed the room and parted the curtains surrounding the bed. "Sounds like a good story! What one are we telling tonight, the story of Cinderella? Sleeping Beauty?" he asked as he took a seat beside them.
"No!" their daughter corrected, scooting over to his lap and crossing her arms playfully, "Even better!"
"Ooh, hmm… Hansel and Gretel? Snow White? Beauty and the Beast?" Each guess was met with the shake of her head. "No? Then which story?"
"The story about the Moon Princess and the Earth Prince!" she declared, her eyes closed superiorly.
He looked over at Serenity wonderingly, and Serenity nodded, biting her lip. She would tell him in detail what had happened later, after they put her to bed, but for now she waited to see what their amazing daughter would do next.
Small Lady opened one eye, peeking at her father, "Do you know that story?"
He smiled, "I sure do," he replied, "But do you know the sequel?"
"The sequel?" she replied in surprise, both eyes open and eager.
"It's about a super hero who fights for love and justice…"