She smiled at him from across their small table, chewing on a piece of mutton. He smiled back, unable to resist her smile for long, even while his heart broke at the thought of what he had to do. As one hand brought the joint to his lips, the other fingered the long-stemmed rose sitting on his thigh, fresh out of the gardens of his Kingdom and still covered in dew from the holy waters of Elysion.
"Is everything alright, Ender?" she asked pleasantly, her blue eyes curious.
As he gazed at her beautiful features, her unblemished skin, clear, bright eyes, high cheekbones and rosy lips, he wondered how he had never seen it before. She was simply too beautiful to be anything but an ethereal being… but perhaps he had been too young when they first met, too naïve to know the true workings of the world. "Perfectly fine, my love," he returned.
They had met several years ago. He was still a teenager, fresh out of his Kingdom, eager to explore the world he ruled over. Seventeen, and still so young. He, Kunzite, Zoisite, Jadeite and Nephrite were touring the country unaccompanied, finding adventures where they could and enjoying the beauty of Earth as they moved north and westward of the capitol. They had been hunting in the forest that day, chasing some brilliant 14-point white stag, and he was separated from them when he found her.
The sight of her had taken his breath away. Porcelain skin, a long and flowing white dress held to her chest with pearls and silver, her long blonde spilling around her, floating behind her in the clear pool. She had noticed his arrival immediately and turned to meet him, holding the front of her skirt so she could easily step over the rocks of the pond. Her beauty was like an arrow through his heart, and from that moment forward it seemed impossible to take his eyes off of her. "Hello," she said, her shy words singing like a song in his heart.
They spoke together for a long time in that small meadow, about the beauty of the trees and the feeling of the wind, and when he heard his fellows breaking through the forest, their voices still too distant for her to hear what they called, he yelled back at them to discourage any further search. They promised to meet back the next day so they might talk some more, and as he left she asked his name. "Endymion" was what he had started to say, but he caught himself at the last moment, "End—er,"
"Ender," she repeated, his fumble a true name on her lips, a name he would swear by for forever if she but wish it so. "I am Lalune."
After that they met together many times, and eventually, in secret from his family, he married her. They moved in together, into a small cottage in the woods, in the middle of a glade very similar to their meeting place, but closer to the capital city. He had told her he was a Smith, and that he worked long hours in the town as a journeyman to the craft; in that manner, he could spend every night with her, escaping the grounds after he had 'retired' and leaving her at dawn; occasionally he spent weeks with her, telling the court that he would be out hunting.
There were days when she was absent, but upon her return her excuses always satisfied him completely.
What a fool he had been, all these long four years.
He had found her true identity earlier that very day. He and the Heavenly Kings were on official business of Elysion, chasing off and defeating pieces of Chaos that had emerged too close to the capitol, but as they stalked the evil creature to its lair, they were surprised to learn that they were not alone in the hunt. With Kunzite on his left and Nephrite on his right, both tensed and ready to jump at his call, he dripped the holy waters onto the single red rose – a fitting piece, he believed, to stand for Earth's defense – three beautiful figures appeared out of the very sky itself and landed between them and the cave.
They were young women, dressed in outfits coordinated with a specific color, with short skirts, long gloves, and high heels, and yet they fought better than half of his knights. They were fluid with their movements, the orange blonde girl using a chain of copper and firestones as a whip to hold the creature while a tall brunette in green directed lightning towards the foe to weaken it. To deliver the final blow was a girl in a short white dress with long blonde hair in familiar pigtailed buns. Lalune. In a flourish a pink rod topped with a golden crescent appeared in her hands and suddenly a bright clear light shot from the device, enveloping the cruel beast in sparkling silver light.
He had been forced to close his eyes from the intensity, but when he opened them again, the monster had vanished, but the trio remained. They spoke amongst each other for a moment, but two words, more than any others, stuck out like blood on a white kerchief.
The blonde orange warrior clearly addressed Lalune as "Princess Serenity."
The three of them left, and he and his Heavenly Kings spoke together for a long time about what the occurrence had meant. The Moon Kingdom was interfering with Earth business, that much was undeniable, but to what end? The possibility that they were simply helping was a small one; the Earth Kingdom and the Moon Kingdom had never been close, nor had they opened official assemblies between the two great nations, so why would they come to Earth to defeat an Earth problem? Jadeite, however, had a better explanation, one that hurt his heart to hear, but one that made more sense the longer they spoke of it.
They had never seen the monster destroyed. They had no proof that Princess Serenity and her female warriors had done away with the beast. What if, as Chancellor Beryl had hinted recently in court, the Moon Kingdom was amassing a fighting force to be used against Earth in order to take control of the planet? Princess Serenity could have easily just transported the creature to holding facilities on the Moon, waiting for the right time to unleash it upon the capital or other major cities as the Moon Kingdom deemed fit. How many other monsters did they have locked away? There was only one course of action remaining: they needed information, or, at the very least, a bargaining chip to use against the Moon Kingdom to forestall future attacks.
And he had one hell of a bargaining chip sitting across from him at the table, smiling. Now all he had to do was subdue her.
"So, how was your day today?" he asked, taking another enthusiastic bite out of his meal.
She bit her lip, her blue gaze on the ceiling as she thought aloud, "Well, I refilled the water supply, did some laundry… the berries are coming in! I have some for dessert, actually; they're raspberries, but I've sprinkled some sugar on them for you. Hmm… I tried a new recipe – how do you like the herb crusting?"
"It's really good," he replied honestly, watching as her hand shifted from atop the table to underneath it.
"I'm glad you like it!" she smiled wide, then struck a one-handed thinking pose, "Hmm," she hummed, "I think that's about it, but it was a productive day, overall." Her eyes caught his then, and in them he saw something he had never seen in them before. A fierceness, like a cold fire burning behind them, and he gripped his rose tighter. "Oh, and I learned something interesting…"
The table suddenly flipped over in a flurry of utensils, food and cutlery, but as soon as it moved he was ready. He jumped to his feet and readied his rose, but she was quick. She crashed into him and kept moving, and he was forced backwards into the wall behind them, the cruel crescent want pinning his neck to wood. "You are not who you said you were," she hissed, her glare intimidating.
"Same to you, Princess Serenity," he returned, his voice rasping from the pressure of the cold metal against his Adam's apple. He met her glare with his own, smirking at her and twitching his fingers, drawing her attention to the thorn placed precariously close to the bare skin between her shirt and her skirt. She glanced down and her brows furrowed, not quite understanding the threat, but he was only too happy to lay it out to her. "This rose has been dipped in the waters of Elysion; should it enter the bloodstream of a being that does not belong to Earth or wishes malice upon a being of Earth, their blood will boil beneath their skin and turn them to ash from the inside out." He reached out quickly with his other hand to hold her still, pressing the thorn ever closer to her, watching the momentary flicker of fear in her eyes, a glimmer that soon changed to one of doubt. "Oh, I assure you, Princess, what I say is the truth. Now, would you care to release me?"
She glared and remained where she was, and for a moment he wondered which was quicker – her command over the magics of the wand, or his reflexes and the powers within the water. Who would die first if they struck at the same time? His heart beating quickly within his chest, adrenaline rushing through his veins, he truly believed that he struck now, he might be able to push her hard enough to break through the double-grip hold she had over her weapon. He could yet escape. But…
… Could he really kill her?
She was Princess Serenity of the Moon Kingdom, an enemy of Earth as declared by Beryl, who had been nothing but loyal to him since her first appearance in court years ago. She had control over magics that he and his people might never have, and so would always be a threat to their way of life. She and her two warriors of earlier today might easily demolish an entire town, if they so pleased, and how many other of her color-coded female fighters did she have under her command? It was his duty as Prince of Earth to kill her. His fingers tightened around her abdomen and his rose –
But as his eyes met hers for what could have been the last time, he knew he could not kill her. Princess Serenity, she might be. An enemy of Earth, she might be. But what she was, was Lalune, his wife. The woman he loved, the woman he adored, whom he could not get enough of. The woman who sang to him, played with him, made him laugh and comforted him. The woman whom he had shared his deepest wishes with, his guarded secrets, who would stay up with him late at night and watch the stars move across the sky, who would talk with him until sunrise. She was the woman that he loved above all others. His grip relaxed. If she wanted him dead…
She growled fiercely and tugged hard at the handle of the wand, yanking its pointed head out of the wall and freeing him. "I can't kill you, Ender," she stated as though it was an admission of defeat, "I just –" her voice caught in her throat, and he dropped the rose to hold her. Her arms wrapped around him welcomingly, and they stood together in silence. He contemplated the repercussions of this move, of what it would mean for Earth and the court, and he had to ask.
He pushed her away from him gently and looked her in the eye, "Does the Moon Kingdom have plans to take over Earth?" he asked in all seriousness, both begging and demanding the truth from her.
"No," she stated, shaking her blonde head to emphasize her answer. "Is Earth, under Beryl, planning to destroy the Moon Kingdom?"
"What?" the question caught him off-guard. Why would Beryl want to destroy the Moon Kingdom? There was no reason… but, then, from what the chancellor said about the Moon Kingdom it would be an obvious assumption to make if you were from the Moon. "No," he replied softly. There was no reason…
She exhaled sharply, laughing, "Good!" she exclaimed, then took him by the hand and moved towards the window to glance outside. "I need to call off the hit on you," she stated matter-of-factly, as though it were an everyday phrase.
While he was taken for a second, he recovered quickly, "I think I might have to do the same for you." If he were a betting man, he'd put his money on Zoisite having a group of archers waiting to shoot any Moon Kingdom person out of the sky, if they had the habit of appearing the way she and her soldiers had appeared earlier.
She glanced back at him with a wry smile, "My people might already be here. If I leave you, you're as good as dead. No offence to your fighting skills."
"None taken; I'm honestly quite sure you wouldn't make it through the skies. No offense to your flying skills."
She smiled, "None taken."
"So," he asked, as her blue eyes flickered from place to place amongst the trees around them as though she already had a plan, "What do we do?"
She squeezed his hand and reached for the doorknob, "We run."