The inner senshi and their princess continued to sit in a comfortable silence as they waited for someone to fetch them for dinner.
"I'm starving," Phoebe sighed as she lay her head on Aubrey's shoulder.
"When aren't you ever hungry, Phoebe?" Iris teased as she played with a blade of soft, green grass while Akari's head still rested upon her shoulder.
"You and Akari are the exact same when it comes to food, I swear," Aubrey responded, pressing on with the tease.
As soon as the princess and the senshi of love were about to argue with them, Irissa looked up to see Maia's mother donning her blue senshi outfit and a tender smile, "Girls, it's time for dinner.
"Finally!" Phoebe exclaimed, jumping up excitedly and forgetting about the argument that she and Aubrey were about to have.
The other senshi stood, stretching their muscles from relaxing their muscles for a long period of time. Noticing that Akari had not begun to stand up, Irissa extended a hand to her.
"I'm going to stay here for a moment. You all go on ahead, I'll catch up."
"Are you positive?" Aubrey questioned and gave her a small smile as Akari nodded to her friend in assurance. The senshi of fire almost hoisted the princess up herself when a strong hand rested on her shoulder. Glancing over her shoulder, she noticed Irissa was giving her a look that said 'leave her be'.
After left alone and submersed in her own thoughts, a few moments passed until Akari heard footsteps heading her way.
"I told you I would be there-" Akari looked up to see a senshi would she had never seen before. "Hello," she said shyly.
"Oh, please," Akari smiled brightly when she responded as she stood up and wiped the stray grass blades from her dress, "I don't really enjoy the formalities that royalty entails. You may call me Akari, but some call me Ri-chan. And you are?"
"Sailor Saturn. I'm pleased to make your acquaintance," the senshi said with a friendly smile.
"What is your civilian name, Saturn?"
"May I refer to you as Hotaru-san? I am not one to be formal all the time; keeping things personal and friendly makes everything less stressful."
"You may call me Hotaru-chan, if you wish."
"I am pleased to meet you, Hotaru-chan. Would you like join us to dinner, or have you already done so?"
"I have already eaten, thank you for the invitation, though."
"Do you like chess, Hotaru?"
Akari was confused when the senshi's face quickly phased into an unexplainable expression, "I love to play chess. Would you like to play?"
Akari smiled as the senshi nodded and smiled politely. The princess gestured for the senshi to follow her. The walk was quick as they made their way to the library where Akari usually played the game with Maia's mother, Eternal Sailor Mercury.
As Saturn sat down where the dark pieces were located, she spoke, "Now, are you ready to lose, Akari-san?"
Akari smirked and replied, "Just so you know, Hotaru-chan, I rarely lose."
The game advanced, but something was bothering Akari. Something felt so familiar as Akari's fingers fidgeted as Hotaru took one of her pawns. So far, Hotaru had taken two of the princess' pawns and one of her bishops, and the pink-haired teenager had only taken one the senshi's pawns but both of her bishops.
Pain bloomed inside of her chest and Akari felt as if she was experiencing a déjà vu as more black pieces were outweighing her white ones. Akari could have sworn that she had this kind of moment with Hotaru.
"Everything okay, Akari-san?"
Akari chuckled, "Yes, thank you. I never thought I'd see the day where I would lose a game of chess."
Dying isn't all that bad, to be honest, Ri-chan.
Her stomach dropped as a voice whispered in her mind. It was Hotaru speaking words that she had heard before, but Akari had never spoken to the senshi, had she?
The princess coughed uncomfortably and situated herself in the chair so she could tuck her left leg underneath her. She noticed, as Hotaru fixed the pieces back to where they belonged to start a new game, that this moment was definitely something she had experienced before. Maybe not exactly, but all of this seemed so comfortable and familiar.
Your star seed shines bright, but if it ever fades, then will I be beyond scared.
Akari's chest continued to increase in pain as their new game of chess proceeded. The princess' sight suddenly became fuzzy, causing her to rub her eyes hoping that this weird feeling would cease. As she closed her eyes in hope that the unclear vision would vanish, a scene played before her that seemed almost too realistic.
She opened her eyes and noticed that Hotaru was still not out of the bathroom. Glancing at the clock, she saw that she had been asleep for thirty minutes. Akari jumped off of the counter and walked over to the closed bathroom door.
"Hotaru-chan? Are you okay?"
The sound of silence replied and dread bloomed in her heart as she slowly turned the handle. Akari heard no footsteps or the sound of hair being dried with a towel. Only silence and it disturbed her. Hotaru had been in there for a while without an utterance of any kind of noise. She opened the door and looked down on the ground. The young girl almost expelled the contents within her stomach as she gazed upon the scene before her. Blood. Fresh blood was surrounding the body of her dear friend. Rushing over to the still body, Akari turned Hotaru over so she was on her back and Akari held her in her arms, rocking the still, lifeless body while drenching herself in the process. She didn't care. She only wanted her friend back, laughing as they shared stupid, pointless jokes. Akari looked down and noticed she was holding something. A knife. She held the bloodied weapon that murdered her friend. She had stabbed her.
Akari felt sick as she came back into reality. Seeing the blood and the knife in her hand; one does not simply forget about those images. They felt as if they were permanently engrained in her mind.
Opening her eyes, she realized she had been sitting there motionless with her eyes closed when it was her turn, "Sorry, I must be more tired that I thought. I've been having these strange dreams that just keep me up the entirety of the night."
"We can resume this game at a later time, if you wish."
"I'm okay. Let us finish this game tonight," Akari replied with a kind but tired smile.
As they competitively gained each other's pieces, Akari realized her chest was slowly becoming less painful and her breathing wasn't as shallow and quick. She wasn't in as much pain, but her chest was still in a dull ache, threatening her it seemed like.
"Akari, how did you come across that necklace?" Akari gazed up at her new-found friend who wore an intense expression.
"It was a present from Seito. Why?"
Saturn's face quickly changed to a more pleasant that seemed almost faked, "It's beautiful," she continued as Akari nodded and smiled in thanks, "I've lost."
"What…?" Akari inspected the board and saw that Saturn was correct. "Looks as if we will have to have a tie-breaker game. On another day of course, if that's okay with you."
Saturn nodded, "Of course. I shall see you tomorrow since the rest of the outer senshi and I will be joining everyone for breakfast."
As Akari stood after untangling her leg from underneath her bottom and fixing her dress, she smiled politely, "That sounds wonderful. I hope you have a great night, Hotaru-chan." The princess bowed towards the senshi and exited the room.
Hotaru glanced over to the corner to where she saw two figures watching her. "I'm worried about her."
"We know, we're worried as well," one of the figures replied, stepping out of the shadows, revealing Uranus.
"She's remembering too much of her past life too quickly. How are we supposed to distract her star seed when that crystal lies upon her chest?" Hotaru sighed, relaxing into her chair.
"Was it a Reactor Crystal? It's what it reminded me of?" Neptune asked as she stepped out of the shadows behind Uranus.
"Yes, if it is near proximity of a blooming star seed, then the crystal will cause the star seed to mature faster. They're extremely rare; I wonder where Seito found it," Saturn answered with solemn eyes.
"If he is even aware of the crystal's abilities," Neptune replied, crossing her arms in worry.
"This is true. We know of its existence because…of the Sun when we traveled there to search for Cosmos. Do you remember the retired senshi of the sun who showed us hers? They look exact alike, those two crystals," Uranus wondered aloud.
"Do you presume that that's how Seito came across Akari's necklace?" Neptune asked Uranus.
"Perhaps. If he did happen to possess it from her, then she must have had a reasonable explanation. If was from her, the she may have just given it to him as a present when she became aware it was for Akari. She is a very wise woman," Saturn answered for Uranus who was trying to think of a proper explanation herself.
"It is known by now that the infamous Sailor Star has been reborn into the royal family of Earth especially by the people on the Sun; Akari was the main person who helped saved the sun from the destruction of Kurain," Uranus continued the thought after Saturn was finished.
"Maybe the retired senshi knows that Akari will be needed again. Should we investigate?" Neptune questioned her teammates.
"No, it will be too suspicious if we decide to leave again after returning when we were gone for hundreds of years," Uranus proposed.
"The lady did say she was saving the crystal for a special person if that person was ever to return…" The other two senshi looked at Saturn who had sat back up in her chair.
"We know not of this crystal or its capabilities. We are unaware of what this merchant has told us. We tell no one," Uranus responded with a troubled expression.
While they were looking forward to having their friend return, but the reasoning behind her being reborn honestly terrified them. Akari had been reborn for a definite reason, which had obviously not been revealed yet. Clearly, the young princess was maturing much more rapidly than of her mother when the queen was her age. At the ripe age of fourteen, Neo-Queen Serenity became Sailor Moon and her destiny and past life was thus revealed to her shortly afterwards. Surely, Akari will have the same fate if these occurrences continued to pop up. Akari was gracefully growing, faster than normal, the outer senshi realized. The others had no idea that Akari was now living in the body of an almost-sixteen year old body…not a fourteen year-old. The Reactor Crystal was working in a way that Akari's star seed was not the only thing changing, but the princess' body. It was a gradual change, but distinct nonetheless. How were the others not noticing that their princess was changing so drastically when they have seen her every day of her life, but the outers were able to see how her body was different from what it was an hour ago?
Something strange was rising on the horizon.
Almost 2,000 words! Woo-hoo! It feels so good to know where I want this story to go! Hopefully, no more writer's block! I hope you enjoyed this chapter and that things weren't complicated to comprehend. Please review! :)