-Cast off from the Silver Millennium, nine princesses, a prince, and five star knights. They were destined to bring serenity to the human world but then they lost half of their souls. Long and forgotten until it was much too late. They must search relentlessly without death as despite. Revered as Goddesses but only wanting to live again. Each time they think they're close, the light goes out, and they must begin their search once again.- Set in a time when Crystal Tokyo should have already risen from the ashes of the Earth, the Senshi are left helpless to scower the planet and beyond, unable do anything during war, famine, and strife. All their hopes, aspirations, and dreams resting on a moment of chance.-
This fic is dedicated to Nerf, Topaz, Requim, and so many others.
Ninety-nine steps to the top, long and daunting stairs of forebodance, rising like a pinnacle in the meek suburban sprawl from beneath the tori gates. Carved from a peculiar stone, luminescent like a fine marble, the painstaking polish glistens under the gentle sun peaking through the ancient branches of the wise old trees. Shadows cast like a tigress' stripes, stirring the heart to quake as the siren bids the weary traveler to come forward to her home. Mystifying, a soothing warmth saturates the exotically kept land, completely untouched by neither war nor time.
Five years nearly gone since the end of the war and two of those since he stepped out of the light. Delving into society and shutting out his friends, he's managed to maintain normal emails, but leaving much of any detail to the devices of imagination. Desire being a simple life, a simple job, and a simple way to be, the numbing air of calm laid claim to his unspoken urge from the moment he laid tread in the capital of his home. Fading so agilely into quiet appeal, his soul took solace as his mind rested to the tune of his heart.
Celebrations abounding the city granted him a weeks worth of reprieve from his simple, monotonous work. The streets and community centers across the city are a flurry of activity with the festival held each spring for the blooming of the cherry blossoms. Pinks, reds, and whites paint the majestic country side as a moving sign of the season. Tranquility and cheer takes the place of winter's melancholy chill as every man, woman and child dresses in their most traditional garb in taking to the streets.
So that's how he found himself beneath these vibrant stairs, still in his worn jeans, tired work boots, and faded t-shirt. Every so often, the idle chatting of locals drew his attention to the whisperings of a legend. What's more they spoke of it as common knowledge, the everyday, that gods should live on Earth and carry on like normal people under the gracious eyes of their worldly hosts. Fantastic powers and more so audacious abilities but in the same hushed sentence dismissed as just being something they do. Revered and loved, with never a hint of animosity where often it would be plentiful.
Goddesses. That was the word the old men used as they sat around the rickety table outside the machine shop beneath his tiny apartment. Coffee and crosswords passed around, the topic of the nine gorgeous women of lore came up as one of the more grumpy of sorts mentioned his pending trip up the steps with the likely timed visit of his precious grandchild who wished to see the blossoms of the big city. Speaking impart as a trivial matter yet hinting of his request for a sacred blessing to be bequeathed by the ladies of the temple.
The raw conviction, belief, honest acceptance that there should be a being of unfathomable powers and eternal life, let alone nine of them existing together under his shared sun and carrying on like every day citizens was more then enough to gain his interest. A slight lingering ringing in the deepest recesses of his mind compelled him unwittingly to accept that for which it is, yet it was on this morning at the start of his vacation that he elected to take a walk. The path itself aimlessly crossing allies and streets, through quiet neighborhoods and rustic quarters, it was the euphoric gazes on several passersby faces that led him ultimately to the bottom of the towering steps before him.
Feet falling heavy but shoulders square and light, he takes the staggering flight one step at a time, unphased by the sensation of being thrust into the clouds as he climbs. The occasional glimpses of the surrounding Juuban area peek between the rare gap in the foliage as the lulling call of a mischievous raven occasionally echoes through the thick serenity of the sanctuary. The rhythmic caw quakes with the pulse of his heart, instilling a new energy in his core, encouraging him to take another step, followed by another.
Late so many night's as he would lay awake in his loft, the glow of his blank computer screen would lull his mind as he fought the demons keeping him from sleep. Knowing how tired he should be after so many evenings spent just the same, it's a matter of minutes to hours that he would finally surrender to the little curiosity and drag his aching body from the cold confines of his bed. Every evening much the same, with that staggering lope across the creaky floor to slide in the dusty seat at his desk, intrigued to know more about mythology.
A cool breeze stirs the branches of the interwoven trees as he nears the top of the stairs and the chipper chirping of happy birds rings from their perch atop the tori gate at the crest of the flight. Hardly winded but feeling a sense of accomplishment, he pauses between the matching gate pillars lacquered in red, to take a deep breath and closing his eyes. Exhaling slowly, the hushed murmur of words reaches his sensitive ears, drawing his eyes open once more and biding him up the short but winding path where he can just barely see the roof of an ancient styled home with it's peeks jutting above the canopy of trees.
Slow and deliberate in his stride, the soldier half of his soul grants him pause as he comes upon the final line of the temple's sacred forest to look out on the surprisingly expansive courtyard, tiled with same shimmering stone tablets and surrounded on three sides by a beautifully crafted and maintained traditional temple. Muted color and natural wood with the tatami and paper doors hardly seen any more in their society so obsessed with technology and that numbing synthetic feel. Greens, browns, whites, and touches of red prevail instead in this natural world, noting that supposed advancements are purely unneeded here.
Leaning his shoulder against the sturdy tree, he watches from the shade offered, something telling him not to disturb the scene before him but instead to commit it to memory. Three lovely women, sitting side by side on the center porch which wraps around the pavilion. Dressed in identical priestess garb but in their own unique colors, the ensemble provides them a compelling allure like no woman he's seen as they kneel before a large open door with the temple bell hanging behind them and lanterns of good fortune dangle above their heads.
Before them kneels the image of his current interest as an elderly gentleman stoops with his weathered hat gripped in his frail and trembling hands. Obviously exhausted from the arduous climb, he motions the ladies' gaze to a young child sprawled out on a blanket at his knees. Young and innocent, the little girl clutches a plush bunny in her arms as the regal women look upon her with warming smiles.
"Please," the elder man murmurs, swallowing against his parched throat, "an old man like me should never out live his little girl."
Hands resting gently in her lap, the woman furthest to the right is the first to speak as she tilts her head slightly, feeling the desperation in the visitors plea. "I pray for your granddaughters sickness, Ojiisan," she lilts demurely, the hope reflecting in her rich emerald eyes, unbothered by her long auburn hair as it slips over her shoulder in it's neatly bunched tail.
"I'm begging of you," he sobs, pressing his palms to the ground to bow in the deepest respect, "Grant new life to my grandchild, I can't bear to see her wither and die."
"The gift of life, I'm afraid, is not ours to give," the woman to the furthest left offers somberly, her bob of ocean blue hair contrasting with her similarly liquid eyes, exuding a tangible wave of remorse. "I can honor a wish of hope, but that is the extent with which I can do."
"But you are a product of miracles, why do you resist to grant this slightest of gifts?" he asks woefully, desiring in earnest to prolong the little girls life.
Woeful eyes of crystalline blue, the middle woman sighs in remorse, her shimmering long mane of gold belies the emotion on her face. "It's a miserable existence, knowing there's no solace in site," she says, a bitter ache hiding in the back of her lips. "It may seem bleak but stay strong, the true measure of mortality is making it without guarantee. I will ring the temple bell thrice and pray that her heart will beat vigorously again."
Timing her words so perfectly, a breeze fragranced with a mix of roses and Casablanca sweeps across the pristine courtyard as the heavy bell chimes graciously, filling his soul with the vibrating sound. Thanks given with a tired bow, the old man once more climbs to his feet as he lifts the little girl in his arms before taking his leave, a new energy of hope radiating from deep in his soul. Hobbling only slightly, despite his elevated age, he makes his way towards the path, eyes focused on the tori gate, no longer feeling the desire to glance back, hearing the message that lay in moving forward.
Calming his thoughts as the old man retreats, he notices as a fourth woman joins the first three on the terrace, though she's younger then the others. Hair of midnight to her shoulders and vibrant amethyst eyes, she's wound in a bold purple kimono which is littered with butterflies in a rainbow of colors, strangely befitting her form. He must wonder if she'd been in the shadows the whole time, perhaps even being the one to ring the bell. It's when she kneels to the open side of the blue haired woman with a cheery grin that he finally decides to step out into the light.
So used to anonymity and blending in with the crowd, his skin tingles with complete and utter exposure under his uniquely common look. Shaggy hair, lean frame, and barely above average height, his enemies on the battlefield said that it was his piercing eyes that they would never soon forget, that is if they survived at all. His trek across the the tidy courtyard carries him on freshly lightened tread as he makes it well past half way before a new voice greets his ears, the arrival of another of the fabled women having gone seemingly unnoticed.
"Welcome traveler," the newest voice chimes, pleasantly from the lips of an exotically colored woman with a flowing raven mane and burning violet eyes. The red and white of her high priestess regalia surrounds her with an air that even the others fail to match. A tray of cups, tea, and cookies a plenty is firmly held in her delicate fingers as she notes the most minute pauses in the new comers stride before she kneels at the center of the group of four and resting the offering before them.
Freshly aware, he straightens his back as each of the women meet his gaze before politely helping themselves to the tea. Clearing his throat, he notes the similarities between the blond and raven haired woman, nearly identical, except that while the former is the first to dine, the later makes no move to join, instead keeping a keen eye back on him until he finally comes to a halt with less then ten paces between himself and the edge of the terrace.
"To what do we owe your visit?" The bluette asks, before sipping her steaming drink.
"I..." his words faltering a moment, he allows his words to pass for once unchecked, "was curious."
Seeing the surprise registering at his own choice, the raven haired woman can't resist a minute smile from curling her lips before turning over the two remaining cups on her tray. "I am Hino Rei, high priestess of Hikawa Jinga," she says with a flourish, before tipping the teapot to fill both cups. "Please...join us for tea."
Arching a fine eyebrow at her friends peculiar request, the blond elects to take a more then proper bite of her cookie of choice as the intriguing man nods in acceptance but saying not a word as he comes forward to kneel on the terrace before them to accept the offered drink. A coy smile further dares to curl her lips as she quietly notes how he takes his tea just the same as Rei.
"It's been a long time since we drew the curious," the brunette whispers, taking a long drink of her own cup before setting it back on the coaster before her. "I'm Kino Makoto, third priestess of Hikawa," she says with a slight bow of her head.
"And I'm Tomoe Hotaru, priestess of the bell," the dark haired youngster chimes, snatching her second cookie as she shares a brief glance, knowing he saw her exit from the room behind.
"A pleasure," he nods stiffly, dropping his own warm cup in time for Rei to refill the porcelain vessel.
Clearing her throat demurely, the bluette brushes her lips with a napkin before resting her own serious eyes on the peculiar traveler. "Mizuno Ami, fourth priestess of our quiet home."
"And I'm the second Hikawa priestess, Aino Minako," she blond finally offers, having swallowed her excessive mouthful before winking unabashedly at the good looking man, only be disappointed by his lack of reaction.
Finishing her own tea, Rei reaches to lift the dwindling plate of cookies, offering one to their guest before the others have had their fill. "May I ask what piqued your interest traveler?"
Taking a colorful cookie, he's surprised by the burst of flavor from something so basic before deciding on his answer, "I've traveled the stars, seen and heard things you can't fathom... but when I arrived here two years ago...I heard a story like no other," a sense of doubt interrupts his words briefly before he feels the smoldering warmth of the womens eyes. "People accept your legend without question."
"And you find that strange," Ami deduces subtly, accepting a refill of her own glass, barely catching the man's nod.
"Why's that so hard to believe?"Hotaru wonders aloud, drumming her fingers in thought. "We've never asked anything of them..."
"Politics," Minako scoffs, taking the last two cookies before Makoto has a chance to claim one and sticking her tongue out in response.
"Hn," he grunts, after several moments, setting his now empty cup back on the tray with the rest, "Politics and religion have a nasty habit of making people jealous and distrusting that which they can't touch or understand."
Nods shared around, a chill breeze fills the air of the temple courtyard as a comfortable silence falls among the group. Snack settling, they each clear their own thoughts, completely at ease with what they feel. To anyone just happening upon the group, it would appear as though he was always a part of them, despite the legend only telling of the women themselves. It's in that silence that the raven calls twice more from where it now perches on edge of the eaves of the eastern wing of the temple.
Moving the tray of spent dishes to a spot out of the way, Makoto calculates the unflinching man before addressing the question on her mind, "So what is it you desire?" She wonders aloud, so used to visitors coming with unattainable requests.
"Is it true you have mystic powers?" He finally asks, his quest for knowledge getting the best of him.
"It is," Rei confirms softly, surprising her friends as she out stretches a cupped hand, palm facing up, though they each quickly mimic the motion.
Each drawing on their own personal power, a sphere of light glows forth above their raised hands in varying colors as they grow in intensity before each evolves into individual shapes in succession. Makoto's pulses in a rich hunter green before taking on the look of leaves as a perfect pink roses blooms from the foliage. Ami's in contrast starts as a pale blue that ripples like the oceans waves before freezing like the deepest blue crystal of ice. Minako's cleverly morphs her golden light into the shape of a rotating heart, bound by a chain of glistening orbs while Hotaru's is the opposite, so black it's nearly purple in the shape of a butterfly beating it's magnificent wings. Rei's though gleams the brightest as the rich red ball bursts in to flames, burning intensely to the point it chases the chilling winds and surrounding them in a comforting warmth.
"For the record," Rei proceeds, allowing her flame to surge brighter before fading back into her finger tips. "The powers are part of us, it's nothing we can give nor teach."
"I wouldn't want them," he says with conviction, having not needed a second to even consider it. "I've held power that could end the world...I have no desire to ever wield it again," he eludes, a memory of the Earth floating innocently in his view screen coming to mind.
Giggling lightly, in tune with the song of the birds that have flocked to the courtyard in hopes for an afternoon meal, Makoto shift her legs slightly, making herself more comfortable, "And we could have stopped you if we felt you'd been a threat," she says in humor, the laughter filling her shinning eyes.
Snorting back a laugh so uncharacteristically his own, he glances up to the sky, able to see the sun starting to slowly dip in the west and only a few clouds absently drifting by. "How long have you been here?" he murmurs, not realizing he's spoken the thought lingering in his mind.
"Three decades past our millennial anniversary," Ami speaks softly, amused by the reactions they're gaining from the normally rigid man.
"The entire time spent in this shrine?" he asks, not even attempting to even fathom the number of years
"No," Minako says with a shake of her head. "We come and go, pursuing our own aspirations. "Ami-chan spent many decades as a world renowned surgeon, while Mako-chan was the private chef for the Imperial family a few centuries now gone, and I often do work as a singer and model though we've each taken some time off. Hotaru-chan, clever girl, keeps going back to school to earn degree after degree," she winks at the young girl, earning a laugh in cheer.
Watching the muscles around his eyes twitch thoughtfully, Hotaru tips her head to one side, leaning in just the slightest, earning a tired glare. "You're weary traveler," she offers wisely, weighing the dip in the sun with that shadow on his soul. "Sleep will do you well."
"People have exaggerated your tale," he finally says after an extended pause, feeling the exhaustion the last few sleepless nights have gifted him.
"We've found the fantastical tales come and go, waning with the times," Makoto eludes, having experienced this in the decades following times of war. "When people have a chance to dream again, they spin that which exists only in their imagination." Her deep emerald eyes soften, recalling all the time wasted in bloodshed, as she watches him rise to his feet and stretching his back.
Feeling that relaxing pop as he flexes his neck to one side and then the next, he finds himself bowing in thanks, "Thank you for the tea," he murmurs, before bidding his leave after occupying so much of their time.
"Traveler," Rei calls from her seat, halting him before he can take a step away, "Tell us your name so we can say a prayer for the shadow in your heart," she asks as he glances back to meet her violet eyes.
"Yuy," he murmurs, a husky tone lacing his words, "Yuy Hiiro."
Receiving nods and smiles around, he once more turns and finally passes back across the courtyard, the birds hopping to clear a path but otherwise not taking flight as he nears. Body announcing it's desire to rest, a foreign sense of ease settles in his mind as he slowly takes his leave reaching the trees and the tori gate before the temple bell chimes it's call. That same raven who accompanied his trek, caw's again from a branch just out of reach above his head.
Exhaling a breath that felt like it'd been held for hours, the path through the forest and down the daunting stairs seems to end in a leisurely blur when he finally finds himself standing on the street beyond the final gate. Having spent more time then he'd truly imagined, he pauses briefly to watch the sun finally fall over the horizon as the sky darkens from it's rainbow of hues. Memorizing the woven patterns of reds, purples, oranges, and blues, he can only wonder when the last time was that he bothered to watch the sun set. Heart beating softly as his eyes weigh against his mind, the first star appears above him when he decides to turn and make his way back home.
A mild breeze fills the tiny room with the scents of the blooming sakura and breakfast cooking on outdoor braziers as the dark curtains ruffle along with scattering a few random papers across the floor. The room itself is rather tidy with hardly an item out of place while the bed itself looks like a war had broken out with nae a survivor. Sheets twisted and blankets sagging off the sides, several pillows rest idly, having been cast to the floor some time in the night.
Lying on his chest, arms wound around his pillow, and hair half covering his face, Hiiro snores minutely before stirring awake with a the call of a foreign sound. Eyes heavy and slowly focusing, dragged back by the drug of sleep, he glances around his quiet room, dazed for a moment in regard to the time or day. Having arrived home late in the evening, he barely managed to discard his boots and crawl into bed before falling sound asleep. Finding he'd slept better then he had in close to ten years.
Burying his eyes back in his pillow for a moment more, he finally gives in to that aggravating call and reaches out his hand to turn over the clock on his nightstand to see the time. The red haunting numbers glow all telling as the minute turns over on command to read five AM and an accepting sigh escapes his lips, in tune with a third and insistent call, forcing him to sit up and rub the sleep from his eyes.
Three days having ticked by and more rested then he ever thought it possible to be, he glances to his laptop sitting open across the room and slowly having been covered with a layer of dust. The screen blinks to life on it's own as an email comes in, joining the other five that he's yet to take time to read. One each from three of his friends, and the final three from the fourth on his own, Hiiro averts his gaze as the call sounds one last time, followed by the beating sound like wings in flight.
Crawling to his feet in surrender when his stomach growls in demand, he makes his way to his bland bathroom in surrender to the day. A good hot shower and change of clean clothes invigorates him enough to take back to the streets. Noting the old men back in their seats far earlier then the norm and a few shopkeepers decorating their doors before they open for the morning, he makes it to the next corner in time for the number nine bus, the emails he hasn't read once again left forgotten.
Bristles scraping softly against the fresh tile, wielded expertly at the end of the broom as passes are made too and fro across the well kept facade, Rei grips her weapon of choice as she wages war against the dust and dirt which took up solace on the pearly white in the night. Humming a soft tune to herself, she moves like a dance in her own little world, only barely registering the chime ringing behind her to signal the sixth hour and drawing the other late sleepers to rise.
Routine being the pacifier to the inferno that smolders in her soul, she rises each morning at the first break of dawn and sets to work to clean the lustrous courtyard and washing the tatami lined terrace before the first visitors of the day are expected to arrive. Though some days they receive barely a half of a dozen, on other days they can anticipate forty or more, which they anticipate today with the final day of the cherry blossom festival coming to a close. It's come common place over the years, young girls asking for luck and love, while the boys want wealth and the elderly pray for youth and life, and they've learned over the years to know who's going to want what.
Lost within the rhythm of the wisps as she nears the gate, Rei reaches the final three stones leading up to the tori gates and the path to leave just as a shadow falls on the spot she was ready to sweep. It takes a moment for the trance like fog to fade as she looks up to meet an unexpected pair of eyes, more blue then icy gray then the last time they'd met.
"Hiiro," she greets in surprise, gripping her broom a bit tighter, not expecting many people to be up as early as her. "To what do we owe the pleasure of your visit?"
"Hiiro-kun!" a second voice chimes in, drawing their brief attention as they each glance to see Minako joining them beneath the gate. Robed in her orange and white temple robe, her hair is tied atop her head as she bows dramatically, receiving a curt nod in return. "You look rested," she observes, grinning in delight before plucking the broom from her dark haired friend's hands and sweeping vigorously around the pair.
"I'll admit I slept better then I have since before the war began," he offers quietly, brushing his messy bangs from his eyes, still feeling the slight dampness from his earlier shower.
Noting Minako's obvious effort to pretend to not listen as she sweeps far too close, Rei rolls her eyes humorously before smiling to the intriguing man. "Mako-chan's finishing preparing breakfast, if you'd like to join?" she invites with an unusual shyness, motioning to the eastern terrace.
With a silent acceptance, he follows her quietly as she leads him back across the courtyard to her proffered corner to eat, timing it perfectly as Makoto appears with two trays laden with food and cups of juice and tea. Setting the trays on the small table on the far section of the long porch, she bids them good morning warmly before taking her leave back to the kitchen and summoning Minako from across the yard to join her, both disappearing as they sit down to eat.
"My friends are odd..." Rei mumbles to herself as she removes the cover from her food, surveying the mix of rice, eggs, smoked fish, and fruit prepared so lovingly.
Appreciating the combination of food prepared, Hiiro's stomach makes a point to announce his hunger before he can scoop up his chopsticks and take the first bite, earning a light laugh from his breakfast mate as they both spend a few minutes enjoying their meal in the mild morning air. "There are nine of you here, right?" He wonders aloud, stabbing another piece of the flavorful fish.
"Hai," she replies, swallowing a sweet piece of fruit before moving on to her cooling tea. "Besides us five, the Priestesses of the Heart, the Guard, and Reflection who are away on leave right now and the Priestess of the Midnight hour who minds the temple at night as the rest of us sleep."
"You don't remain here all the time?" He asks while drinking his juice in one long gulp.
"Thankfully," she says with a musical laugh, "We'd drive each other mad. We rotate, each year, three of us take a year long break to explore the world. We always end up back here though... it reminds us of life before we knew we couldn't die," a saddened expression creases her lips for the briefest moment but long enough for him to notice.
"I tried to die a few times during the war," he says, dropping his glass back on the tray, unsure why he's willing to divulge so much. "It hurts like hell," his words earning him another laugh and he can't help to find a liking to the sound. "I know you said you can't give your powers, but why do the locals think you can give immortality?"
"People only ever remember the parts of the story they like," a third voice joins in as they each look up to greet Ami as she kneels beside them at the little table with a wrapped sandwich in hand. "We can grant life to one person only, they will then forever be a part of our lives and isn't as simple as 'I choose you'."
"That's why we're still here, we have to find that one," Rei continues, setting her napkin on the tray, feeling gratefully full.
"How many of you have been successful?" Hiiro asks, weighing the complexity of such a mission.
Showers of sparks cascade to the floor, heating the steel and raising the temperature in the air to a sweat inducing degree, despite the milder day outside. Twisted metal and rickety machines all around the floor and shelves sit, waiting for some much due attention as the current patient lays propped against the middle work table for it's current treatment. The welding flame brings a reddened glow to the seem that's to be bound, the smell of burning paint and dirt leaving an acrid scent in it's wake.
The revelry having ended as everyone returns to their daily lives, Hiiro finds the words of the Priestesses still echoing in his mind as he attempts to delve back into his monotonous work. Backlogged on repair jobs, Twenty jobs or more on the work sheet and due by the end of the week, he finds himself on only his second job of the day fusing the two halves of a random item together when the torch slips in his hands leaving a slice in the perfectly smooth face. Frustration evident, he flips off the gas to take a good look at the damage done and the possibilities of salvaging the hours worth of work.
One, she had said, only one of her friends had completed their mission, leaving them stuck in limbo with no real way to find the people they're looking for. Any person could be the one and they could be passing them every time they walk to the store or wait for the bus. Many times they found the person but only to be too late, whether they'd just died of old age or fell victim to violence, war, or their own troubled minds and then they'd be left waiting for them to be born and grow again to start the cycle once more. With the intensity of the Eve wars and the lives lost to space, they don't even know if they perished, making their searching all but for naught.
Star knight. That was name they used, sounding so familiar that he can only wonder where else he heard the name. His mind not giving him a minutes reprieve, he drops the torch and his work gloves on the bench before flipping up his visor, seeing the now blackened gouge in the lighter colored tank, quickly realizing a patch isn't going to work. So many mission he was given were just as ridiculous with no real easy course, but it was all truly trivial in the grander scope because he was the grain of sand invading the beach he washed up on but to find a singe star in the midnight sky when you might be standing on the wrong side of the street is far too much for the mortal mind to bear.
Exhaling a surrendering breath, he slips the the visor off his head and drops it to the floor before looking up to the clock as the hands read a minute past noon, knowing he might as well give up. Covered in sweat and a bit of grease, he abandons his spot as he heads up the rickety stairs to clean up and get away to clear his muddled thoughts. So used to working upwards of twelve hours a day, he's learned when it's best to stop and try again. He was told once before to follow his emotions.
Words ringing clear, he finds himself back down the stairs and out the shop doors before the old owner can question his quest. Having donned his running shorts and shoes and loose fitting tank, he jogs down the block before taking a left to head up the winding streets. Muscles flexing under the warming sun as the adrenaline ignites his blood, he revels in the slight strain on his lungs as he pushes himself to beat his own best personal time.
Passing the five kilometer mark in what feels like no time at all, the sweat pours relentlessly from his brow as his breathing becomes heavy, willing him onwards in a blur down yet another street. Colors of signs and store facades become a jumble before he turns into a deserted park and weaves among the trees. Lost in his thoughts so soundly, he dodges obstacles and bounds over benches and stumps without the action registering in his mind for even a second.
The feeling of being lost most prevalent between him and his fellow pilots, the idea of being found seems to be as foreign as lives long past. Yet they search without falter, eyes, heart, and mind open for the instant they may happen upon that missing star. A dedication to accomplish a mission that any soldier should acknowledge and respect for what it is, not for the time involved but for making it in the end.
Pausing to take a gulping breath, that ache in his arms and legs reminding him he's still alive, he rests his hands on his knees, glancing around to see what part of the city his blind run carried him to. So unlike himself that he allowed his mind to propel him unaware, taking in his surroundings though, he's stunned to find himself less then a dozen steps from the top of the climb to the temple gate. Unsure on how he managed to weave to this side of town when his run started the opposite direction from his place, he barely manages a sigh before taking those last few steps by impulse alone.
Barely making it under the tori gate, he's met by a mountain of moving cloth as he see's the younger Hotaru struggling under a stack of blankets taller then she. Dressed once more in her deep purple butterfly kimono with a lavender obi tied intricately behind her back, she stumbles once when the mountain shifts. Colors of the rainbow with the whites, blues, reds, greens, and easily fifteen more, she very nearly loses the whole lot when her load is suddenly lightened by more then half.
Amethyst eyes blinking in surprise, a grin quickly graces her lips as she lays gaze on her saving grace. "Hiiro-san!" She chimes with happiness in greeting, relieved as well that she didn't soil the freshly cleaned linens.
Having caught the stack in mid fall, Hiiro folds his portion of the blankets in half and flips them over his shoulder as he eyes the girl a moment before nodding in returned greeting as well. "Where do these go?" He asks, motioning to the open door half way down the eastern terrace, silently offering to help.
"Follow me," she says with a smile, before leading him across the courtyard, her shoes clicking on the tile before hopping up on the tatami mat where she kicks off her shoes before disappearing through the door, Hiiro not far behind. "Everyone's doing laundry and cleaning today," she explains in answer to the pile of blankets.
Shoes kicked off with ease, he continues behind in the dimly lit hall passing between the paper walls. Scents of cooking and fresh laundry linger in each passage as he notes this part of the temple is rarely if ever seen by anyone outside this circle of women. Shifting his bundle to his other shoulder, careful to not to bump the fixtures over head, the soft sounds of music and chatter reaches his ears as they turn down what has to be their fourth or fifth corridor.
"And then he said, 'Ma'am, I don't think you can afford this'."
"What'd you say then?"
"I said, 'Buddy, I feed lobster to my cat', and then showed him my ID."
"I wish I could have seen his face..."
"He turned into a blubbering idiot faster then Usagi can eat a cake."
Laughter filling the room at the silly story, the sound increases as the door slides open softly and Hotaru glides into the room with the others backs to her, sorting through piles of clean clothes and towels. Stories continuing on unimpeded, she circles the side of a folding table to drop her heap of blankets beside Rei, drawing the fire Miko's momentary attention, before turning on her heel.
"Taru-chan, where's the rest-," turning to catch the younger girl before she disappears, she falters on her words as Hiiro drops the second batch of blankets atop the first. "Hiiro-kun! What're you doing here?" Surprise evident, the other girls turn around as well, noticing the grin from Hotaru before she fleas from the room.
"Hi Hiiro-kun!" Minako and Makoto chime, not missing his muscular build currently on display as they smile cheekily before waltzing themselves out of the room.
Looking over his shoulder as the women depart, he glances back once they're gone to meet Rei's curious gaze. "I... Don't honestly know," he admits,suddenly wondering himself about his path.
Dismissing the heaps of laundry for now with a sigh, "We rarely get a second visit, let alone a third." Motioning to the door, she leads him back through the maze like halls, each one identical to another as they pass through the personal commons towards the private garden out back. "Most people are compelled to stay away after visiting, like their hearts are telling them that they know we're here so there's no need to return."
"I like the air here," he admits, surprising the raven haired Goddess as she pauses in her steps and turns back to weigh his eyes, expecting him to falter. "I can't even say how I got here today."
"Explain," she insists taking a step closer, sensing his feeling of being out of his element.
Thinking intently, brushing his fingers through his unruly hair, he falls back in stride as she once more continues leading him along the path. "I locked my door to take a quick jog and then found myself coming over the top steps...everything in between's a blur."
"I see..." She murmurs, finally reaching a sliding partition and coaxing it open with ease to reveal a finally cultivated garden where the rest of the girls are already lounging under the guise of indifference. "You're a unique one Hiiro Yuy," she says dropping into a seat beside Ami before motioning for him to have a seat.
Time carrying on day by day, passing just the same. Rising from a quiet sleep to eat and perform a minimum of work before being distracted again. Hours dwindling slowly to barely three or four hours a day, many times he's caught himself making excuses to leave or merely wandering off in a daze. Email left piling up and fridge nearly bare, little if any of it registers outside of the minute pull lingering in the back of his mind.
Five months gone now and the final days of September bring in the feeling of fall, with a cooler air and random fits of rain swell the city scape as he once more slips out the doors of the machine shop, hours before anyone in the neighborhood has even begun to wake. Having ended up at the temple for one reason or another nearly everyday since that one afternoon in mid April, he walks on with a purpose as the fog that had settled in the night weaves around his legs, making ripples in his wake.
The moon still hangs low in the western sky as the colors signaling sunrise light up the east, though the sun is yet to show itself with the dark clouds still hanging heavy on the city's shoulders. Hands buried in the pockets of his jean jacket, Hiiro makes it to the corner bus stop just in time for the first bus of the day, hopping on alone and traveling a dozen or so blocks before the first person besides himself jumps on board outside a convenience mart. A man and woman in fact, one of dark and one of light, the woman whines incessantly of being tired as the man comforts her in their accompanying plight. Both of them dropping into seats at the front of the bus, he finds himself thankful he picked a seat closer to the back.
Several days prior, the ladies of the temple asked him to arrive early and spend the day with them, apparently having something planned, but ultimately staying mum. It only took a quick glance at a calendar to note the night coincided with the festival of the Autumn moon. Admittedly intrigued, he agreed to show, having missed the evening activities the last two years in lieu of working late into the night, much to the shopkeepers chagrin. Sleep had once again eluded, causing him to rise well before his alarm would have rung, allowing him a chance to view the city without the chaos that is people.
Counting the stops with six more until he get's off and the seventh where the bus does it's turn around, his attention is drawn back to the front of the bus where the fair-haired woman whimpers exhaustively to her companion about the legality of waking a young girl such as herself at such a ghastly hour, and Hiiro can't help but hope they get off at one of the earlier stops. Having haplessly left some sort of distraction back in his lonely apartment, he and the driver are ultimately left to endure the incessant dribble with no other passengers willing to rescue them by climbing on board.
Fog still lingering, he leans his head against the cool window, watching the third stop go by and the fourth one in sight, his hopes slowly waning that he'll be hiking up the stairs in peace. It's a mere moments later that that one too flies by and he knows there's only one last chance and a ten minute ride until his fate is sealed. On several of the longer weekends recently spent, he's taken notice that a growing number of couples have been patroning the shrine, whisperings as well passing that love fortunes can be read and spells of eternal love are cast there. The foolish thought in itself causing him to sigh tiredly at the varying waves of silly stories the people bring back from the temple, wondering why no one ever takes the time to see the truth.
His sigh passing louder then intended in the vacant bus, earning him a look from the woman, who obviously didn't notice him until now. Prepared to retort and educate him on her opinions of breathing too loudly in public, she's distracted once more as she realizes they're about to pass the fifth stop and shouts the name of a coffee shop out the window, causing the driver to slam unnecessarily on the brakes as she and her companion bound from their seats.
Watching them depart and mumbling a mantra in grievous thanks as the bus gets rolling again, Hiiro drags himself to his own feet, moving agilely to the front of the bus. Only two and a half blocks from the previous stop and the one for the temple, he waits with extreme patience as the driver slides to a more leisurely stop before bidding him good morning and leaving him on his way. He pauses but a minute for the bus to depart before crossing the empty street and taking to the stairs, two steps per stride.
Accustomed to the workout, he's found himself making better time as each day passes, making it up the long flight in his fastest time yet and just before the first glint of the sun breaches the horizon. Pausing at the tori gate to see the golden orb crest from between the roofs of the building, his eyes are soon drawn to Makoto performing katas in the center of the courtyard. Not even expecting anyone to be up quite yet, he watches curiously as she weaves, ducks, kicks, and punches expertly in tune with the rhythm instilled by years of training.
Up before dawn each and every morning, Makoto stands comfortably in her favorite green gi, inhaling the cool, crisp air the temple has to offer before it's invaded by the buzz of life. Stretching her long legs and kicking high, she's about to turn a flip and second kick when the sensation of being watched freezes her in her tracks. Still facing the northern branch of the shrine and the open doors of the temple bell, she glances briefly right and left before realizing what she feels.
"Good morning Hiiro-kun," she says sweetly, leaning down to retrieve her towel before turning around to finally weigh her eyes on the man.
Having experienced this same reaction a dozen or more times in the past, he's come to expect these women to seemingly always know when he's there, regardless of how quiet or unannounced he may be. "Morning," he quips, traipsing out into the courtyard, noting all the decorations that had gone up in the evening after he departed.
Eyes softening, she momentarily reflects on how comfortable it's become having him around, a blush spreading across her cheeks though the instant she finds herself caught. "I..." Stuttering slightly, she tosses her towel towards the nearest terrace, allowing herself a moment to clear her thoughts. "Come with me," she prompts motioning to a path in to the trees that leads off to a secluded section of the grounds.
Leaves having started to turn a few days before, the colors mixed with those of the rising sun gives the grounds an enchanting glow as they hop from white stone to white stone, weaving between the ancient trees and towering shoots of bamboo. A few long minutes of silence passing as Makoto leads him down the path, the trees open up a bit to show a handful of smaller trees covered in small papers tied in knots along the branches as small crystal trinkets hang here and there, giving the area ethereal energy.
"What is this place?" Hiiro asks aloud, taking in the intricately laid area as Makoto proceeds to the second tree in the row while untying her ponytail and coming out with three long, think white slips.
"These are prayer trees," she answers softly, kissing the first slip of paper and tying it to a bare spot on a low hanging branch. "If you have a prayer or a wish, you just write it down and attach it to the tree," she explains before moving to the next tree down the line and repeating the same ritual as the first.
Intrigued, he watches her intently as she secures the paper with the greatest of care and delicacy, careful not to rip it twain. "What are you wishing for?" He finds himself wondering, having seen many of the rituals they perform as part of temple life but never anything so simple.
Certain the paper is tied, Makoto moves back to the first tree in the row and nearest Hiiro with the branch hanging between them as her target, she makes deliberate strokes the straighten the paper once more. "I'm worried about Rei-chan," she finally confesses, not looking up to meet his intense prussian eyes.
"Hai," she whispers, showing a concern that the other Priestesses may possibly hear, confounded by an intrusive raven's caw. "One of the others is returning from holiday today. The other two are to return in a month or so," murmuring, she narrows her eyes as she carefully loops her wish around the branch. "Three more of us are to leave after New Years," she says, biting her lower lip and finishing the knot before looking up to meet his gaze.
'Leaving...' He considers the word, his heart pulsing sharply before settling back.
"This was Rei's year to go..." Satisfied with her work,she ducks beneath the branch to stand directly before him, attempting to read the nearly invisible queues on his face. "She's been resistant to even leave the temple the last decade or so...she's refused." Taking another strip of paper from her pocket, she hands it to him, hoping for him to make his own wish. "She needs a break...she's beginning to lose focus..."
Nodding in thought, Hiiro pauses and ties his own paper to the tree as Makoto moves around him to head back up before he too follows, carefully considering her words. "She doesn't seem any different," he admits aloud as they near the end of the path.
So in tune to her friend for over a millennia, Makoto can't help to catch the subtle hints she's throwing off that most men would never notice. Reaching the final stones leading out of the trees and on to the courtyard, she lowers her voice in case the others have risen. "Do me a favor, I want you to -" Words cut short, both look out on the peaceful space as a shrill shriek breaks across the morning and disturbing the quiet birds.
Breath catching in his throat, Hiiro is surprised to find the woman from the bus prancing around the courtyard as her male companion watches in dismay. Having forgotten about the exuberant blond in his haste up the stairs, he averts his eyes as the door to the western wing slams open and his heart skips a beat.
Wrapped modestly in a short white towel and waves of wet raven hair cascading around her, the Miko of the shrine storms out the door with fist clenched in response to the obnoxious girls call. "USAGI!"
Sweat pouring down flushed skin, despite the cooler weather that has rolled in over the last month, Hiiro stands comfortably with shirt long discarded, over his next victim with ax in hand. Rain and thunderstorms having prevailed for the last few days, they finally earned a break in the weather to survey the damage that the torrent had done. The temple itself still stands pristine with nae a scratch but walking around the property turned up a handful of trees which had fell victim to the wind. With the winter months coming on in a rush and the need for firewood to feed the stove and sacred fire more prevalent, he volunteered to move the trees and chop the wood.
That is where he stands now, his hot skin numbed by the crisp air, he has already worked through four trees and only one remains. Having moved all the trees to a corner of the courtyard to stand on steady ground, he's occasionally found himself feeling the sensation of being watched but never successfully finding anyone there. Shaking his head to ward off the feeling, he lifts the ax over his head once more, flexing his muscles to take another chunk out of the resistant trunk.
Enjoying the exertion and rush of adrenaline, he hardly pays any mind to the minute rumble in the distance as he focuses on the cadence in his work, cutting each section in equal lengths before then splitting them in half followed by quarters. His resume reflecting on his scale of merit from working on unfathomable machines to completing daunting tasks not for the frail or faint of heart, it's the menial chores of a normal existence that drives him on like nothing else.
Wood stacked against the side of the eastern wing and protected by the overhang to not get wet from the rain, it already has risen to be level with his shoulders as he stacks a few more pieces on top before retuning back to what's left. He's about to take another swing, when a loud crack of thunder echoes across the temple, far louder then the last few. So lost in his work, he looks up to the sky when the sound crashes to see the ominously black clouds having closed in on them. The image making his skin crawl, he drops the ax to the ground and move to cross the courtyard to the western wing to escape the rain, only making it three steps until the skies open up.
Going from dry to soaked in the blink of an eye he can't help but pause in defeat as the pounding rain drenches him to the core as he looks up to the heavens. Chilled quickly, he glances back down as the sound of an opening door cuts through the bouts of thunder and he see's Rei between the cascade of raindrops as she watches him with concern. Snapped from his trance, he rushes across the rest of the expanse to hop up onto the terrace and to disappear within the door she opened for him.
"You're soaked!" Rei says with a light laugh, taking note of the drops of water trickling down his bare back.
Pausing in his tracks for a moment, causing her to nearly collide with him, he shakes his head, showering both her and the walls. "There, now you are too," he says with a minute smirk, earning a slap on the back as she pushes him towards the bathroom.
"Go shower," she orders, ready to slam the door closed between them. "I'll find you some dry clothes."
The door slid shut between them, Hiiro takes his time in the shower, absorbing the heat and making a point to smell each of the soaps and shampoos before deciding on the ones with the least feminine scent. Thankful for the sensation against his taught skin, he feels the muscles in his shoulders slowly restrict from their previous task. He finally sighs a deep sigh after several long and deliberate minutes standing under the cascade of water before he steps out again to find a towel and a mens temple outfit laid out for him and his wet clothes and shoes already gone.
Dressed quickly in the light gray baggy pants and blue top, he once more finds himself walking back out onto the terrace to see the rain still coming down in droves. Puddles dot the typically pristine courtyard, bringing a gray pallor to all that the rain touches as the clouds continue rolling in ever thicker. Ominous and black, it gives the feel of being so much later in the day then it truly is, the chilly wind not helping the energy surrounding the often happy shrine.
Bare feet padding on the soft polished wood of the terrace, he absently flexes his left shoulder as he steps up behind Rei who sits by herself at the end of the eastern wing, watching the rain pound her home but safely protected by the overhanging roof. Pausing beside the raven haired beauty to take in the image himself, she motions for him to join her in the lulling silence of the rain.
"Come sit," She says, patting the mat beside her, "I want to tell you a story." Watching him sit, she cant help but notice the way he favors his arm, knowing to well that he must have worked himself to hard. "Let me rub your shoulders," she offers, feeling partly responsible for his pain.
Turning so his back's to her, he drops the robe-like top from his shoulders, unable to prevent the wince from creasing his eyes when he bends his arm too much. Initially cool, the foreign touch of her hands momentarily causes him to tense his back before the sensation is replaced by a comforting warmth, lulling him into relaxation as he concentrates on her soft words.
"What story?" he wonders aloud, barely holding back a groan from escaping his lips as she perfectly works her warmth into his muscles.
"It's a story that goes back three-thousand years," she foretells, moving her fingers in circles as her hands begin glowing a vibrant ruby red. "There was a kingdom on the Moon that ruled for a millennia, with eight Princesses who were dispatched to protect the Princess of the Moon. They called it the Silver Millennium and it was ruled justly and peacefully by the Queen Serenity, her beauty and power was unrivaled and her people were so happy, it was truly a great time to be alive," her words enhancing the story intermingles with the ministrations on his skin as his flesh pinkens and feels warm under her caress.
"Why did it fall?" he murmurs, a renewed level of exhaustion washing over his normally rigid form, assuming the worst since the monarchy no longer stands.
"Jealousy and rage," she surmises, putting into words what ultimately caused the end. "The Princess of the Moon had eyes only for Earth and it's Prince, but their tryst caused a revolt on a planetary scale. We tried with all our might to protect the Moon and our Queen but the power was too much for our young selves to defend and so we fell, one by one, at her majesty's feet." A bitter sadness lingers on her lips as she recants that final day as it lives still in her heart. "With her last spark of strength, the mighty queen saved the souls of the nine Princesses and the Earthen Prince to rise again in another time."
Entranced by the heat of her hands, Hiiro slowly leans back until he's laying on the mat with his head in her lap as she continues rubbing his neck, the pouring rain around them easily forgotten. "Why didn't anyone protect the Princesses?"
Gaze softening, she brushes his hair from his eyes as she thinks back on the events as they occurred. "They were the Knight's of the stars," she lays their name with a whisper. "They fought with heart and soul, sacrificing their bodies for us, so that we may live an extra day. There were too few of them though against too many, their numbers stretched too thin. That night...they stationed themselves at the five corners of the palace grounds as we built a wall to protect the palace itself. They battled valiantly but a single man can't be expected to defeat a thousand." A single tear escapes her lashes which she quickly brushes away before returning her fingers to run through his hair. "So they died, one by one. My star knight was the last to die...his heart ripped out before my very own eyes..."
Seeing a second tear on the verge of escape, Hiiro wipes it away gently, earning an endearing smile, "What did the Queen do with their souls."
"Beryl got to them first," Rei pushes on, reliving that day for the final time. "She cast their souls into the blackness of the abyss, compelling us to search for them before our future may ever rise. It was that next night that we could no longer hold on and her Majesty sent us silently through time, never to see her or the palace again." Her strokes softening, she continues threading her fingers in his hair, transfixed by the way it always seems to fall back into place. "It would be a lie to say we hadn't forgotten, but her Majesty only wished for us to have a simple life. We slept for a thousand years until we were born here on Earth in the dusk of the twentieth century. Thirteen years...we spent thirteen years as normal girls..."
"She came back didn't she?" Hiiro guesses in a drowsy daze but feeling he's heard the story before.
"What'd you do?"
"What any soldier would do," she says with a sense of pride, earning a chuckle from the often subdued man. "One by one, we remembered our pasts and joined up again to stop her. This time though we had the advantage. Our Princess had inherited her mother's powers. We battled, we won, we died, we rebooted the world and continued on from battle to battle for four long years with a dream of finally bringing a time worthy of the memory of the Silver Millennium."
Pausing for several long minutes so simply play with his hair, Rei briefly glimpses up to see the rain starting to slow before returning her attention back to him. "So what went wrong?" he asks softly, his voice surprising her since he gave the air of falling asleep.
The memory of the wave of power reflects in her eyes as her hands pause mid stroke, "It was Usagi's twenty-first birthday, we'd all gathered here, knowing it would be any day before the freeze. The world was to be frozen a thousand years to cleanse it of mankind's sins before awakening to a more perfect world. Crystal Tokyo," the name catches in her throat, hinting to that part of her that still prays for it to be real. "Ami's powers had been flickering for weeks, to the point she had to move in here out of fear she would freeze someone if she did something as simple as sneeze."
"What triggered her powers?"
"We were in the middle of singing and serving Usagi's cake...she fell to her knees screaming," the sound echos in her ears like it did that day. "And then everything exploded. The most bone chilling cold I'd ever felt, blue ice, ice like a column spiraling into the sky, the light consumed the whole of this temple in it's intensity. Many who saw it reported the column would be seen as far away as Shanghai." Hands pulsing red, her skins warms once more in response to the remembered numb. "I don't remember if it lasted for seconds or for hours, but when we could finally move, we were bathed in the Mercurian blue. We could feel the ice crystal that had condensed in our chests."
Taking her warm hands in his own cool, calloused ones, he places them on his chest above his beating heart with little thought involved. "That's when you remembered..."
"Hai," she murmurs, absently pouring out more power to warm him. "Setsuna came in a panic, the light's of the Star Knights had flickered out...all at once. A tragedy had struck. A train had derailed, hundreds died. They were all on the train, en route to Tokyo for new opportunities...they never knew. And so began our cycle. Every fifty years, one or more of their Stars would appear only to be snuffed out before we could get there. After a few hundred years, we decided we'd better spread out."
"How close did you get?"
"The time we met Makoto's..." she continues, smiling at the memory of the sweet old man. "He was on the edge of dying when we happened upon him, she and I. I think he instantly knew...we walked into the room and looked at her with these liquid eyes and told her "I miss you" before he slipped away."
"I wouldn't want to keep living that life..." he says, recalling those lonely feelings through out the war and the many attempts he made on his life.
"I think that's why I had so much trouble finding you," she mumbles, neither of them hearing her actual words as they each turn their heads as a shadow falls before them, accompanied by the slap of the intensifying rain.
Robed in a warm black kimono and hair tied back in a partial bun, Setsuna holds her large umbrella against her shoulder as she quietly watches the pair with interest before approaching them, curious in seeing Rei awash him in the red of the Martian light. Burning like a beacon and blissfully unaware, she stops less then five paces from the terrace and waits several long moments before they each look to her and it's in that instant that the rain instantly stops.
"Setsuna, this is..." Rei begins to introduce, realizing that despite the passage of more then six months, the pair had yet to meet.
"A Star Knight," she breathes in shock, instantly recognizing him as he moves to sit up. Seeing the surprise in both their eyes, a weary smile flickers in her own as she commits the image of the two of them side by side to memory before sighing in relief before inheriting a scolding tone, "Hiiro of Polaris...you are a pesky man to find..."
Early morning crests the horizon the next day far too soon as the city is washed with a myriad of colors spelling a brief reprieve to the day before's rain. The birds are even too tired to rise as the sun slowly peeks, choosing instead to roost along the eve's of the shrine as life slowly begins to stir in to existence after sleeping more soundly then one could have thought with all the noise from the clouds up above.
Floating through the halls with light as air steps, Rei carries a bundle of clothes in one arm as she pauses at a door halfway down a dim hallway, pushing it open as quietly as possible before slipping inside. The room itself is similarly dim with only a minute beam of light slipping in through the small window high up on the wall. Navigating the tidy room under instinct alone, she shuffles to the foot of the bed, careful not to make a sound on the aging tatami.
Dropping the neatly folded clothes on the end of the futon, her gaze moves to the sprawled form of the room's lone occupant. Flat on his back with the blankets bunched around his waist, he sleeps soundly with one hand on his bare stomach while his other arm is slung over his eyes in effort to block out the invading sun. Intrigued by the peaceful air surrounding him as he sleeps, she feels a slight regret that she must interrupt his rest.
Kneeling beside the bed with a brief pause in respite, she gently touches her fingers to his chest to wake him gently, only to have her wrist suddenly snatched in an iron grip as he starts awake and lifts his head up with a jerk. It takes but a moment for his mind to register before dropping his head back on pillow with a thump and relaxing his grip on her wrist, closing his eyes once more. Certain he won't be releasing his hold any time soon, she rests her palm flat over his heart, allowing him time to wake on his own.
"You have nightmares, don't you?" she finally asks after several long minutes of watching him linger on the edge of sleep.
Fighting the desire to open his eyes, he flexes his fingers against her soft wrist before uncurling his grip to grasp her hand, knowing she can feel the beat of his heart. "They never stop..." he admits before releasing her hand sitting up stiffly and leveling his gaze with hers.
"You're not alone," she says knowingly before standing up and holding out a hand to drag him to his feet.
Little more then an hour later, the rest of the residents of the temple have rise and found their way to the courtyard where everything's been washed clean by the night before's torrent of rain. Breakfast laid out on the center terrace before the temple bells, Rei, Minako, Ami, Hotaru, and Setsuna dine together as they watch an early morning spar unfold in the middle of the open space. Each of them barely speaking above a whisper as the combatants stare one another down.
Makoto in her green and white gi, circles quietly with fists raised to defend or attack, her steady eyes remain locked on Hiiro as he stands in a similar stance and still dressed in the temple robe himself. Both ready for the other to make the next move, the last twenty minutes of battle lies in the past, standing match for match. Bare feet padding on the cool tile, they pause like stone statues built to honor the days of the Samurai and Ronin's, until the silence is broken with the mischievous caw of the raven.
Lunging forward in anticipation of his strike, Makoto launches herself airborne, aiming a fist for his shoulder in expectation that he will duck. Momentum propelled forward all at once though, he times her attack and instead grabs her arm to flip her over his back. Weightless in that fraction of a moment, she grips the wrist of the same hand that holds her and uses the last of her energy to swing back around and land a soft kick to his side before they both let go.
Stumbling several paces apart, they turn to face each other once more, both feeling the drain of the fight. Blood still pumping strong, they don't waist more then an instant before charging back in, kick after kick ad punch after punch, they weave and block in tandem like a dance they've practiced for centuries. Back flipping to avoid a leg sweep, Makoto lands a kick to his shoulder but is caught unaware as this time he takes her by the ankle and yanks her back delivering a punch to her abdomen.
Air forced from her lungs before hitting against the tiled yard, she slowly climbs back to her feet as a noticeable breeze picks up around them, foretelling the coming storm. Adrenaline spiking as her aggravation at the deadlock grows, she jumps forward without pause, landing a strike to his jaw, chest, and gut before he too springs back out of the way, catching his breath before sweeping her off her feet this time with success.
The motions slowing to a crawl, caught mid charge before being knocked from her feet, Hiiro grabs her by the collar to prevent her from hitting the ground once more and lifting his fist above his head. Fingers curled and ready to make the final strike, the years of training flooding back into him, she flinches her eyes away from his in anticipation of the blow. The jolt of momentary pain not coming fast enough, she finds herself lifted by a gust of wind.
No delay lingering as he raises his strike, a rush of air brushes past him followed by a blast of energy. Only mere seconds passing in that same instant as he finds himself lifted from his own feet and flung across the courtyard. Skidding and sliding against the gratefully smooth stone, he tumbles uncontrollably towards the entrance to the temple before finally coming to a rest as the wind continues to swirl.
From her knees to leaping through the air in a single stroke, Rei bounds from her seat on the terrace and over the tumbling form of Hiiro to an impossible distance to separate him from any further attacks. Drawing on her powers in the same instant, an aura of red surrounds her body as she cups her hands together to form a sphere of red fire before allowing it to grow. Pouring her energy into her palms, she spreads her hands as the fire morphs into a phoenix above her head. Graceful and deadly, the fire bird bats it's eye before letting free a song before launching back across the courtyard.
"Stop it..." Makoto demands, sitting up from where she was dropped to the ground, her eyes filling with the glow of the fire.
Racing across the expanse of the courtyard, the phoenix grows as it flaps it's wings to propel forward towards it's target, completely disregarding the victim in it's path. It barely has a moment to sing another call before a wave of water meets it mid flight and douses both the bird and the reaching ground in it's cool dampness. The water hardly settles back to earth before a second blast of wind hurtles back across towards the waiting fire maiden.
"Stop it." Makoto orders again, looking to the tori gate where the two new comers stand.
Not hesitating a moment, Rei forms a second Phoenix, this one sprouting above her head as the wind pummels towards her on command. The bird stretching it's neck, spreads it's wide a flaming wings, beating them aggressively and managing to send the wave back rolling across the path it had just came.
"Stop it!" Makoto screams, cutting the attacks with her voice as lightning discharges all around her, influenced the water still soaking the courtyard.
The electricity sparking to life in the blink of an eye, it surges out in all directions with the strike of her fists on the ground, bringing the others to their knees. Rei towards the temple as her phoenix flames out and the red light dims from around her. The opposite end of the grounds is much the same as the twin lights of varying blues fade as well, leaving the Priestesses of the Guard and Reflection on their own knees beneath the gates.
Smoothing her own hair back, Makoto climbs to her feet, resting her hands on her hips. "Next time let me finish my own fights," she says, eying the pair first before turning her eyes to Rei. Gaze barely registering on the fire Miko, she gasps suddenly at a burst of light behind her.
Shrouded in flames but completely unharmed, Hiiro drags himself to his own feet, a dazed look in his own eyes, raising a smoldering hand. All attention drawn to him, he draws back his raised hand to his chest before swiping it outwards again, open palm and flinging five sparks of flame from his fingers in the shapes of stars at his original foe. Precise and potentially destructive, the clever attack is deflected by Makoto's own palm of lightning before she lowers it in time to watch him collapse to the ground.
New years day and a fresh falling of snow blanketing the frozen city, Hiiro weaves through the isles of the grocery store, collar of his dusty brown coat flipped up to his ears and basket clutched firmly in his hand. Finding himself on a mission like none he's ever partaken, he peruses each and every shelf, taking care to pick the best junk food of the lot. The basket slowly fills to the brim as he occasionally plucks items from their display to add to his impromptu list.
Teriyaki chips, shrimp crackers, and pocky as requested, he moves down two more rows to snag a bunch of drinks before passing through the isles of books and household supplies and eventually heading towards the registers. Rounding the last end cap from the back of the store, he's halfway to the register when a colorful marquee catches his attention and he stops to look it over, unconcerned with the time.
A flourish of red, orange, and gold, shooting star cutouts litter the display around the sign announcing the debut release. Some six feet wide and more so tall, it obviously was built to showcase hundreds of copies of a new album but only one lone copy still remains. Picking up the white colored CD case in mild interest he reads the title emblazoned in blue, his curiosity stoked, despite it not being his genre of choice.
"Be my Venus, I'll be your Mars," he reads the title aloud, focusing on the picture of the all too familiar and strangely identical blond and raven haired beauties and the names printed below their images. Each in a soft and flowing dress, they embrace one another, looking back with soulful eyes. "Aries and Aphrodite, eh?"
Deciding on a whim, he tosses the album in his basket and finally moves on to the register to make his purchase before heading back out into the cold. Coat zipped up and four very full bags in his hands, an icy wind kicks up as he leaves the store as a heavy snow has begun again. Shuffling through the blistering snow, he ducks his head to better shield his ears from the wind. Down three and half blocks and around a corner, he pauses as a bus rolls by before trudging across the slushy street to take his daily trip up the temple stairs.
Having been begged to pick up a laundry list of snacks and to be there by two, he jogs up the stairs two at a time, careful to avoid any slick patches as he makes his way to the inviting gates. Eight and a half months now gone and more at home at the shrine then he's ever felt anywhere before, there's been many a day he's done more work at the shrine then in the old machine shop and many a night he's slept in his appointed room in the temple versus his cozy little apartment back across town.
Welcomed like a member of the family, he's slowly found these women interwoven into his life, everything else reminding him of the war fading into the back drop. A nudge in the back of his mind hints that he may have forgotten something but it's dashed as he mounts the final step. Hearing the voices of travelers asking for a prayer, he ducks under the Tori, barely prepared for a squeal of delight to burst in his ears followed by a rush of gold.
Hanging on to his bags by the tips of his half frozen fingers, he suddenly finds his arms filled by the bubbling blond Priestess known as Minako as she winds her arms around his neck and leans her head on his shoulder. Grunting in indifference, he glances where Michiru and Haruka lead the guests to the temple bells, before carrying the self proclaimed Goddess of love to the western terrace where the other Priestesses have gathered.
"Will you miss me Hiiro-kun?" She purrs demurely, eluding to the fact that today is a going away party.
"Hn," he murmurs, depositing her on the tatami mats between the others, followed by his bags of goods.
"Milk tea!" Makoto cheers, digging through the first bag until she finds her prize, clutching it like a precious trinket. "I knew you cared!"
"Is there any botan?" Ami wonders aloud, sorting through a bag at a more leisurely pace. Finding a pack of mochi, she hands it off to Hotaru who instantly tears open the pack.
Grabbing one of the bags herself, Rei simplifies her task by turning it on end to dump it on the floor instead as Hiiro takes a seat beside her. Finding the candy requested, she tosses it to Ami before claiming the shrimp crackers for herself. Taking a quick bite and savoring the taste, she offers some to Hiiro as they watch travelers being escorted towards the gates.
"So it's only you two going this time?" He asks Makoto as she takes a long drink from her bottle, remember the debate that'd lingered over the last few weeks.
"Hai," Makoto says with a nod, setting her drink down to steal some of Minako's chips. "We only plan to be gone a few months-"
Breaking the quiet of the shrine and the conversation, Minako shouts exuberantly, throwing her chips in the air and allowing them to rain down on her friends. "It's released!" She cheers, holding up the album for all to see.
"It's the Lunarium edition," Hotaru reads, taking it from the peppy bonds hands to better see the silver sticker on the back.
"Lunarium?" he mimes, not familiar with the term.
Brushing the crumbs of chips off her pristine pants, Rei playful slaps his arm with a smile, "I had no idea you were into his kind of music." Picking up two bottles of ramune, she hands one off to Hiiro before popping one open for herself.
"Lunarium is nine times triple platinum," Michiru chimes in as she and Haruka approach after seeing their visitors safely to the stairs. Both are dressed in extra warm kimono and Hiiro finally takes note that it's not near as cold on the temple grounds as they both take a seat perched on the edge of the terrace, the hodgepodge group creating a lopsided circle.
"Leave it to Mina-chan to create her own billboard system..." Ami says teasingly, sticking her tongue out at her friend, receiving a huff in return as she turns up her nose.
Leaning over Rei's shoulder to steal another cracker as she attempts to hide the bag, Hiiro glances up when one of the other Priestesses whistles at him in jest. Retracting his hand slowly, he comes up with a pilfered cracker, popping it into his mouth, receiving a second amused snort from the Priestess of the Guard.
"I say we start this farewell party off," Haruka starts, hopping back to her feet and holding up a challenging fist. "With a battle royale!" Dropping her hand, she points at Hiiro who barely manages to arch an eyebrow while keeping his expression neutral. "And I challenge the human torch first."
"Ruka-chan!" Michiru scolds, recalling the day they met Hiiro when he decided to burst into flames.
Barely remembering the day as a hazy dream, Hiiro was assured when he came back too that he'd truly stood in the flames of Mars unharmed, though he's yet to know how. In those rare moments that he allows himself to escape his mind, that he feels that same sensation of the fire dancing across his skin as a comforting and fulfilling warmth. It was many training sessions after that, that he tried to summon the inferno once more but to no avail. A few weeks later while doing some pre-winter work well into the evening, did he finally happen upon Setsuna that explained the power would show again in a time of need.
"So Hiiro," Michiru continues, sipping on her own bottle of milk tea as Haruka pouts and sits back down, digging through the pile of snacks for her favorite teriyaki treat. "Do your friends live around here too?" she asks, curious from seeing him around so much but never having the chance to get to talk to him.
Pausing mid drink, nearly choking in his own plight, he clears his throat before meeting her lingering gaze. The question never occurring to him, he wipes a stray drop of soda from his lips with the back of his hand, before his voice comes across hoarsely, "Friends?"
Eleven months now gone as the days slowly start to warm once more with only the slightest of chilly winds occasionally visit the shrine which is slowly starting to come back into bloom. The air of the temple took on a more placid quiet two months prior with the departure of Makoto and Minako on their quests, leaving a feeling more intense then ever for the lonely soldier that it's important for him to be here. Soul at ease, his nightmares have nearly completely escaped, only frequenting his dreams now once every handful of nights.
The thaw finally broke a week or two earlier and as promised he took a few days reprieve from his work to help bring the temple back into spring time condition, toiling along side the women in hopes to be done in time for the flux of visitors leading up to the blooming of the cherry blossoms once more. So many things different then they were this time last year, he takes solace in the chores that have a purpose then the menial jobs he lived his life doing prior to allowing his mind to wonder.
Now four days on since he's been at the shrine, he's long since traded in his clothes for the more comfortable shrine robes that they've kept for him. He spent the morning moving the left over firewood from the fall from it's place against the eastern wing wall to a dry slab in back for easier access to the sacred fire room and then cleaned the muck that's gathered through the winter there before taking up the broom he now wields. Sweeping first down the canter he systematically work his way to the outlying edges, careful to not miss a thing as he's seen the others do.
Laughter filling the courtyard, he pauses to look up where Rei sits before the temple bell laughing with a few children as they delight at a story she tells them, the sun shinning on her just right to affirm the title of Goddess that the locals like to use. At her side, Michiru as well maintains the image, enhancing the High Priestesses tale with music she strums from her treasured violin. Their story so imaginative, the children clap their hands and cheer as the temple bell rings to call the close and Usagi steps out from the shadows, bowing humbly to the entranced youth, taking rare part in temple ceremony.
"May your dreams come true as our Princess's had," Michiru says coyly, earning entrusting smiles from the girls and boys.
"And your hearts guide you," Usagi continues, living the part of the Priestess of Heart.
"The world is a gift to you, I pray she shall hold dear to you," Rei says sweetly, her voice soft and soothing the kids as they each smile in honest grace.
Charmed by her words, Hiiro can't help to linger a moment longer then most, entranced by the soft glow in her eyes. Frozen mid sweep, he lost track of how long her stood just watching when he finds his gaze broken by the minute clearing of a throat. Blinking through the haze, he slowly turns his eyes to the western terrace near where he stands to find the blue haired Priestess, Ami, lounging comfortably and working on a mini computer and staring back at him.
"Have a seat," she says, motioning to the space beside her as she presses a few keys on her computer before turning her eyes back to Rei as she points the kids to the gate. She can't help to notice the way he looks back to her though as he takes the offered seat, setting the broom to the side. "This has always been her home, I think that's part of why she doesn't want to leave..."
"Part of?" He asks, shifting his eyes to see the program she's running on her computer out of curiosity. "What're you working on?" he finally asks, recognizing a map of the city.
"Scanning for energy signatures," she says absently tapping buttons as the map zooms out to show an aerial view of the country and several small beacons flicker in varying colors. "Rei also worried that her Knight would show up here and she'd be away searching and never know...It happened once already."
Studying the tiny beads of light, he notes the one's clustered together, three shades of blue, one of purple, two of pink, and two of red. The far away he sees two more on the move in green and gold, guessing who they may be. "Why are there two reds?" He wonders, guessing who everyone else is but knowing Setsuna had departed soon after sunrise.
Smiling knowingly, she focuses back in on the temple, allowing it to fill the small screen, making it more clear with one red beside the royal blue and the other red beside the aqua. "That's you," she says pointing to the first red spot. "Your energy started resonating a few days after you started coming here. But it wasn't as steady as it is now." Sighing a breath, she lets it zoom out once more, watching the path of their traveling friends.
"That's the same way you knew each time we died..." He says knowingly, looking up as a well dressed man struts across the courtyard towards Michiru and Rei, sneering at him as he turns up his nose at the way he so casually leans against one of the fabled Goddesses.
"Hai," she whispers for only him to hear, watching with the same interest at the prideful man. "Each time, right before the light of one the knight's would go out, they'd resonate intensely, leaving us at most an hour to find them. That's what happened the one time here..." biting her tongue, the words drifting away, they turn their full attention to the man as he halts before the others, too audacious to even take a knee.
"Welcome traveler," Michiru greets, bowing her head slightly, "for what do you ask us to pray?"
Seated on the opposite side of Rei, Usagi tips her head slightly, weighing the haughty man. "The bell will tole the desire of your soul," she says thoughtfully, the bell chiming three times in succession with her words.
"I demand penance," he decrees, balling his fists to reflect his assumed might.
Smiling demurely, Rei checks her words before addressing the man, "What do you feel we must amend?" she asks guessing what this man feels he is owed.
"You women flaunt your gifts and bless the poor and weak," he accuses, making it known his feeling of slight. "Your immortality should be saved for the rich and powerful! We lead this work, keep it spinning as it has for thousands of years. I demand you give me eternal life so..." interrupted in his spiel by a giggle of laughter, he looks to Michiru who holds her delicate fingers over her lips.
"You poor little man," she purrs, the bell chiming again with her words.
The bell rings twice more as Rei picks up her words, "The world turns because we let you think you make it so." She pauses to let the bell continue to ring. "The bell will lay judgment."
"Strength is not how strongly you hold on to a person," Usagi begins, the bell tolling louder and in faster cadence. "But how strongly that person holds on to you."
The final bell chimes with the last of her words and in the same instant the man clutches his chest, falling to his knees. Breath labored, he watches wide eyes as a sphere of aqua colored water forms in Michiru's hands before molding into a disc. She steps down from the terrace as a new shine takes over the liquid, morphing into a liquid mirror. Holding the mystic mirror in an outstretched palm she suspends it before his unblinking eyes.
"The reflection you see will represent what the bell's foretold," she eludes, the bell begins chiming again, causing the man to begin to panic but frozen still.
Getting up from her own place on the terrace, Usagi moves to Michiru's side with a sorrowful look in her eyes. "Rest your heart and open your soul, I do pray."
"No..." he gasps, not wanting to gaze in the mirror but unable to resist. Through the flowing glass he at first see's Rei before the entire image is consumed in flames, burning the water to ash in its bearers palm. "No!" And the bell tolls thrice more.
"You've been weighed traveler," Rei finally speaks, rising from her seat but remaining above him on the terrace to look down on the feebled man. "But the bell has granted you one last question, choose it well." Her words accompanied by a more baritone ring.
New oxygen reaching his lungs with greater ease, he looks down to the tiles between his knees before looking up to meet her fiery eyes. "What makes him worthy?" he asks darkly, not motioning but still drawing Rei's eyes to the smoldering prussian eyes of Hiiro who watches her with intensity.
Holding his gaze for several seconds, she turns her eyes back to the prideful man, "He holds more power, money, pride, and humility then you can ever dream. He held this planet in the palm of his hand with the choice to crush it, but set it free instead." The bell tolls one last time, "The difference pitiful soul, is that he refuses to use it."
"I'll say a prayer for your peace," Usagi says with a smile, bowing as he rises to his feet.
"I'll say a prayer for your journey," Michiru mimes, standing tall in contrast.
"And I'll say a prayer for your soul."
Sneering a bit but no longer able to hold their gaze, the man hesitatingly turns and makes way to the stairs. Unsure of the sensation, burning like a fear in his heart, the compulsion is too strong, advising him it's time to go. Three-quarters of the way to the gate, the heavy bell chimes ever louder with each of his steps and his pulse begins to quake driving him to hurry away, disappearing before the mirror can can spin him another tale.
Watching the entire scene unfold in silence, Ami leans against Hiiro's shoulder to whisper for only his ears to hear as the other priestesses move to sit back on the terrace and Hotaru appears half hidden in the shadows of the bell. "I'm not one to nose in others affairs," she murmurs softly, "But Makoto and Minako aren't here...and there's a new movie coming out that she's interested to see..."
The shout catching him off guard, Hiiro barely has time to absorb the words when he finds himself collided with and thrown to the ground. Wrestling with his attacker to gain some control, they both fight to their feet, but he less fortunate with an arm coiled around his neck. Keeping his balance just barely to his attackers chagrin, he wraps his arms around their waist in an effort to lifting them off their own two feet.
"Come on torch boy, burst into flames!" Haruka taunts, keeping a firm hold on his head until an eep escapes her lips as he hoists her over his shoulder and hanging half down his back.
Balance regained, Hiiro hauls the Priestess of the Guard across the courtyard with little trouble, much to the amusement of the other onlookers who make little move to help either one of them out.
"Leave it to her to attempt to fan the flame..."
Dusk coming on fast with another month now gone and the cherry blossoms in full bloom, the street lights flicker to life and cars carrying passengers to and from home honk their horns in emphasis of the stirring of the city's night life. The Juuban district dances like an indistinct blur as they walk side by side, pausing to glance in shop windows before working their way further from the strip towards where the cross town bus would pick them up.
Laughing at a moment in the show they'd just seen, Rei stands out against the more plain back drop of the towns folk, a light nearly radiating from her form. Having traded in her robes for a single days reprieve, she unwittingly turns quite a few heads in her short, flowy skirt and fitted blue top with it's two hearts on the chest. Curling an arm around his, she elicits a subdued smile from Hiiro, enticing her to grin ever more.
"Thank you for the movie," Rei says shyly, blushing minutely, admitting silently to herself how long it'd been since she'd really been out.
Nodding his head, he's about to respond when a loud rumble roars above their heads. Pausing for a moment, they each look to the skies, realizing they'd both missed the ominous clouds rolling in fast and black as coal. "We better move," Hiiro urges, moving them more quickly, careful not to lose her as a strong wind kicks up.
Hurrying as fast as they may but more then a dozen blocks to go, the thunder rolls once more, the sound growing as the clouds consume the sky. Across the street and less then a hundred paces down the next block, a gust of wind pummels them again, forcing Rei to press against his side before the torrent finally lets loose. Pouring in an instant like it hasn't done in years, all that the rain touches is soaked in it's icy chill, reminding anyone in it's grasp that winter may not be entirely gone.
Taking a firm hold of her hand, he tugs her under an awning in the doorway of an old cafe that's already shut down for the night. Hoping the rain will be only a short stint, they pause for a few minutes in the chance that it will break. It's within those moments that he notes her start to shiver, pressed against his chest to get out of the rain and he doesn't hesitate to shrug of his coat to drape it over her shoulders.
Rain increasing as the minutes tick by, she leans her head against his shoulder, the splash from a passing car only adding to the wet. "What should we do, everything's closed?" she wonders, knowing there's no way they'd make it to the bus.
A single arm draped around her waist, Hiiro exhales a breath knowing that waiting will only make things worse. "My apartment's less then a block from here...we can dry out there," he suggests, receiving a nod before taking her by the hand and heading back into the torrential rain.
Jogging back up the sidewalk they'd just crossed less then ten minutes before, the wind and rain whips fiercely against them as they round the corner instead of crossing back across the street. It's a mere few minutes around the short side of the block before crossing the narrow alley to the third building on the right. Digging the keys from his pocket as they stand beneath the light above the dingy door, Hiiro pushes the creaky wood open with a kick, finally granting them solace from the ice cold rain.
Allowing her in first, he forces the door shut and flips on the emergency lights to give a minute glow to the room, just enough to show them a clear path to make it to the half hidden stairs. Silently motioning her to follow, he leads her to the stairs and up to his loft where a fading bulb still burns by his door. Old but obviously well kept, the entire place she finds rather unassuming as he unlocks his door and opens it for her to enter first.
Stepping into the small apartment, still shivering from the cold, Rei takes her time glancing around plain space as Hiiro locks the door and flips on the lights. A basic kitchen flowing into a cozy living room, the room is a combination of blacks and blues with only minimal amounts of furniture and very few items of a personal touch. The room carries the continued feel of living a simple life.
Kicking off his soaked shoes, Hiiro clears his throat as he steps around her to move further into the apartment to flip on the lamp next to the couch. "Make yourself at home, I'll go find you some dry clothes," he murmurs before disappearing down the dim hallway to his room.
Leaving her own shoes at the door, Rei moves from the entry, slowly taking in the tidy space kept in obvious good repair. Cold but strangely at ease, she slips the wet coat from her shoulders to drape over a kitchen chair to give it the chance to dry. Suppressing another shiver, a photo on a small book shelf by the door catches her eye, beckoning her back across the room to take a closer look.
The photo itself showing it's age, she lifts it gently in her fingers, slowly memorizing each and every face. Six men and four women in total, all of them aside from one woman wear matching uniforms, huddled in a group together as if caught by surprise. Most of the faces are either surprised or amused but two of them stand out as less then pleased, a grouchy looking man of Asian descent and a younger looking Hiiro who's arm was being violated by a honeyed blond who appeared to delight in his discomfort.
Having changed into a worn pair of sweets and a faded t-shirt, Hiiro walks back out into the living room with a second shirt and shorts in tow, finding her still looking thoughtfully at the photo he'd forgotten was on his shelf. Not even remembering how he came into possession of it but recalling the night the picture was taken, each of them celebrating the end of Dekim's war. Taking care to be quiet, he glances over her shoulder to see what's drawn her curiosity.
"Are these your friends?" Rei asks, feeling his presence but not in the least bit unnerved.
"They are my past," he answers after a hesitant pause, never having considered the word in relation. "I haven't spoken to them in a long time..." a depth in his voice lingers as he passes her the dry clothes.
Handing him the photo, she taps the image of the girl who holds his arm in a vice. "She seems happy," she observes, studying his face for a hint of reaction, "Was she important?"
"She was..." He admits, recalling the last conversation they had. "She just couldn't accept that she wasn't my type."
"Oh, and what is your type?" She asks teasingly, earning a minute smirk from the serious man.
Choosing to change the subject, he directs her attention back down the hall, knowing she's still wet and cold. "Bathroom's on the right and there's towels on the shelf."
A coy grin, sweeps across her lips as she takes his cue to change into the dry clothes and finally warm up from the storm that prevails incessantly outside. Hanging her dripping cloths over the shower beside his own, she takes a few minutes to towel dry her mane of hair before stepping back out into the living room, dressed more comfortably in a pair of jogging shorts and a well worn gray t-shirt that looks better on her then him.
The picture now hung on the wall instead of being left leaning on the shelf as it was before, Hiiro appears back from the kitchen with mugs of coffee in hand, offering her one which she takes in thanks before glancing up at the picture once more. Unsure why it's so interesting but searching still for a familiarity in the mix of people of varying genders, ages, and social classes but comfortable in their own peculiar right none the less.
"I noticed you still have a gun," she observes with out looking over her shoulder, sipping her hot drink instead, so used to the laws banning guns.
"Hn," he grunts softly, glancing to the forgotten remnant still sitting on the coffee table in two parts, the gun itself and the empty magazine. A single bullet sits on end between the pair and all covered in a film of dust, having obviously not been touched in a really long time. "A relic of war," he admits, "it's been a year since I've even touched it..."
"Then why do you still have it?" she wonders, the need for such items feeling so foreign.
Drinking his coffee to allow time to consider his words, he sets the now empty mug on the shelf before meeting her gaze, "Because I was going to end it all," he says honestly, regretting the sorrow blossoming in her eyes.
Hands cupped on the warm mug, she takes a long sip to calm her shaking hands. "What changed your mind?" she asks barely above a whisper, hoping to not regret it being asked.
Gently taking the mug from her hands, he sets it on the shelf beside his own, the one thing that changed his mind having never been far from it since. "I visited the shrine...and was blessed by a Goddess," he says just as softly with a husky undertone, leveling his eyes on hers.
"You never answered me before," she says, stepping closer into his space, noting how his scent lingers through out the apartment. "What is your type Hiiro?"
Of a will of it's own, he lifts his hand to gently caress her cheek, brushing a few strands of loose hair behind her ear and grasping for words that aren't there. Not certain from where the unfamiliar pull came from, he gives up on the answer he fights for, choosing instead to press his lips against hers. It only takes a moment with his warm mouth on hers that she too responds to him, winding her arms around his neck.
The kiss shared between them intensifying like a fire feeding flame, he wraps one arm securely around her waist, holding her firmly against his chest as his other hand brushes through her midnight hair. Both so devoted to the passion, they pause when their lungs demand air, barely a hair width separating their lips and a smoldering inferno burning in their eyes, each reveling in the other's hot breath upon their cheeks.
"I promise to never lose your soul again," Rei gasps breathlessly before he crushes his lips against hers once more, lighting the fuse that both of them need.
Feeling her desire as well as his own, no words are needed as he lifts her in his arms, never breaking their kiss. Holding her firmly in his powerful arms, she wraps her legs around his waist as he carries her from the room, moving by instinct alone. The yearning to be closer burns as each bit of skin they touch soothes the searing ache. A moan of desire slips through both their lips as he brushes past the half open door, gently laying her on the bed without the need to ask permission and never losing precious contact against one another.
Both out of breath, lungs crying for air and clothes quickly falling to the floor, Hiiro pauses a moment in his ministrations, allowing his lips to linger above hers, he looks deep into her amethyst orbs and grips her petite hands in his calloused ones. The storm outside rages harder, lightning flashing as the thunder claps like a stampede of cadence, singing the flood of energy pouring from their spirits.
Releasing her hands to caress her cheek once more, he touches a delicate kiss to her lips before pulling back a moment more. "I missed you my Princess," he murmurs huskily, earning a gasp as he takes her lips again, claiming her as his own.
Bodies intertwined as they explore every minutia of their souls, it makes little difference as the power's knocked out, leaving the lonely pair in darkness, only accentuated by the momentary flickers of lighting outside the covered window.
Sun sneaking in the through the curtains and stretching it's grasping hand across the room, it slowly extends it's reach to the edge of the bed, compelled to intrude on it's first victims sleep. Warm and inviting, the gentle wisp of light extends it's thin fingers to the corner of the crumbled pillow until it finally caresses his sleeping face, willing him to force open his eyes and illiciting an unwelcome groan as he focuses his eyes to read the clock before dropping his head back to the pillow.
Fighting the damning light for a few more minutes of the rare restful sleep, it only takes several long moments for him to ultimately surrender, rolling over to let his eyes fall on the still peaceful face beside him. The night before fresh in his mind, he takes time to drink in her every feature from her smooth and perfect skin to the slight pout on her lips as she sleeps. Her long and flowing hair, a bit mussed from sleep, falls along the length of her bare body working like a blanket as she clutches the sheets to her chest, he can't resist the urge to brush his fingertips across her cheek and moving her hair from her still closed eyes.
Sighing once, now fully convinced sleep is a lost cause, he presses the lightest of kisses to her cheek before finally rising from the bed, careful not to wake her. Stretching his arms and feeling a relaxing pop in his back, he retrieves his discarded sweat pants from the floor before quietly leaving the room and closing the door most of the way behind him, taking care to not make a sound.
Stopping briefly in the bathroom to brush his teeth and hair, he makes his way to his barren kitchen in hopes to find something of substance to eat. The soft yellow glow of the kitchen light, surrounds the area like a halo as the remainder of the apartment lies in a dim darkness. Opening the door to the outdated fridge, his eyes rove over the shelves of nothing, finding slim pickings with a half a carton of eggs, an unopened pack of bacon and some well and expired bread. Taking what he can, he sets the goods on the counter before searching for the last place he put his frying pan.
An air of comfortable silence filters through the tiny apartment, accompanied by the scents of breakfast cooking, an unknown time passing as the sun fills the room more and more. Rei's finally pulled from the drug of sleep by a foreign whir and a beep. Having slept like she hasn't in centuries, she sits up in the warm bed, her skin still tingles from every place his gentle hands had touched her the night before, she can't help but smile and touch her fingers to where he kissed her cheek. Looking around the room, so plain but very much him, her gaze falls to the open laptop on the desk where the screen glows to life.
Never having been one for technology, she recognizes the sign of a new email with little effect as she slips out from under the tangled bedding to find the shirt he'd given her the night before. The searching taking her around the bed, she eventually finds the discarded article in a heap next to the desk which she pulls over her head, not failing to notice on the screen before her reflecting over four hundred emails that are yet to be read. Dismissing it just the same along with the shorts she was yet to find, she takes her leave to the bathroom across the hall.
Pausing to wash her face and hands, she combs her fingers through her hair in hopes to tame it before heading towards the living room. An odd shyness suddenly stirring in the pit of her stomach, she moves with the utmost care past the end of the couch, seeing her clothes freshly cleaned and folded as well the mugs from the night before gone from atop the shelf. Biting her bottom lip out of habit, she slides into the stool on the outside of the kitchen counter, crossing her legs modestly.
Standing over the stove with spatula in hand, Hiiro turns the eggs slowly as the bacon fries away. Having changed into jeans after throwing the laundry in, he still remains shirtless in avoiding to wake Rei from her sleep. Hearing the light scrape of the stool behind him, he glances over his shoulder as she smiles back softly, propping her elbow on the counter and resting her chin on her palm. Noting she opted only for the shirt he gave her last night, he turns back to the stove to hide the hint of blush tinging his cheeks.
"I'm sorry I woke you," he murmurs, turning the eggs one more time before reaching for the plates he'd set out before.
"My stomach woke me," she placates, unable to resist appreciating his physique and thin red lines against his flesh, "And apparently you have a bunch of emails, it started making noise."
Scooping the food evenly on the plates, he sets them on the counter and grabs a fresh pot of coffee to fill up their mugs before sitting down on his own stool on the opposite side of the counter from her. "I know it's not Makoto's cooking, but it's all I had left in the fridge," he says, waiting for her to take a bite to make sure it's really OK.
"Not bad," she compliments with a nod before taking a drink of the steaming coffee, grateful for the warming sensation. "I'm not computer savvy but four-hundred seems like a lot of mail," she says arching a brow as she takes a more delicate sip of her drink.
Swallowing his own bite of food, he pushes some of the food around his plate before stabbing a piece of bacon with his fork, "I haven't check them in a while...a long while," he finally says before grabbing his own cup of coffee.
"Are you worried it may be something important?" She asks, curious if they may be from the people in the picture on the wall.
"No," he says with a slight shrug, setting down his mug and resting his gaze on her, oddly comforted by her presence here. A different thought lingering in his mind from the night before, he considers his words for several minutes, but is struck from his ponder as she looks up to meet his gaze. "Did I always kill myself?" he wonders, remembering her reaction to his gun.
"Hai," she whispers, remorseful for the centuries worth of memories. "Mostly, I can only recall one time that someone else took your life."
"That time at the shrine..." he murmurs, recalling Ami's words from weeks earlier.
"Hai," she whispers again, her eyes watering. "I'd left only the day before, you'd been attacked a few blocks from there...something compelled you to drag yourself, bleeding, all the way up the steps," biting back a sob, the tears begin trickling down her cheeks. "Why did you have to die?"
Having always had trouble with a woman's tears, he drops his fork to his plate, not hesitating to round the counter and pull her into his arms and holding her firm. "I was always alone..." he says honestly, "I didn't know what I was looking for but could never find you." Pressing a kiss to her temple, he loosens his hold to cup her face gently in his palms, wiping away the minute traces of tears with his thumbs, "But not this time."
Warmed by his words, a tender smile curls her lips as she threads her fingers in his hair, pulling him in for a heartfelt kiss. The moment only lingers for a few seconds but adds a new energy to them both as they continue holding one another even after their lips part, reveling in a shared memory several millennia gone. The hair brushed from her forehead, he gifts her with a rare smile before sweeping her back up in his arms.
"It was a long path home."
Stomping down the stairs some two hours later, fully dressed and showered, Hiiro rounds the corner to enter the shop when he suddenly halts as the old shop keeper steps in his path. More then surprised for the man to be around during the holiday not to mentioning being so attentive towards him, having always left to himself. A hand on the wall, he blocks the path to the stairs as Rei's descending behind him.
"Hiiro, my boy, it's not like you to sleep so late," the old man observes, looking him over for a sign of his goings on.
Knowing his lack of attention has been apparent along with his waning hours of work for some time, "I had laundry," he says shortly, having never had a need to mislead the man but being so used to saying so little.
"I noticed you'd been not yourself the last few months..." he says, motioning to the larger then normal piles of work. "My family is having a dinner tonight if you like, give you a chance to-"
Descending the stairs slowly behind him, still brushing back her wild hair, Rei pauses on the final step as Hiiro blocks the door and she hears the old man's voice. Unaware they'd served such a distraction, she slowly peaks around the corner as the man begins to ramble upon his invite and mention of a granddaughter in town of convenient age. Nearly halfway behind him before she realizes it's too late, her purse drops from her should and thumps against the wall, halting the man who turns his eyes on her. A dawning look of surprise lights up his face.
"Lady Rei," the old man stutters, recognizing her immediately as many around the city do. He blinks his eyes several times, ensuring what he sees. "I'd assumed you found a girlfriend, but well..."
Stepping aside, Hiiro moves from Rei's view as she curtsies to the familiar man with a modest smile. "It's been more then a decade Ojiisan," Rei murmurs. "Hiiro's been quite the gentleman," she says demurely, fighting a blush from the not so gentlemanly memories as well.
"I uh," the man says flustered, wringing his hands. "I still live by the words you said to me that day," he admits, earning a smile from her, both remembering the conversation that day.
Taking her by the hand, Hiiro nods once more to the old man, knowing it's time to take their leave after spending so much time away from the temple. Pausing a second to pat the man's hand, Rei follows knowingly, not glancing back, even when the door clicks shut behind them. Each walking side by side in silence and breathing in the freshly warm and humid air, a feeling in stark contrast to the night before. They make the few blocks of the walk to the bus, never once noticing the way they still hold hands.
The hints of the storms now well and gone, minus a slight dampness on vendor stands they pass, they wait idly for their next bus. The wait itself inspiring a memory, Rei laughs lightly, covering her lips with her fingers and drawing his curiosity as the bus comes around the bend. Less then a block's distance, he nudges her arm which she merely shakes her head to as it screeches to a halt.
"Care to share?" He wonders, allowing her to board the bus first ad dropping the fare in the bin before they move to the back of the bus.
Moving down the row, counting the seats as she does and nodding to the few people on board, she hums a bit before deciding to answer. "A year ago today...was the first time you showed up on my doorstep."
"Oh?" He says, arching a brow, managing to catch himself on the rail as the bus continues rolling, now only two seats from the back, "And how Princess, do you know?"
Grinning further at the tease in his voice as she slips into the last window seat, allowing him room to drop down beside her. "Because today, dear Hiiro, is my birthday."
A warm breeze sweeping gently through the blooming trees, sends the scent of spring wafting into the air as the lingering clouds slowly are chased away to make room for the warming sun. Just past ten, most people gather for street fairs and linger downtown, away from the more placid of realms, to delight in the seasons gifts. Children singing as they play in their vibrant colored kimono, their parents watching patiently, knowing it's their last chance before starting back to school.
A pulsing energy, invisible to one and all, charges the air around the shrine. Raven's calling in challenge, unwilling to flee from their roosts as the energy tingles with life. The birds shriek once more as each bough is passed under where they've taken up perch, willing to defend their turf to the valiant end. On the verge of taking flight, they beat their wings, stirring the last scents of rain on the trees with the floral aroma of the sakura.
The climb is rendered so much simpler as they move side by side, taking the mountain one leisure step at a time. Three steps ahead, Rei clasps her hands behind her back, having made this same trek so many millions of times that she knows which step she's on by the minute fissures in their polished facade. Humming to herself again, she pauses to look up into the branches of the arching trees as two ravens look curiously back at her, giving Hiiro a chance to make up those few steps.
"Do you remember anything about the other knights?" Rei asks, the thought having plagued her for the last little bit.
"No," he says softly, crossing the step she's on and reclaiming her hand to urge her on. "There were five us...but I can't see their faces."
"That's the same as us..." she admits, saddened by the news as they grow close. "I wonder how many centuries they will take."
Squeezing her hand, Hiiro continues his steps, knowing he earned a smile for the subtle gesture. "I'll be here," he says, only five more steps keeping them from the top. "I do remember one thing though..."
"Yeah," crossing over the last step, he allows his fingers to slip from her grasp as they eye the Tori gate, "I had a best friend..."
Queued by an unseen command, less then five paces from the looming gate, a shadow passes over them both and leaving no time to reach. Bombarded from the sky, Hiiro is knocked to the ground before nearly having his arm pulled from it's socket.. Fighting his attacker who has him down on his knees, his attempts at balance are thrown off as he's suddenly snapped back and up to his feet. Pain spiking each time he flexes his arms, he refuses to shout against the struggle.
One arm around his neck and the other under his arm and around to the top, he suddenly gasps for air as he's hoisted off his feet. Only inches separate his feet from the ground but it's proven enough as he kicks his heels in an effort to free himself from the vice like hold. Carried cumbersomely into the courtyard as his face begins to flush deep red, he spots some of the Priestesses lounging on the terrace as his eyes begin to cross.
"Haruka!" he hears Michiru shout just before he blacks out and is unceremoniously dropped to the ground.
Laughter fills the air as he shakes his head to clear the fog before dragging him self to his feet with a groan. His ears ringing just the slightest, he suddenly snaps his gaze back over his shoulder, anticipating another strike from the Guard, only to find her no longer there. The paranoia unnerving, he turns completely around to survey the entire space before finally turning back to the terrace on edge.
With no time to even focus his eyes though, the air is once more forced from his lungs as a new force leaps into his arms. Nearly knocked to the ground in a rush of gold, he has that feeling a of dejavu as she winds her arms around his neck and her legs around his waist, curling her lips coyly before breaking into a full on grin, unaware of the memory she's triggered in him.
"Did you miss us Hiiro-kun?" Minako purrs sweetly, inspiring the thought that if only she were a cat.
Sighing a bit, more then overwhelmed by the last day and a half, he glances over Minako's shoulder where Makoto kneels on the terrace, saluting him with a waive. Slightly at a loss as the blond Goddess curls to rest her head happily on his shoulder, he see's Rei roll her eyes before they each move to the terrace where he dumps her before taking a seat himself with Rei taking a seat on his other side. Knowing he's surrounded with no real escape, he sits back as they catch up on the things they missed.
"We made it all the way to the southern ocean but winter came early," Makoto says pouring a couple glasses of lemonade for the new arrivals.
"That's not what's important!" Minako interjects, waiving her hands before Ami and Hotaru can probe about their adventure as she leans in close to both Hiiro and Rei with a investigative glint in her eyes. "Where have YOU two been hmm?"
Sharing a glance, they each look to the inquisitive blond with a similar drawn expression before answering dryly, "A Movie," they say in unison.
"All night?" Makoto asks, catching on as she arches her brow I amusement.
"Caught in the storm," they say in tandem again, drawing a few sniggers around.
"And all morning?" Ami interjects too, making a point to sip her drink with an enlightened air.
"Laundry," they do it again, knowing they're losing with every word at convincing the girls otherwise.
Taking a drink to hide the smirk on her lips, Michiru nods lightly before putting her glass back down. "You remember...don't you?"
Eyes downcast in deep thought for a moment, Hiiro looks back up to find all the girls watching him for a sign before he finally speaks. "Hai," he says dropping his tone, "It's slowly coming back...some of the most vivid being Haruka and I at each others throats."
"You two fought like brother and sister," Hotaru chimes happily, having been the baby sister of the group. "but you two were always inseparable in the end."
Everyone nodding, they each settle back to have a relaxing lunch in the warm spring air, idle chatter following but never leading back to the original subject they all want to know. An hour or two slips by with them lounging around, no sign of Haruka popping up the entire time, slowly allowing Hiiro to finally relax in his own skin. He can only wonder if their archaic relationship is what made him so well suited for the war.
A quiet so unlike the city, the minutest sounds carry further in the light air, surprising them all as four distinctly masculine voices filter in garbled fashion from the stairs. One by one they turn curiously to the gate, the voices growing louder as they grow closer, accentuated by the myriad of personalities traveling as one. No guests expected courtesy of the festival in town, an energy of unease boils in Hiiro as for the first time in years he wishes he'd carried his gun.
"You're sure this was the directions they gave?"
"If you took me up these stairs needlessly, you're going to pay."
"It doesn't hurt to check."
"They may be able to help us too."
"This just better not be an excuse to meet onnas..."
"Hey! I resent that!"
"I'm sure you do..."
Certain they're nearing the crux of the stairs, the voices become more and more apparent as the seconds tick by. Back rigid and jaw set, Hiiro, slowly rises to his feet, positioning himself so the Priestesses are behind him, they don't miss the way he clenches his fists, not responding to their questions of concern, never having seen him so on edge. Nearly tempted to take off towards the gate, he holds firm in his position, catching a glimpse of Haruka as she weaves through the trees.
"He has to be here!"
"I think you're far too invested in this."
"Am not! I'm just..."
Reaching the opening of the gates to set their first eyes on the serenity of the temple, the four travelers pause, immediately enamored by the ancient but inviting abode. The temple bell rising above them, the image reflects in their eyes, having not seen such a peaceful and worldly swatch of humanity in all the years they've endured to live.
Standing four abreast, thye stand in the moment of revere, each enchanted in a different way. Brunette and lively, left with a loss for words. Blond and pacifistic, a new level of drive pulses in his veins. Raven and angry, a new understanding of justice propels his heart. Brunette as well with a silent passion all his own. Changed but unchanged, it's the first who takes that initial chance to avert his eyes to his right, a new light dawning on him as a whistle escapes from between his teeth.
"Hii-chan!" He says with a shout, shocked and not realizing the name had passed his lips.
The others a few steps behind him, they each level their gaze with the long lost man. The six women standing behind him, one more close then the rest, interesting them still as they note the defensive posture he holds. The seething inferno of rage flickers in his eyes which they always remembered as so bitterly cold, they each know without speaking that they must quickly appease the fire that burns.
"Duo..." Hiiro grumbles the braided man's name, so quiet most are unsure they really heard.
"Didn't take you for the harem type Hii-," cut short with an eep of fear, Duo finds his arm painfully twisted back behind his back and bent towards the temple ground, a sever blade pressed dangerously against his neck.
The other three guys stand surprised, having not even heard her approach, certain she moved like the wind, they stand helpless to rescue their boisterous friend. Each swallows a heavy lumpy, certain this new arrival won't hesitate to make a name as a heavy breeze sweeps across the courtyard. "Hiiro, tell her who we are," the fair-haired man pleads, hoping to bring this to an amicable end.
Eyes narrowed but not speaking a word, Hiiro locks eyes with Haruka, deciding the course to take. "Hiiro-kun?" Haruka finally asks, pressing the space sword harder as the man in her hold whimpers for his buddy's help.
Several tense moment's passing, he finally sighs and relaxes his posture, considering the others once more before dismissing him with a waive of his hand and turning his back to move back to the terrace, "Kill him."
"WHAT?!" Duo shrieks, disbelieving his friends order and now certain he's going to die. His whimper for mercy is met by a mocking laugh, followed by being shoved to the ground.
Having already reclaimed his seat on the of the terrace, the other women settle back around as Haruka sheaths her sword and steps away from the men. Chuckling to herself, she plops into the spot beside him, slinging an arm around his neck and ruffling his messy hair much to the others dismay and earning a playful shove.
Watching the scene with a intrigued curiosity, Duo climbs back to his feet, taking extra care to make sure she hadn't shaved him too close. The others soon join him, leaving a dozen or more paces between them and their changed comrade, having not expected the divide. They're each more surprised as the exotic looking raven haired woman leans her head against his shoulder to whisper in his ear.
"Are these your friends," Rei whispers, recognizing the faces from the night before and receiving a slight grunt in reply.
"Hn," Hiiro exhales before addressing the life he knows he's been running from and introducing his friends. "Quatre Raberba Winner. Duo Maxwell. Trowa Barton. Chang Wufei."
Each of them nodding as he addresses them by name, Quatre is the first to step forward. "We thought you were dead Hiiro..." he says, softly, knowing now with guilt that his comrade wasn't interested in being found. "We've been emailing you every day."
"Hiiro Yuy is dead," Hiiro affirms, tossing away that name, not willing to admit that he'd feared that opening those message would bring him back to life. "How did you find me?"
"This braided idiot," Wufei says gruffly, motioning his thumb at Duo who scowls indignantly.
Flipping his braid back, Duo places his hands on his hips, standing at his full height, "It was no big deal really," he shrugs with a spark in his eye. "Noticed a nice weld job on some guys bike down in Osaka a month or so back. Chased the man for three hours until he relented and ultimately told me where he'd gotten the work. Gathered the guys and been staking out the place for about a week, never saw you but this morning Barton ran into the 'keep. Apparently he says you ran off with a pretty little thing but wouldn't name no names," he says with a wink, earning a few grins and eye rolls around. "So Hii-chan...gonna introduce us to the ladies."
Feeling his flurry of emotions, Rei slips her fingers into his and intertwining with his, earning a brief glance from the man they've grown to care for over the past year. Clearing his throat, he locks eyes with each of the former soldiers one by one before finally parting his lips, "These are the Earthbound Goddesses of Hikawa Jinga, Priestesses of the sacred fire, bell, guard, and reflection, and supreme representatives of the Silver Millennium and future rulers of Crystal Tokyo."
Like a gavel being dropped, louder then a clap of thunder, the breeze blasts each of the guys to the point they must press their eyes closed, nearly forced to the ground in the torrent. It's several minutes of straining against the fight before they can crack their eyes, only to find a new comer having separated their lines. Trowa and Wufei to their left and Quatre and Duo to their right, they each turn their eyes to the new arrival, finding themselves compelled to take a knee.
"And the midnight hour," Hiiro corrects, standing along with each of the priestesses, as Setsuna stands facing them between the men.
Robe hung up, she projects a new air, standing in a bodysuit of white with a skirt and collar of black, the boots to her knees and bow on her chest gives the feel that she is something else. Hair down her back, but secured in a half bun, she holds a glistening rod firmly in one hand, the garnet orb atop it pulsing with life as she taps it once more on the tile.
"Hiiro of Polaris," she addresses with a flourish and a bow. "For hundreds and thousands of years, you were every Sailors guiding light." Receiving a nod in return, she taps her rod one more time, a wave of garnet red rippling across the temple and leaving a rose colored hue in the air.
The temple bell chimes despite their poignant stare down, none having to look to see as Usagi and Mamoru emerge from the alcove but remaining distant from the rest. A chill silence washing over them none the less, the hush breaks once more with a pulsing beep. So soft and mute, it barely rings through until Ami realizes it's coming from her. Confused and intrigued, the other priestesses and Hiiro part to leave her space as she digs into her pocket and eventually coming up with her prize.
Holding the light blue mini computer in her freezing hands, she bites her lip hesitantly before flipping open the screen. Fearing the worst like it's been so many times, she presses a few keys before the city fills up the screen. Nervousness confounding, she nearly closes her eyes out of dread before four new lights flicker onto the screen.
Smiling in relief as the light shines in Ami's knowing eyes, Setsuna taps her rod again and steps two paces ahead before turning on her heel. "On your feet," she commands, having waited far to long to speak these words. "Duo of Atlas, Trowa of Vega, Quatre of Rukbat,and Wufei of Gemma...we've been waiting for you," she finishes with a whisper, each of them nodding in instant recognition of their names.
"Quatre!" A cry rings out, no longer able to hold her ground, Makoto pushes from between her friends to cross the distance separating them and throwing herself into her missing knight's arms.
"Mako-chan?" Quatre questions feeling every lonesome memory rolling off the sobbing girl before burying his own eyes in her hair, "My fair Mako..."
Compelled by the same sudden flood of emotion, Minako too rushes from her own spot, running to the arms she hasn't been held in for over two-thousand years. "Trowa-kun!" Tears already coursing her cheeks, he welcomes her wholly and instantly lavishes her with a kiss.
"I promised you I'd return..." he mumbles huskily like he'd lived so many times through their dreams.
Rolling his eyes at the two pairs, Wufei nearly grumbles a curse related to women and their emotions when his gaze strays to a sobbing bluette. Not making a sound, her computer still gripped in her shaking hands, she's since sunk to her knees as tears trickle down her cheeks but crystallizing before reaching her chin. Moved by an unfamiliar will in sensing her strength to hold her resolve, he slowly steps forward, noting the blue tinge taking over her skin.
"So do I earn a kiss, babe?" Duo jokes, leaning on Setsuna's shoulder and batting his eyes. He's soon rewarded with a rap on the head and a sheepish grin though he doesn't miss the trace of blush dancing on her cheeks.
"Take a hint from your brothers," she says with a murmur, joining with Haruka, Michiru, and Hotaru who have moved off to the side.
Eying Trowa for a moment as he twirls the Venusian Princess in the air, Duo then glances to Hiiro as the typically reserved man surprises the Martian Princess by pulling her into his arms and locking her in a heart felt kiss despite the watchful eyes. Signals crossing, he folds his arms, scrunching his face in thought, he waits a minute longer then necessary before bounding towards the elusive woman, excited by the challenge of pursuing her once more through time.
Oblivious to the workings around them, Wufei kneels before Ami, noting the way she shivers as her lips have turned a darker shade of blue. Having sagged to sitting on the cool courtyard tile, her breath comes out as steamy wisps as her frozen eyes filled with tears bore back at him but unable to blink. Warmed by her icy strength, he clasps his heated hands on her snow white hands, taking the computer from her rigid fingers and setting it at her side.
"I told you once before, Ice Princess..." he murmurs softly, moving his soothing palms to her cheeks, wiping the shards of ice from her freezing skin, "Hesitating only makes the pain last longer."
Hesitation gone, he presses his lips to hers, warming her soft blue flesh. The cold growing around them as he teases her tingling flesh, they're torn apart just as quickly with a pulsing blue flash. Swirling and vibrating the thick charge in the air, a new power pulses and surges to life. Flickering like a beacon of the most royal of hue, Ami coils her arms around her lithe body as Wufei pulls her to his chest before the halo of blue surrounds them and rockets like a pillar into the air.
Swords clashing and held in stalemate, the two brothers stare one another down in a flurry of mounting emotions. Though hours only separating them in life, the star the elder was born under makes all the difference in the universe in the course they are destined to travel and what fate has in store. Personalities molded by the same tell-tale fable, the stress of their position and alternately the lack there of made them grow in opposite directions but the fire of brothers still burns so strong.
Polaris the north star and the guiding light, it was a star born to be the pinnacle like a beacon shining in the night. Sailors and soldiers all around the universe always knew they'd eventually be home if they managed to keep their star in sight. While Polaris shone so bright, Atlas was in for a darker task, holding up the weight of the darkness that his brother pushed aside. Death, dark, and time at his side he had the head and the heart to keep pressing on not to let the world falter from his grasp. But while he would hold up his end of the deal, a loneliness was destined to linger in the night.
"You think you're so special," Duo hisses, gripping the hilt of their fathers sword as wisps of black haze whip around them. "You cocky son of a-"
"Bite your tongue!" Hiiro commands, having had more then enough of his brothers misguided scorn. Gripping his own elemental sword just as tight, the same form trained in the same method as his twin brother was, the only difference is that he's sparred the Princess of Uranus and has earned Mars's love, this thought in itself erupts his blade into flames.
The light and the darkness dueling, the pair pay little mind to the world around them or the attention they've drawn. The great palace looms only a hundred or so meters away as the dignitaries of the planets have gathered on the moon for a gala to celebrate the Moon Princess's day of her birth. The beautiful Goddesses of each of the planets are in attendance as well, having spent much time enjoying the company of the Star born Knights.
Part of the greatest empire that's ruled with peace and prosperity for a millennia now, little of that rests on the eyes of varying prussian and cobalt blue. Half willing to tear one another to shreds, their fight is finally ended by a burst of blinding light. Each of them dropping their swords, they stumble apart as they press their hands to their eyes and scream in agony under the pulsing burn. The searing hurt feeling as if it may last an eon, it's in the same burst that the light fades away and they can slowly manage to crack open their reddened eyes.
Gilded sword hilted on his hip and standing half a head above the pair, Trowa crosses his arms and levels his deep green eyes on his younger brothers. Barely a year older and always the mediator between the two, he only arches a brow as the pair share an annoyed glare before matching eye for eye with their elder.
"The Silver Alliance has better use for you then petty fights," Trowa says wisely, imploring them to call a truce.
"You're one to talk," Duo challenges with a pout, knowing how both of his brothers' stars shine bright. "Vega of the North, second only to Polaris himself and the brightest light that shines in the midnight sky."
"Is that what this was about?" Hiiro stammers, ready to pick up his sword again and knock some sense into his twin. "You think our stars are what compelled Rei and Minako to fall for us?"
Both brothers flabbergasted, they can't help to roll their eyes with a groan. Knowing their brother to be a sensitive soul, the often trivial spew he spouts from time to time makes them wonder if he was switch with a donkey at birth. Hiiro leans down to retrieve his blade, slipping it into it's sheath and resting his palm on the knob of the hilt.
"Your lives were made so easy...Hiiro always the one to set the example and the only man to tame the martian fire," moping still, Duo drops to ground, sitting with arms and legs crossed. "And Trowa, you always get what you want, conquering everything you set your mind to, even the Venusian mists!"
Not sure at first that he's truly serious, the brothers both stare stone faced at the goofy man, not sure if they should shout or turn and leave. But in the end they would expect no less from their exuberant third half.
"You idiot," Trowa says amusingly with a sigh, he and Hiiro grabbing Duo each by an arm and hoisting him to his feet.
"It's your own fault for choosing in one upping us and chasing the Princess of Time."
A column of sapphire blue light washes the horizon as it climbs ever higher into the sky up above, aimed for the newly rising moon which is staged for the night to come. All eyes in the city are drawn to the soothing light, not afraid of it's icy glaze as it swirls like a storm but only moving up. Passing through the few barren clouds and rocketing towards the distant stars. It's in the instant that the cool of the blue meets the cold of space that the frigid inferno stops.
Faster then light and making no sound, it expands across the city, the country, the world and beyond. Freezing everything it touches and tinging all blue, the colonies and planets aren't even spared. Energy rushing like a colossal frozen tidal wave, the citizens of the solar system are bound to their tracks and locked in time. Crystals of ice and sheets of glistening snow, the layers of beautiful cold grow bit by bit as the light starts pulsing, pressing harder to touch all equally with it's chill.
It's in the mounting rush as the ripple energy pours of the known human world that it crashes back down once every soul's been touched. Piling like sand at the heart of the city, still no sound is heart as it condenses down and twists into an elegant frozen spire, the power surge bleeds back to Earth. Peaceful havoc in the cold and frozen scape, no soul bares witness, encased in time as the land transforms under the cascading river of celestial light.
Minutes or months, no telling how long, the final sliver of elegant blue ice drips from the heavens, caressing the tallest crystal blue tower at the center of the mystically transformed world. Once the final note is rung, the sun rises back in the east casting a glistening glow over the beautiful land, revealing four more similar spikes around the base of the tallest one. And deep in the heart of that central realm, a faint red light begins to glow.
Beating and pulsing like the flutter of a heart, it's intensity begins growing as it recharges the world with life. Flickering so rapidly, any eye that would see would be blinded by it's brilliance as it adds a sense of warmth to the ensconced plane. The ruby red of passion and life lights up to the horizon with the sun, final holding it's hue, signaling new lights to rise to their own similar and pulsing life.
Orange and green first light the spire of the north, washing the land with a healthy and exotic glow. While Navy and Purple weave together in the south, giving the land a proud and firm hand. It's then to the west that the Aqua and royal compliment one another to inspire the land to keep on flowing. And finally there's the east where a garnet lamp flickers before bursting to life, second in brilliance only to the first charged ruby light. Flickering together, they slowly take on a life of their own, beating in tandem but evolving as they each send their own message.
Finally clear, they each hold their tide, as the dawn fully wakens and they maintain their glow. It's high above the central point that a new shard of ice forms, morphing in a whirl to form a diamond of the most perfect shape. White and pure, it burns with a brilliance, blinks once with the color of a rose before remaining white like the most elegant of morning light.
Above in the same heavens, breathing a new life into the crystallized world, a pure and calming voice calls out to the universe, setting the spin of planets back on their pace. The Simple call, loud enough for the frozen ears of all to hear, but so soothing and sweet, it thaws each heart and moves each soul. Words spoken with conviction and pride, words that no one will ever soon forget.
"Silver Moon Crystal Power, MAKE UP!"
Wow...so much for a short little jaunt! I really hope you guys likes this little work, I know I poured a lot into it. Nearly 26K words and 40 pages to be exact! And the good news? I have an idea for a prequel/sequel. I haven't forgotten YMK or CMH2 and I have a sequel to Prove me wrong called "Fall for Me" well I the works too. I just wanted to write this out as a quickie...it just had so much to say.
Well I hope you guys liked it and please let me know what you think! All feedback is appreciated. Oh, and the Stars I appointed the guys were all by chance. I looked up said stars mythology after words and was shocked to say the least. So before I leave you here since it'll be a bit before I get to the sequel which shall be called "Born in the Stars", I'll leave you with a single line to leave you to think.
- "Oh you poor little darling boy," the nurse maid coos with a heart wrenching sadness as she cradles the new born in her arms as his parents cuddle the other, his pure blue eyes burned of sin, "Atlas certainly shrugged when he shown his star on you." -