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She stood, viewing another piece of the past—from a time long ago. So far, this method had been fruitless. For all the time spent trying to control Pluto's staff to see the past, very little information was gained. Beryl gritted her teeth together, frustrated to the point where small beads of sweat were rolling down her face. The first vision—the one about the Moon Prince—haunted her to the core. She had to find the answers to ensure her survival.
It was miraculous. Her resurrection should have been impossible; she was as good as dead, and yet, a spark of chaos managed to reanimate her dead body. Perhaps it wasn't really Beryl—only an shadow or shell of what she once was—or perhaps the spark of chaos really did bring her back. Nobody really knew. All they did know, is that she appeared to be back to full strength and perhaps even stronger. This time, she planned her world conquest a little differently. She had made a plan, subjugated servants to do her bidding, and made the necessary preparations. As part of those preparations, she kidnapped Sailor Pluto. She needed Pluto's staff to foresee any problems—and problems she did see. The very first time she used the staff, she was shown the means to her destruction—the Moon Prince.
They had watched countless moments of the past world. None of them were worth any while though. And yet another one played before them. It was different than usual. An empty hallway, richly decorated with marble pillars, golden ornate flowers, and beautiful artwork on the walls. A close Earthly comparison might be the walking through some of the famous art museums of Europe or the palaces of royalty. Soon, the sound of heels clicked against the solid marble floor.
This flashback was strange. It was Sailor Mars—not the Moon Prince. She didn't walk like her usual confident self. Instead, she walked slowly and carefully, stopping frequently to check over her shoulder. As she passed each large window, she seemed to nod her head, as if counting them. She stopped at the seventh window and looked outside. The Sea of Serenity was a rich blue color—absolutely mesmerizing. (Her planet did not have many large bodies of water.) She barely noticed his approach. She only noticed when he was standing right next to her.
"Beautiful day, isn't it?" He asked, causally.
She however spun around quickly and flung her arms around the Moon Prince. "Gods, I've missed you."
He understood her reaction completely and breathed a sigh of relief when she fell into his arms. He inhaled her scent as he rested his head on top of hers. They stood like that for a few minutes as she buried her face into his chest, and he stroked her hair.
Finally, she pulled her head up and took a step back. "Lír, please tell me the rumors aren't true."
He looked away from her, out the window.
She had her answer and so she sighed. "The Princess will not like this."
Prince Lír looked a little annoyed. He had already had this conversation with the Princess just minutes ago. "It doesn't matter what she likes; it's her safety I am concerned with keeping."
"I know that, but we both know how Serenity's going to handle it."
Lír brought his hand up to his forehead and rubbed his aching temples.
"Let's face it, that sister of yours is about as stubborn as they come," Mars said.
Lír nodded in agreement. "Yes, I know. That's probably why I have a stubborn wife as well."
"Shhhh!" Sailor Mars reached up, almost covering his mouth. She looked around frantically for anyone who might have heard. "You shouldn't say things like that so loudly," She whispered.
"Then perhaps you shouldn't stand so close to me," He breathed back, his lips only centimeters from hers, before he captured her in a kiss.
She enjoyed it too much to pull away immediately. After all, they had been separated for almost a month. But eventually, her senses came back to her. She pulled away. "Not here."
"Yes, here." He said, trailing down her jawline with kisses towards her neck as he pulled her closer to himself.
"Lír, I'm serious," She did say in her serious and authoritative tone.
He stopped, taking her seriously. He stood straight up and straightened his uniform as if nothing happened.
"I'm sorry," She said, truly sorry. Her violet eyes started to form heavy tears.
"No," He shook his head. He took another chance and reached out his hand to touch her cheek. Tears spilled from her eyes as she reached up to place her hand over his.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry we have to live like this," He said.
She took a step closer to him, and they were back in each other's embrace.
"I promise, when this is all over, I'll tell them. I'll tell everyone." Lír stroked her hair once again. He looked down at her, hating to see the tears that poured out of her eyes.
"I love you," was she could manage to choke out from her tears.
"I love you too," He said before sighing hopelessly.
The two of them had a secret, and secrets were oh so difficult to keep.
The image of the past slowly faded away. All that was left was the darkness of Queen Beryl's courtroom. Beryl stood stern and silent like a statue while four curious faces stared upon her. Draco and Lyra glanced back and forth at one another trying to non-verbally communicate between one another about what was happening. Aludra stood quiet, studying the look on Beryl's face. Was the Queen please with the results or was this another failure? Orion was quiet too, but it was obvious that the gears were turning inside that head of his.
It was Draco to break the silence—probably because he was the dumbest of them all. "What do you think it means, my Lady?"
"Does Sailor Mars know who the Moon Prince is then?" Lyra asked. "Maybe we should be attacking her instead?"
"Being reborn does not give on access to all past memories. In fact, they are usually locked away in the subconscious," Aludra said. "They can only be brought to the surface through special means…" She grinned. "…such as magic."
"Then it might be possible to torture something useful out of Sailor Mars?" Draco asked, looking a little too happy about that prospect. Sure, the wound on his chest, from his last encounter with Sailor Mars, headed but his pride hadn't.
It was time to offer one of his freebies. "You cannot make her recall something that isn't there. Sailor Mars cannot tell us anything useful about the Moon Prince unless she knows something about the reborn Moon Prince," Orion said.
"Do you think she knows something about the reborn Moon Prince then?" Lyra looked hopeful.
"I doubt it," Orion crossed his arms over his chest. "They'll all seem oblivious from what I've seen and heard. I think we know more than they do at this point."
"And why should we listen to you, Orion?" Draco hissed.
"Then don't," Orion looked unphased by the challenge.
"Silence!" The Queen boomed.
The squabbling ceased immediately. The four Generals turned their attention directly to the Queen. She looked as if she was fighting the urge to scream at them for a moment. "We will begin the pursuit of Sailor Mars as well as the Moon Prince."
"But why?" Lyra said, "Orion said…"
Goodness, Orion even knew well enough to challenge the Queen when she made a decision, and here, Lyra was challenging her with his own advice. He couldn't help but flinch.
The Queen managed her anger very well though. "What Orion doesn't realize is the power that mortals assign to foolish pursuits and passions such as love." She could not help but think of that supposed "love" bond between Prince Endymion and Princess Serenity. Although she still despised and mocked such ideals, she wasn't as foolish as she once was to deny the power it gave to mortal beings.
Orion looked up as she said these things. What did she mean by that? Was she suggesting that he didn't know what love was? Memories long buried started to scratch from their burial place inside his soul. It had been so long that yes, perhaps, he had forgotten what it was to care about anything or anyone—even himself. He immediately pushed those uncomfortable feelings aside. He had more important matters to attend to at the moment.
Beryl continued to explain her reasons. "If we have any hope or link to finding the Moon Prince, this is it. I'm putting Sailor Mars at the top of our priority list. Continue to search for the Prince, and when the Sailors come meddling in our affairs, then that is when we will pursue Sailor Mars."
"Pursue?" Aludra needed clarification.
"Capture, if possible," Beryl said, matter of fact. "Destroy, if necessary."
She was one of those girls—at least right now she was—and she hated it. Instead of paying attention to the overarching themes of The Tale of the Heike, she found her mind wandering to the boy who sat a few feet away. Perhaps it was not what everyone would assume—oh no, there was much more to it than that. Something was different about him, but she couldn't place what it was.
Ami's mind worked in vain to put all the strange facts, impressions, and feelings together into one coherent picture. She pressed her fist into her cheek and stared ahead at the boy. It was strange. For the past few days, ever since he nearly collided with her at the door, he seemed to have a better attitude. He actually did his class assignments and wasn't nearly as rude to everyone around him. However, he hadn't said a word to her since that day. It dawned on her that he only spoke up when Serena was with her. She sighed—another guy who was interested in Serena.
She blinked furiously. What was she thinking? Why was she getting—well, jealous—just because some guy was interested in Serena? That happened all the time—Melvin, Darien, Alan, Seiya, and the list went on. Why should this time be any different? It's not like she had time to—she blushed at the thought—have a boyfriend anyway. She shook her head again. Why was she thinking about having a boyfriend? Somehow, the teacher's voice broke through her distracted thoughts and she started to pay attention again.
"As you can see, The Tale of the Heike presents the classic Buddhist principle of impermanence. Nothing lasts forever in this world, and as demonstrated through the saga, we can see the fall of the great Taira no Kiyomori."
And then she saw something she never expected to see. Orion Nakamura politely raised his hand. The sensei looked just about as shocked at first, but then his face contorted into a stern look. "Mr. Nakamura, please save your arguments for the end of class or perhaps never…"
"I have a question," Orion said.
"A question?" The sensei looked suspicious.
"Yes, a question," Orion said, unusually patient.
"What is it?" The sensei looked a bit tortured to ask.
"Why do you think impermanence is viewed as a positive characteristic of existence?"
The Sensei's countenance changed once again. He looked as if his life as a literature instructor was finally validated. It was one of those questions teachers dream about being asked. He finally found his voice after a few moments. "It is interesting that you interpreted the role of impermanence in the world as positive. Perhaps I could suggest it is more neutral? Change can be good or bad, and it can be simultaneously good or bad. It can also be good for some and bad for others—the possibilities are endless."
"But humans have accepted it—impermanence. They don't challenge it. They don't fight it."
Ami perked up at that statement. He spoke as if somehow he was not connected to it, yet he sounded very concerned with it.
"How could we change it or fight it, Mr. Nakamura?" The Sensei said, kindly—apparently still elated by the intellectual stimulation. "We are mortal. We are that the mercy of universal laws beyond our power or understanding."
Orion sat quietly for a few moments. "I suppose you are right," was all he could say, but Ami noticed the hollowness of his words. She knew he didn't believe that.
After looking at the clock, the Sensei clasped his hands together. "That was truly a thought provoking question. Now that I am inspired, I'm going to change your assignment for tonight. I want each of you to write an essay on the role you believe impermanence plays in the world. What is your opinion on this particular topic? Is it a positive, neutral, or perhaps negative aspect of our universe?" He raised his voice as students started packing up. "Minimum of three pages, please!"
The students groaned. They had one more reason to hate Orion Nakamura.
Orion however either did not notice the dirty looks shot at him or didn't care. He casually tucked away his notebook and textbook into a messenger bag. That was another strange thing as well. He usually came to class completely unprepared, but recently, he started bringing all his supplies. Orion finished and turned towards the door to leave. Ami quickly spun towards the door as well so he wouldn't notice her staring. She quickly exited the room with her classmates. He was a few steps behind though. She immediately hugged the wall of the hallway and stopped, pretending she had to take care of something. He passed her without noticing her presence in the crowd.
"Hey, Ami!" A bright and bubbly voice called out to her.
She recognized it immediately and turned away from the wall. "Hello, Serena."
The happy blonde stood with a warm smile on her face and a book in her hand. She was eager to see her friend. "Goodness, that last class was boring!" Serena said.
"Oh, Serena," Ami said as they began to walk down the hallway together. Ami knew Serena's schedule as well as her own. How could Serena call biology boring?
"What did you have again?" Serena looked at the stack of books in Ami's arms, but still couldn't piece together what class it was.
"I had Japanese Literature." The class was actually called, "Advanced Japanese Literature," but Ami left out the "Advanced" part. She learned early on that she needed to do things like that in order not to be thought of as conceited.
Very soon, as they moved towards the cafeteria for lunch, Ami and Serena were flanked by Mina and Lita. The four of them almost always ate lunch together. As they pushed through the crowd, Serena, who forgot her packed lunch, asked to borrow money to buy a school lunch.
"Oh, look!" Serena rudely pointed into the crowd once they entered the cafeteria. She pointed at a purple haired student carefully examining all the cafeteria food and wrinkling his nose at most of it. "Ami, it's that cute guy you have all those classes with!"
Ami about wanted to die right then and there.
"Cute guy?" Mina immediately perked up. Her left hand instantly went to smoothing her hair down, and her right hand was in her bag looking for a mirror.
"How come we haven't heard anything about this?" Lita asked with a wink.
"There was nothing worth mentioning," Ami said, face furiously red. "I barely know him."
"Let's ask him to sit with us!" Serena piped up.
Mina and Lita immediately chorused, "Yes," while Ami said, "No." Ami's voice, however, was completely drowned out by the other girls' enthusiasm. Serena began to march up to Orion, but Ami tried to protest.
"Serena, I don't think that's a good idea…"
Orion's face looked extremely sour after looking at an industrial sized steel pot of miso soup made by the cafeteria. He noticed a group of girls approaching him, and he turned away from the food. It was Sailor Moon. The look on his face instantly relaxed.
"Hey, how are you?" Serena asked.
"I'm fine, Serena, and yourself?"
Serena giggled, a little embarrassed. "Oh, you remember my name. I'm sorry, I…"
"It's alright," He said, forgivingly. He pondered for a moment. It wasn't his style, but he had to do it. If he wanted to find out more information, he was going to have to put himself into their world. He was going to have to flirt with her—make her trust him. "Your name is quiet too lovely to forget. Mine on the other hand…"
"Oh," Serena waved her hand bashfully. "Aren't you the charmer!"
Mina looked a little upset, Ami noticed. Mina didn't like the fact that another cute guy completely had a thing for Serena. She always got the cute guys! Mina did what Mina did best though—she inserted herself into the situation.
"What is your name, charmer boy?" She batted her eyelashes at him.
At first, he looked like he didn't care, but he studied her for a moment. Once he realized that this girl who stood before him was Sailor Venus, he smiled back. "It's Orion."
Mina looked elated but for the wrong reasons. In that moment, his first hesitation and then smile seemed like he took a moment to appraise her and then found her worthy, but in all reality, he only cared about her sailor status.
Orion's eyes then moved to the tall brunette. He studied for her for a moment too. Sailor Jupiter he thought to himself. His eyes finally fell on Ami. She wasn't looking at him though. He beamed the most when he looked at her. He finally understood it. All the frustrating thoughts and feelings he had when looking at her made sense. He wasn't feeling anything for this mortal girl—he was just sensing her identity. That's why she stuck out in his mind for weeks now. That's what he told himself anyway.
"Do you want to eat lunch with us?" Lita asked.
Orion glanced back towards the cafeteria food. "If you can call this lunch."
The girls all laughed, except Ami.
Mina slid her arm to lock with his. She led him away from the cafeteria food. "We can share our lunch with you. Lita always packs too much anyway."
"Thanks for volunteering my lunch," Lita said.
"You're welcome," Mina looked back at Lita and winked. She looked absolutely thrilled to be locking arms with Orion.
The five of them sat down at a table. Soon, the chopsticks were passed out, and dishes were laid across the table ready to be devoured. Serena took that to heart and she neglected her school lunch in favor of Lita's tempura from one of the bento boxes. Orion was hesitant at first to eat, but the girls insistent. He reached out with his chopsticks and tried from of the food. He had to admit that the Sailors did have good taste.
Despite the delicious food, he could not relax. Something was wrong. There were only four of them. There were five Sailors. He sensed their true identities, but one was missing. The goofy blonde one was Sailor Moon. The tall brunette was Sailor Jupiter. The obnoxiously flirty one was Sailor Venus. Of course, Ami was Sailor Mercury, but perhaps one of the most important sailors was not there—Sailor Mars. The Queen wanted the Moon Prince and Sailor Mars. Where were they? He'd just have to be patient, he reasoned.
It was odd though. He wasn't used to so much—well, cheeriness. They all seemed happy, vivacious, and full of energy. Well, only three of them seemed happy. The blue haired girl seemed withdrawn and saddened by something. It was difficult to not pay attention to the other girls' flamboyant moments and loud voices, but from time to time he would look over at Ami. Her continence did not change. What was wrong with her? He studied her curiously for a few moments.
It was then that she noticed him staring. They locked eyes for just a brief moment before she looked away. The table suddenly quieted, noticing the moment between the two.
A puzzled look washed across Orion's face. It was jealously. He could feel it. That's why the blue haired girl seemed so withdrawn. But why was she jealous?
"Anyway," Lita continued, giving Ami a moment to recover herself. "We'll have to call Raye and get her in on this,"
Orion's ears perked up. "May I ask who Raye is? You've mentioned her three times now."
"Ah," Mina said. "She's our friend. She goes to a different school."
"A good friend?" Orion asked causally.
"You could say that," Mina answered back just as causally.
Orion nodded. This Raye person might be worth exploring.
"We can't call her tonight," Serena said. "It's her chore night. She's always moody on chore night."
It had been a long day. It wasn't until late in the afternoon that Raye was able to start her chores, and it wasn't until late at night when she finally finished polishing the last of the bells in the haiden hall. She stepped out of the main building into the courtyard and immediately headed for her bedroom. The air was crisp and chill—a perfect night for view the stars.
The moonlight illuminated her path as walked over the stone steps in the courtyard. It was a beautiful night. She passed one of the other halls to the Shrine. Akira was sitting on the roof. She noticed, but she didn't process. Akira was on the roof! She stopped dead in her tracks and put her hands on her hips. "Hey, what are you doing up there?!" She demanded.
"Hello to you too, Princess." He said, unfazed by her tone.
"You're not supposed to be up there!"
"Why do you join me?"
"What?" It was so absurd that she forgot to be angry. "Come up there with you?"
"Yeah," He said, "It'll be fun."
She appraised the situation for a moment. "How in the world did you get up there anyway?" she asked, noticing the roof was quite a few meters off the ground. "What are you—some kind of monkey man?"
He didn't respond to that. "The roof is closer to the ground in the back, and there's a stack of crates you can use to climb up." He stood up from his sitting position. "I'll meet you back there."
"I didn't say I would…" He had already disappeared to the other side. "…do it," She finished to herself. She sighed and followed him behind to the other side. He stood waiting for her at the spot she'd have to climb up. It still looked like quite a feat to get up there. "Are you sure about this?"
"Don't worry, I'll help you."
She wasn't so convinced, but she started to climb up the crates. She'd need a little help to get herself up off the crates and fully onto the roof. Akira reached out his hand to help pull her up. She gave on last push off the crates with her feet.
Akira grunted ridiculously loud as he had to support some of her weight through his arms.
"Oh, I'm not that heavy!" She snapped.
He laughed loudly as he received the reaction he wanted. He pulled her up to the roof, and they both stood. He headed towards the top to find his seat on the other side. She followed him.
She had never been up here before, but she could see why it appealed to him. They were almost above the trees, letting the see the full moon bathe the temple with its purplish haze. The stars above them twinkled brightly in the sky, as if putting on a show just for them.
They were quiet for a long time, just absorbing the scene before them. It was such a beautiful night. It took her a long time to break that peace. "This is highly irreverent, you know," She finally said, half-heartedly scolding him.
"No, it's not," He said, looking over at her. "I did it in Kyoto all the time." He could tell by the look on her face that she wanted to hear more. He looked back at the full moon. "Tsukiyama Shrine—its name means moon mountain. Tsukiyama Shrine was built on a hill that was favored for viewing the moon. So, really, I'm just doing what our blessed ancestors did."
Raye looked at the Moon too. It was beautiful.
Akira sighed contently and leaned back, resting his back against the roof. He tucked his arms behind his head and continued to stare at the moon. "When I was little, I used to have this dream about the moon."
Raye looked over at him. His face was entirely peaceful.
"There was this palace and a beautiful Queen lived there, but she was very sad." Akira said, his voice seemingly reflecting some of that sadness as well.
She couldn't believe what she was hearing. Did he know something? That thought was interrupted with his laugh.
"I'm sorry," He said. "That's silly, I know. I was just a kid."
Raye shook her head. "No, it's okay." Her heart pounded anxiously. He had no idea how close he was to uncovering a truth. She looked away, back towards the Moon. How could he know about such things? He couldn't. It must have been a coincidence.
A few moments of silence passed between them. "I was always quite imaginative as a child," He said. "Perhaps I should be a writer?"
"Yeah," Raye smirked. "A tabloid writer—your stories are crazy enough."
Akira shot upright from his resting position. He held out his hand as if highlighting a headline of a newspaper. "Mysterious—and Irreverent—Monkey Man seen atop Hikawa Shrine, see page 6 for more about this shocking story!"
She laughed until her sides ached. Oh, she hadn't laughed like that in a long time—not since Serena accidently snorted cola fizz and ran around the Crown Fruit Parlor screaming her head off. It felt so good just to laugh.
They sat up there for what seemed like ages. Sometimes they were silent while in other moments they talked and laughed about many things. Raye sat with her knees bend upward towards her chest. She had her arms wrapped around her legs to keep warm. He, however, continued to lay across the roof with his hands behind his head as if taking a nap. It wasn't until she noticed that it was almost ten that she suggested that they head in for the night.
"I think I'll stay out here a little longer," He said.
"That's all good for you, but some of us have to get up early."
"Early?" He asked. "Why? It's my turn for the morning chores. I don't know why I'm reminding you though. I should just let you do them, even if it's not your turn."
She shot him a teasingly dirty look for that remark, but she clarified the situation for him anyway. "I still have to get ready for school, you know—shower, eat breakfast, get my uniform ready, and the make-up routine takes a while…"
"Make-up routine?" He said, almost flippantly. "What for? You're already beautiful."
She fell extremely quiet.
"What?" He looked over at her, wondering if he offended her.
"You think I'm beautiful?" Goodness she was glad they were sitting in the dark otherwise he might see her blushing.
"Well," He began awkwardly, "I mean…you know…" He sighed, frustrated with his inability to speak. "Oh come on, it's not like you don't already know. I swear, all beautiful girls know they're beautiful. It's like this thing."
"This thing!" He insisted. "Beautiful girls know they're beautiful. They just know it. And flaunt it everywhere they go."
"Some girls are like that, I suppose," She admitted. She knew a few at her school like that. Was there a chance for girls who didn't feel beautiful to actually be beautiful—goodness, she hoped so, but she dared not ask it. This was already getting uncomfortable as it was.
"Maybe I will go inside now," He said, clearly just as uncomfortable with the moment as well. They both got up from their seats and headed back to the other side of the roof. He helped her climb down first then he followed. They headed around the building and broke off to towards separate directions once they reached the courtyard, only bidding one another a quick goodnight.