Happy Friday, or whichever day this finds you at.
Disclaimer: ...well, I do own pretty much everything in this chapter... but I DO NOT own Sailor Moon.
I stared absently through the small window in my cabin, out to the atmosphere of yet another foreign planet we were entering. The skies here were nearly colorless this time of the day, but according to some reports we picked up on earlier they would turn vibrant shades of red and pink as evening set in.
The ship jostled for a moment as it passed through a pocket of turbulence, but my gaze stayed fixed on the approaching land of the planet, which was almost completely covered in yellow and marigold plants. How many planets had I been to while part of this crew? Enough that no combination of colors could surprise me anymore.
It was nearly fifteen minutes later when I felt the familiar rumble of landing shake through the ship.
Right on cue, the voice of the ship's navigator echoed through the halls. "We have successfully landed on planet Yonula." There was a pause. "Squad four in position."
A loud sigh escaped my lips as I heard footsteps clamor down the steel hall outside my door. Squad 4 was only used when the planet natives were somewhat peaceful and cooperative. There would be no fight today.
Turning away from the window and to my mirror, I quickly tied up my hair into an off-centered ponytail, my long pale pink tresses brushing against my lower back, and sat on the edge of my cot. Placing my chin in my hands, I was soon lost in thought.
I wondered why we had stopped on this little planet. The tribal villages of this world were barely a threat to the Lord's power. Yonula had always been known for their vast knowledge and peaceful elf-like people, so perhaps they had information that the Lord wanted. Either that or we were low on supplies. I idly hoped the people here would be cooperative. That there would be no bloodshed today.
No matter what lies squadron four tried to tell the natives, no matter what peaceful spin they tried to put on it, those people will know exactly what we are. They'll see right through the facade, to the lying, thieving, destructive people that the shiny spaceship hid. No, we weren't explorers.
We were pirates.
I quickly learned this distinction when I was first welcomed onto the ship. The family that the great Lord Cynfael blinded me with was nothing more than a captive army. Not four days after being brought on the Suta Kasai I myself had to start my training, beginning with basic self-defense and working my way through various forms of fighting. I had only been on the ship a couple weeks when I witnessed my first mission, and let me tell you I was downright horrified.
The older and more experienced fighters had fallen upon a nearby village, viciously attacking anyone that stood in their way. They hunted down the chief and swiftly took him out of commission, leaving the people from that town and those nearby without a leader. In our wake we had left thirteen others dead, two dozen wounded, and a village shattered.
But we didn't stop there.
We were on that planet for nearly a year and a half, traveling across it's skies in search of any person that held any sort of power. By the time we were finished, the death toll counted over 1000, including 32 people that had held office.
Broken and powerless, the weakened planet easily fell to Lord Cynfael. He quickly drained the remainder of the planet of its magical capacity and we left.
It wouldn't be for a month or so after leaving the planet that I would finally get some answers from a graying woman that served as a nurse. She explained that Lord Cynfael was a demon of sorts; he drained magic ability and life energy and used it to keep himself young and powerful. That was what we hunted for... not money, not treasure, but magic. Every planet, I learned, had a natural flow of magic through relics or people or some other conduit. But no matter the form, it could all be transferred to someone else for his own use.
Lost in these thoughts, I had been absent-mindedly tracing the black symbol that appeared on my forearm back when I first came on the ship; harsh black lines that criss-crossed into something akin to a double sided arrow. It was a sign of the dark magical tie between me and the man that brought me here. Upon further inspection I had soon realized that everyone had the same marking on their arm, symbolizing either their loyalty to Lord Cynfael or their curse that keeps them on this ship.
Through this marking, the nurse had told me, he was able to transfer the dark magic to our bodies, also keeping us youthful and working for him. We were all trapped in our frozen bodies forever, ensnared in his web with no way of getting out.
A scowl snuck its way across my face as I looked back at my mirror image. Hundreds of years of working for that bastard, and I still looked the same as the early twenty-something year old girl he had found so long ago.
Eager for a distraction from this reality, I grabbed my katana from the corner of the room and threw the strap over my shoulder. I quickly pulled a compression sleeve over each arm, making sure to completely cover the black marking on my forearm. I couldn't bear to look at it when I didn't have to.
My boots made hollow tapping noises on the floors as I made my way to the training center. These one-on-one training sessions made everyday I spent in this hell worth it.
When I got to the center, a spacious, padded room located in the back of the ship, I was surprised to find that I was the first one there.
'They did say squad four, right?' I mused, trying to remember. My instructor and I had decided that if neither of our squads were called, we would have a lesson this morning in sword skills. He was on the first squad.
On the Suta Kasai there were four teams of fighters, with the most skilled ones in the first or second squad and the less experienced ones in the third or fourth squad. Depending on the threat level of the planets' inhabitants when we arrived, a specific squad is sent to carry out the mission.
I personally was on squad three, though I was easily one of the more skilled fighters on that team. My teammates often told me that I would be a great help to squad two, but I knew the real reason as to why I hadn't moved any further through the ranks. Lord Cynfael couldn't risk me getting hurt.
The one time I had brought the subject up with him, he brushed it off by saying that "the girls didn't need to be fighting for their lives".
There weren't many female fighters aboard the ship: most of the girls worked on the inside, as cooks or nurses or maids. Even then, the few girls who did fight were kept on the third or fourth squad.
A soft click of the door alerted me to someone else's presence, and I looked up to see my instructor walking towards me.
Kace, an incredibly talented swordsman, had been on the Suta Kasai longer than I had. He was technically a couple hundred years older than me, but physically the differences were only a few years.
He gave a small smile, his shoulder length platinum hair falling in his eyes. "Sorry I'm late."
I was instantly aware of my heart beating frantically in my chest, and forced my self to tear my eyes away from his before I started to blush.
'How unprofessional…'I scolded myself. 'You're here to learn!' To prove it, I pulled out my narrow bladed sword and turned towards him, holding it out for him to inspect.
With a quick glance, he nodded. "I trust your ability to keep your katana in good shape. You don't need me to inspect it for you." Before he pulled his own out, he smirked at me. "You look cute today."
Okay, now I was blushing. I looked down at my standard black and green training gear and met his gaze again. "I look like this everyday."
"Then you must look cute everyday."
I frowned, watching him inspect his sword with upmost caution. "Thanks." The banter wasn't entirely unusual, but it was sparse enough to catch me off guard each time.
I heard a low chuckle from him, and then his entire demeanor changed into a more fearsome opponent. His smirk dissipated into the strong scowl I had grown accustomed to and he fell into a fighter's stance, his sword pointed towards me.
After a quick deep breath I too crouched down into a similar stance, focusing intently on my form.
A glint of anger sparked in his aqua eyes, transforming him into the deadly, perfectionist of a warrior that led the first squad, and possibly the entire ship, in missions and kills. He was a completely different person when fighting, never accepting even the slightest failure. Sure, his techniques could be a little… harsh, sometimes, but it always got the job done.
A while back I had told him that I didn't want him to feel like he had to go easy on me, because I knew that the tougher the training, the better the results. Ever since, he held back only as much as was absolutely necessary, and I had quickly improved in speed and stamina.
Two hours into training, I fell to the mats from the sheer force of Kace's katana, clutching at my now throbbing shoulder where the butt of his sword had jabbed me. Kace had definitely stepped up his game this session, and I was doing everything in my power just to keep up with him. I had already received several hard blows from the flat of his sword and was becoming increasingly frustrated.
"Perhaps we should call it a day." Kace stated before I could get up.
I gave him a weak glare. "No, we should keep going just a little bit longer! I just need to…"
I was cut off by the sound of his sword sliding back in its holder. He shook his head and sat down on the mat next to me.
We sat in silence for a minute, me staring at the ground and him staring a hole into the side of my head.
"You're going to hurt yourself even more if you aren't careful." He quipped, a scowl returning to his face. "You need to be more patient in your fighting, and less impulsive."
The only answer I gave was a slow, thoughtful nod.
He sighed. "Why do you push your limits so aggressively? No matter what, you train until you are so exhausted you can barely get back to your room!"
I gradually lifted my gaze to meet his. "I need to get stronger. It's the only way I can ever get off this ship."
His eyes softened at my response. I knew he could relate to this feeling of being trapped here. He never showed any sign of it, but he wanted to be free of Lord Cynfael's clutches almost as much as I did.
"If anyone can get out, it's you." He held my attention, his eyes fading back into their carefully guarded, emotionless state. "You're stubborn enough to do it."
"I don't know…" I said, my voice receding to a whisper. "I feel as though if I were ever destined to escape this hell, I would have done so already." Heat started stinging the backs of my eyes and I tore my gaze away, refusing to let my tears show through and appear so weak in front of Kace.
A pale hand gingerly reached over and cupped my cheek, turning my head to face aqua eyes again. "Take a chance. You'll know when the time is right." He murmured, leaning his head so he was closer to me.
For a moment his eyes were far from emotionless as he started to close the distance between us, my own head tilting upward, bringing my lips even nearer to his.
I could feel the heat from his cheeks when a loud rap on the training room door jolted both of us out of the moment. Kace remained mere inches away from me, and I looked back up to his face to see the quickest flash of sadness pass through his features.
My heart started pounding wildly in my chest and the blush from before flamed furiously on my face. It took another knock on the door for him to back away from me, his poker face on, and turn towards the entrance.
"Enter." He said simply.
I quickly turned away from him, listening to the person who had just come into the room.
"Lord Cynfael wishes to speak with you, Kace." A familiar male voice said.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Kace nod, and a second later the door opened and closed again.
The two of us sat in silence once more, refusing to look at each other. After a minute or so, a feather light touch brushed my shoulders.
"Get some rest." Kace instructed, rising from the mats to take his leave. He said nothing more as he gathered his bag and exited, leaving me to tend to my bruises before returning to my room.
I slowly made my way through the halls, lost in thought. My mind kept bugging me about what had just happened between Kace and I, and about how exactly I had felt about it.
That had never occurred before. Ever.
Kace was always so guarded, so emotionless. He was viewed as one of the most professional warriors on board due to his detachment from anything that would get in his way. Sure the two of us had grown close over the decades through our training sessions, but I had never thought of is as more than a sensei to student relationship. Then again, it was hard to deny the tension between us.
My heart had always longed for it to be more. There was something about his stone-like façade that had intrigued me in the beginning, and once I caught a glimpse of what he was like without it, he became impossible to forget. The secrets he hid, the strength he possessed, the authority he commanded… in this world of dark magic and corruption, he was oddly the one person that made me feel secure. He made me feel safe.
Yet, I had long told myself that he was nothing more than a teacher to me, and I was nothing more than a student to him. On this ship, it was silly to try and be anything else. The cracks I witnessed in his marble appearance, more and more recently had to be his trying make a connection with his student, so he could teach me more efficiently. Only now did I let myself admit that he had been opening up to me this entire time.
A butterfly feeling swirled through my stomach at the realization, and I made a note to save the thoughts for another day.
'I have more pressing matters to deal with right now.' I reminded myself as I reached my room.
It just so happened that I opened my door to find one sitting right on my bed.
I blinked in surprise at the small person situated on the edge of my cot, her legs swinging off the side. It was a little girl, no older than three, with bright pink hair done up in two heart-shaped buns on either side of her head, and a curly ringlet hanging from each one. She had large, deep blue eyes that sparkled with unhindered innocence, a sight that made my heart ache.
The girl was dressed in a blue short skirt and collar, with a red bow centered on her chest and white gloves and boots. She wore a golden tiara on her forehead; a pink heart-shaped gemstone embedded into it, and had a similar pink heart brooch in the center of her bow.
She looked up at me when I entered the room and smiled, letting out a soft giggle.
I studied her arms before approaching her, relieved to see that there was no black insignia on her.
"Hello, sweetie." I smiled softly at her. "What are you doing here?"
She giggled again, continuing to swing her legs about.
My lips pursed together at the lack of response, and I decided to take a different route. "What's your name?" I asked.
"Chibi chibi!" The girl giggled.
I was incredulous at her answer. "Your name is Chibi Chibi?"
"Chibi!" She flashed me a cute little smile.
"Okay… why are you here?"
"Chi chibi!" Another giggle.
I chuckled to myself as I looked down at this little girl, a strange sense of warmth flooding my body. Whoever this was, she sure was special.
The girl suddenly hopped down from my bed and came over to me, tugging on my pant leg in an effort to get me to follow her. I obliged, and let her lead me to my window.
"Chibi!" The child whined, holding her hands up towards me.
I raised an eyebrow at her before I figured out what she wanted, and then bent down to lift her into my arms. Now level with the window, the pink-haired girl pointed through it, to an empty space outside of the ship.
"You want to go outside?"
"Outside!" She repeated.
I paused, unsure of how to explain to a three-year old that we weren't allowed to go outside, when she said something else that made my blood run cold.
"Kemyna… escape!" With those words a pulse of power flooded through her and to me, and I was instantly taken aback.
"I can't do that, sweetie. I don't know how." I turned the two of us away from the window and sat down on the edge of the bed with her.
She started squirming in my arms, and I could see the frustration on her face. "Chibi Chibi can!" She exclaimed. "Chibi Chibi can!"
'Go with her.' A voice flooded my mind. 'She is your chance to break free.'
"My chance…" I murmured, thinking back to Kace's words just earlier.
Tempted at the chance of freedom, my mind started convincing me to trust this strange child, to attempt escape. I almost couldn't believe I was still under my own power.
"You're saying…" I lowered my voice to a whisper as I spoke to the girl. "That you have the power to take me away from here?"
"Away!" She smiled, raising her hand to show me a flash of warm, golden light.
As if transfixed by her odd abilities, or blinded by reckless adrenaline, my mind had made my decision.
I would be going with her.
It would be the getting-off-the-ship-part that was tricky.
I had been pacing back and forth in my small room for the better part of three hours, putting together a small bag of things I wanted to take with me and trying to come up with a plan of escape.
The hardest part of the plan was getting off the ship without being noticed, so that we could get far enough away for the girl to use her powers.
Well, actually, that was really the only part to the plan. The rest was running and being stealthy and being stealthy while running.
Finally, finally, the speaker system wired through the ship buzzed two times, signaling that the kitchen would be open for suppertime in about a half hour. Everyone on the ship would be in their rooms, washing up from the day's events before going to get their dinners. It provided the perfect time for the two of us to get to the cargo's airlock chambers: the most sparsely guarded means of escaping.
Even then, we would have to wait there until the supper bell actually rang before putting the rest of the plan into action. Setting off the alarms when everyone was in their rooms, right next to their weapons and able to quickly gear up and attend to the issue was not a good idea. I was simply hoping that if everyone needed to first return to their rooms to get their weapons before responding, it would provide us enough time to get out.
I let out a long, tense sigh and slung my sword and pack over my shoulder.
The child, who I had resolved to call 'Chibi Chibi' for lack of anything else, sat patiently waiting for me in front of my door, smiling up at me the entire time.
"Are you ready, Chibi Chibi?" I asked.
She nodded and stood, placing her hand in mine so I could lead. She was, after all, a three year old child.
We swiftly made our way to the very back of the Suta Kasai, careful to make barely any sounds and avoid any people. I could feel myself shaking with nerves, but with a tiny squeeze of my hand Chibi Chibi sent a wave of warmth through my senses, calming me down.
We hid in the narrow hallways of the cargo center for what felt like forever, and with each passing second I grew more anxious. At last the sound system buzzed three times, which meant supper had started.
Chibi Chibi squirmed silently in my arms, hinting at the child's restlessness. I ran my fingers through her short hair, unwilling to say anything soothing to her out of fear of getting caught.
For ten or fifteen more minutes we were crouched in silence, and finally I decided that it was time.
I slipped around the corner, catching the two guards situated in front of the gate by surprise. With one precise blow Kace had taught me, I nailed the first man square in the nose, knocking him down and no doubt giving him a quick dizzy spell. The other turned to trigger the alarm, but luckily I was able to run down and tackle him to the ground before he could reach it.
Threading my fingers through his hair, I slammed his head on the floor several times until he stopped moving, unconscious.
Acutely aware of movement behind me, I whipped out my sword and swung blindly at the ground, making contact with the first guard and severely injuring his ankle.
He yelped in pain and fell back to the ground, while I ran back to Chibi Chibi and grabbed her hand, pulling her in the direction of the gate.
As soon as I hit the release button, the large door whirred to life and slowly started to slide open, but was also accompanied by a screeching alarm.
"Shit…" I muttered, squeezing through the barely open door with Chibi Chibi. It had been too good to be true, hoping to open a gate without an alarm. We only had seconds before someone came out after us.
Willing my feet to run faster than they ever had before, I scooped up the pink-haired child and started sprinting away from the ship, towards the clearing I could see in the distance.
The sounds of voices forced me to turn back and look at the Suta Kasai, and surprisingly enough a few soldiers had already started to chase after me, quickly catching up to my pace.
I was also shocked to see all the people that had already gathered at the bay windows, watching me attempt to escape. Up on the top floor's bay window, a familiar figure with platinum hair stood motionless, eyes fixed on me.
He saw that I had noticed him and gave me a slow nod, wordlessly wishing me luck. It was the last thing I saw before everything around me flashed white, and disappeared.
Thanks for all the love so far! I always appreciate it!