Sailor Moon Snippets Nineteen

(after SuperS)

 

Usagi peered at the spider with fascination. Mamoru leaned over her shoulder. She looked around at him and grinned, "Isnít it neat?" He smiled down at her, "I think youíre neat." Usagi blushed, then twisted around him and back to the walkway. She ran down to the lake edge and twirled about in the sunlight, palms upraised. Mamoru followed more slowly, watching her. She grinned at him, then reached down and picked up a couple of stones. She hefted them a few times, getting the balance, then smoothly brought her right hand around in an arc. The stone skipped in three long bounces over the still water before sinking. Usagi transferred the other stone to her left hand and shifted stance. When she released it, it bounced many times in a short space, then sank.

Mamoruís joy in watching her was abruptly stilled. He stood on the walkway and breathed out a sound that was not quite a sigh. Usagi turned, questioningly, and saw him. She paused a moment, trying to figure out the look on his face, then she laughed, "Mamo-chan. Iím still me."

He walked to her and put her hands on her shoulders, looking down into her blue eyes, "Usako. I know that. I just..." He looked beyond her to the lake, "You startled me."

Usagi leaned comfortably into his chest, "I am getting closer to Serenity. It feels... comfortable. Parts of me that I had not known." She smiled at his shirt, "Iím sorry I frightened you."

Mamoru moved his hands from her shoulders down her back, holding her close to him. "I donít know why I reacted like that, Iím sorry."

"I have to admit, I was experimenting -- I wanted to see if I really could. The spiderís web reminded me of some of lessons Raylia used to teach, and that reminded me of our first meeting... When I was little, Papa used to take us camping. He showed me and Shingo how to skip rocks, but I never got the hang of it. But while I thought about Raylia, I wanted to try." She pulled away enough to look up at him, "It must have been like seeing a ghost."

He gently brushed a lock of hair away from her face, "Usako -- if you can accept that I am Mamoru and Endymion, I think youíre allowed to be Usagi and Serenity."

"Umm..." Usagi turned around in his arms and looked out over the lake, leaned back into his strong support. His arms were clasped her around her waist and she took a moment to enjoy being held by him. My Love. "Itís a bit different -- youíre two people merging into one. Iím the same person, getting my old memories back." She laughed, "And I so wanted my Ďordinaryí life back. I would never have been whole." Her head dipped back until she could see his head leaning over to watch her, "And I never would have known how strong our love could be."

Mamoru smiled, his heart burning at the expression in her eyes. He gently turned her again to where he could kiss her. Around them, cherry blossoms fell gently to the ground, floating in the lake, drifting in the breeze.

 

Usagi walked into the Crown fruit parlor, humming softly. For once, she wasnít the last one there, and she slipped into the booth beside Makoto, who regarded her with a knowing grin.

"You were out with Mamoru, right?"

Usagi simply smiled.

Makoto laughed, then sighed, "You two are so absolutely perfect! Itís so nifty." She twirled the spoon around in her ice cream. "How come he hasnít joined us here lately?"

With a shrug, Usagi ordered her own milkshake from the waitress. "Heís awfully busy right now. Weíre getting ready for our High School entrance exams, but heís about to transfer colleges. Since the exam for Trosoko was... interrupted, I encouraged him to try for some of the more prestigious collages. Thereís a lot of requirements for them."

Makoto looked at her, "Like which ones?"

Usagi looked away, "Heís hoping Harvard will accept him. Heís working really hard on the required essay. And he needs about perfect grades with his current studies."

"Oh." Makoto ate her ice cream absently, trying to think of what to say. Before she could make up her mind, Rei came over and joined them. The waitress brought Usagiís shake and took Reiís order for chocolate covered fruit. Ami and Minako came in together, laughing. The group chatted together for an hour about anything and everything, before adjourning to go to the Shrine to start studying.

 

"When x is 5, then y must be..." Usagi chewed on her pencil and let her eyes wander off the paper. Beside her, Minako was drawing figures of dolphins jumping in the sea in the margins of her English book. Makoto and Ami had their heads bent together over a biology text. Rei had been called out by her grandfather to the temple to take care of some shrine business. Usagi looked back at the math book. Itís no use. I just havenít studied enough over the last year. I donít understand it, and actually I donít really care. She glanced at Ami and Makoto. But Iíll miss my friends. She grimaced, my parents will be disappointed. Her thoughts were going in circles. Usagi stood up and closed her book. The others looked up at her. Minako guiltily hid her drawings. Usagi grinned at her, then announced to the group, "Iím heading out -- Iíll see you all later."

"But Usagi..." Amiís voice trailed off as Usagi just waved at her and ran out the door. "What was that all about?" But nobody knew, so they all bent back over their books again.

 

Usagi rang the doorbell to Mamoruís apartment. The door opened almost immediately, and Mamoruís face lit up as he saw her, "Usako!" He stepped back and Usagi went in past him. "Whatís up, mi amiga?"

"Amiga?"

Mamoru laughed and headed with her to the living room, "Iíve been studying Spanish for the last hour or so -- it means Ďfriendí." His eyes dwelled on her figure for a long moment before he added, "Ti amo."

Usagi waited for the explanation of that one, but she waited in vain as he mischievously shook his head and grinned at her. He waited until she sat down on the couch, then settled down next to her, his body fitting comfortably next to hers, his arm draping across her shoulders, his other hand reaching out to play with one of her hair tails. Usagi eyed him a bit nervously -- when he was in one of these moods, sometimes it became very hard for her to leave his apartment. And she didnít really mind, but sheíd come to ask a question... "Mamo-chan -- would you still want to be with me if I donít get into Jahisu High School?"

Mamoru drew back and his hand stopped playing with her hair. "What?"

She bit her lip and looked out the window, her lips trembling.

Unseen by her, Mamoru lifted his eyes to the ceiling, before lowering his gaze back to her, "Usako -- Iíll still love you if you drop out and become a wandering player."

Usagiís mouth dropped open and she stared at him, "Mamo-chan! You donít mean that!"

The hand that had been playing with her hair reached over and took her hand. "Of course I do, Usako. It doesnít matter if you can calculate Algebra sums or write Judarian Essays. What matters is your dreams and your sparkling eyes. What matters is the way you love everybody and see them with your open heart. What matters is the way you embrace life and let everybody share it though you." He brought her hand up to his lips, "I like you just the way you are -- and that doesnít include studies!"

Usagi started laughing.

Mamoru lowered her hand, "What?"

"Do you remember when you told me to be more serious and that Andrew had to be nuts to like me the way I was and I just sat down in the street and started crying?"

Mamoru flushed beet red. It wasnít one of his prouder moments. "Sorry..."

Usagi laughed harder, "Weíve come a long way since then."

"We have." Mamoru settled back on the couch and looked at the wall across from them, remembering some of their early meetings. "You know -- I always did kindof like you."

"You did?" Usagi blinked, "But I was so rude and obnoxious to you!"

Mamoru smiled, "That was just it. Iíd had more than enough of girls who simpered -- you always treated me like a person. And you were always so happy. Just seeing you coming around the corner would lift my spirits."

Usagi stared at him, "But you called me Ondongo!"

"I didnít know your name!" Mamoru laughed, "Usako -- I wasnít used to having a friend who was a girl. I never knew what to say." He looked down at her, "And you were so cute when you got mad!"

"Iíll show you mad, you..." Usagi picked up the couch pillow and twaked him with it, laughing.

Mamoru fended her off and grabbed another pillow. For a while, the only sounds coming from the apartment room were thumps and laughter.

 

Usagi left the apartment, whistling happily. She knew that Mamoru liked her, and that was all that mattered. But if he goes to America, I wonít see him for a long time. As the doors of the elevator closed in front of her, she stared at her reflection in them. If I donít get into Jahisu, I wonít even see my friends that much -- theyíll get in clubs and other stuff to take up time after school... And Iíll be flipping through maps of America, wondering how I could get my parents to let me go. Usagi grimaced at her reflection, "If I donít get into Jahisu, my parents wonít let me do anything." She sighed -- more than the grounding, she hated the thought of letting them down. Mamoru might understand, but her parents didnít.

She wandered down to the Crown Arcade and absently tried out a few of the new games. Since Andrew was also studying hard for collage transfer, heíd given up his part-time job here, and it just wasnít the same place without him. After a few minutes, she gave up on the arcade and headed down the street, walking aimlessly. Eventually, she ended up at the entrance to the Fire Shrine. She stared at it a moment, unsure of how she got there, then a grin appeared on her lips and she walked up the stairs.

When she got to the top, the other four girls and Luna and Artemis were all hanging out in the courtyard. Minako and Makoto were tossing acorns back and forth, Ami was laying on her back on a bench, chewing on a wheat stalk, and Rei was arguing with Artemis while Luna looked on. They all looked up when she walked up. "Usagi-chan!"

Ami sat up from the bench, "Are you feeling better now?"

Usagi felt the love and friendship from them and smiled happily, "Mina... Itís good to be with you all." As she walked to them, a sound distracted her and she looked to the trees.

A bit louder, her name repeated with the sound of rustling leaves, "Usagi-sama sama-ma-ma."

Usagi blinked, "Echo-chan?"

The thin, graceful form of her friend came out from among the trees as if she were a wood-sprite. The dark purple flowers on her green kimono matched her dark hair and wide vibrant eyes perfectly, and the stillness that surrounded her explained why no one had see her standing there. Echo walked up to Usagi, her eyes moving constantly around, seeing the avenues of escape. The other girls remained as quiet as they could, except for Makoto, who approached her and held out the acorns she held. Echo smiled at her and accepted them, her long fingers deftly taking the acorns from Makoto without touching her hand. The offering having been acknowledged, Makoto backed away and stood next to Minako.

"Usagi-sama. I have come to tell you that your desire has been heard. There are a great many people in this world who are aware of all you have done for us, and some wish to make their gratitude known. gratitude-tude." The green eyes looked seriously into Usagiís blue eyes and a slim hand held out a package of envelopes. Usagi took them, bemused and wondering. Echo smiled suddenly, and the expression lit up her whole face and showed the incredible beauty that normally hid there. When she spoke, her voice had lost the reverberating quality it normally had, and was stronger, "Usagi-chan. When you get a chance, Iíd appreciate it if you could drop by the shop -- I havenít seen you for awhile." She hugged Usagi quickly, as a wild animal afraid to stay close for too long, then she waved to the other girls and walked down the steps. The rustle of leaves came faintly back to them, "Good-bye! good-bye-bye-ye-e"

Minako brushed her eyes, "That lovely child. My heart just aches every time I see her." Makoto and Rei sighed their agreement. Ami bowed her head briefly. Luna and Artemis traded glances, not able to see what the Senshi did. "Whatís in the package, Usagi?"

Usagi stopped watching the stairs and came closer to them, turning the envelopes over in her hands. "Thereís one here for each of us." She passed them out, and opened hers. She read the letter inside and wasnít any the wiser, but a gasp of inhaled breath that almost choked Rei told her that someone understood them. "Rei?"

"By the flames of the holy tree..." Rei stared at her letter, mesmerized by it.

Ami looked up from hers, "The Kunanota Shrine. Isnít that a very old one? I remember that Professor Trimbeís notes indicated that heíd studied there briefly."

Rei sat down on the bench. "Thatís all anybody studies there -- is briefly. They rarely, if ever, bring outsiders in. They are one of the most reclusive shrines, and one of the holiest."

Makoto regarded her letter with suspicion. "So why have we all been invited to spend a week there? And why now?"

Minako turned to Usagi, "What exactly was your Ďdesireí?"

Usagi blushed, then regarded the letter again. It invited her to come to the Kunanota Shrine and spend a week studying there. It indicated that others would also be there, and that her parents and teachers would be notified. It was less of an invitation than a summons. But the phrasing indicated to her, "I wanted to get into Jahisu with you all."

Reiís eyebrows about climbed out of her head. "It isnít school work they teach."

"And we only have three weeks before the exam."

Usagi shrugged, "Thatís the only thing Iíve really been wanting for the last day or so."

A shout from around the corner interrupted them, and they looked up to see Reiís grandfather coming towards them. Tears were streaming down his face as he smiled. He took Reiís hands in his, "Rei-chan! This is an honor. This is such a very great honor." He kissed her on both cheeks, "I knew you would do our shrine honor, and you have exceeded my expectations and I am so very, very happy for you and Chad."

"Chad?" Three voices spoke as one.

Grandpa waved his own letter, "He was invited as well, as my apprentice after Rei-chan."

The group traded glances, but decided they couldnít speculate about it right then.

 

"So, what have you found out?"

Makoto slipped into the booth and looked around the group. "I found three more people who had also been invited. But for a different week then ours."

Luna tapped her tail on the table, "That makes 23 people so far. 12 for our week, and another 11 for the week after."

Makoto looked at Usagi, "So what did Echo say?"

Usagi shrugged, "She didnít want to talk about it, but she did ask me if I didnít think that it would be rather obvious if it was just the five of us." She sipped her milkshake, "You people worry too much."

The others looked at her with some exasperation. Usagi had come a long way in the last two years, but they still thought that she needed to take things more seriously.

"So who are the other seven with us? Chad, of course."

Rei listed them out on her fingers, "Chad, Mamoru, Neru, Umino, Shinozaki--"

Makoto spat out the sip of tea sheíd just taken, "What?"

Rei nodded, "Yes -- Shinozaki got an invitation too. The last two are Peggy and Greg."

It was Amiís turn to drop her spoon. "Greg???"

Minako bit her lip to not laugh.

"Does anybody see anything odd in this group?"

"Beyond that we know them all?"

"Thatís what I was getting at -- all close friends of ours."

"Also, nobody except Usagi and Minako need any help with school work! So we can rule out that connection."

Usagi finished her milkshake and stood up, bored with the concerns of the group, "Weíll find out or not -- Iíll see you all later." She left the group with a wave, knowing the looks and comments that were following her departure, but not really caring.

 

Two days later, they were all on a train heading out beyond the hills. Ami read one of the books sheíd brought. Makoto sat with her face pressed to the window, watching the scenery flash by. Peggy sat across from her and her pencil flew over sheets and sheets of paper as she tried to capture all the beauty. Shinozaki sat near them and watched both the scenery and the two women. In another compartment, Umino, Greg, and Mamoru made up a small group with open laptops and obscure conversations. Close by, Neru and Usagi giggled together while Minako played with the two cats. Rei and Chad had gotten closed compartments as Grandfather had given them both some exercises that he wanted them to complete before getting to the Shrine. The miles went by as the hours passed on.

 

Multiple stops and one island later, the train reached the closest town to their destination. Everybody stretched and headed out in an attitude of either caution or enthusiasm depending on their nature. When they were all on the platform, a man in a flowing saffron robe came up to them. He was about the same height as Makoto, lean and fit. His shoulder-length black hair was solid, but he didnít look young. Neither did he look old. It was hard to put an age on him, for the most notable feature about him was his brown eyes that seemed to reflect the timelessness of the stars. There was an inner peace about him that flowed out and brought the others in. He smiled gently at them, and his attention focused on a certain young blonde girl. "Usagi-sama," he bowed low to her, hands folded at his chest, "it is good to meet you at last." Flustered, Usagi gave a half-curtsey that ended up looking fairly graceful. Those who had expected her to trip were thankfully surprised.

"-sama?" Umino questioned, but Neru poked him in the ribs though she was swallowing a grin of her own.

The man addressed all of them, "I am called Heraku in this place, and I will be your guide to the Shrine. Once we are there, you will each be introduced to your Sensei for your time here. Thank you for coming, for accepting our invitation. Our lives are the richer for your coming to us, and we appreciate this opportunity to share with you."

A few more basic courtesies were exchanged, and all the group felt instantly comfortable with him. He helped them load their suitcases into a cart, while the donkey turned its head and watched with betrayal and resignment. Usagi, Neru, Peggy, and Makoto instantly made friends with the gentle creature, while Shinozaki did as well in a quieter manner. Heraku squinted at the sun and announced that they would be able to make it to the Shrine in time for the evening meal. In general, the group looked dismayed at the amount of walking this time-frame indicated, but no one was as brash as to make any protest, and they settled into the journey with the same happy expectation that had filled the train ride.

As they walked out in the hills and along the winding path, Heraku talked about the Shrine and his own life with it. He answered their questions in general but refused to say exactly what they would be studying. "Each person will learn in accordance with where they are on their own path." He told them about the oaks and the willows as they passed by. As they got closer, the trees lining the path were larger and older. Some of these were planted by students of the Shrine in another age, and he would tell their tales, such as Shingin Tosami, who ninety years ago had been an outlaw that had come to rob the Shrine of the Dragonís Eyes, but instead stayed to learn from them and when he had learned his path, he came back into the world of men and joined Interpol, where he rose to the rank of Inspector General and caught the infamous arms dealer, Luital Hassam.

"I remember him! Heís in the Interpol Memorial, and Casey said he was the best officer heíd ever known. He studied at your Shrine?" Minako was delighted.

"He did." Heraku correctly interpreted her next question, "Many of our us do not talk about their lives outside the Shrine, out of a sense of gratitude. The learning that we receive while at the Shrine is to be used on our paths for the betterment of all, but only those who need the Shrine will find their way here. Not all require our training at this turn in their path."

"But you sent invitations to us?"

He smiled, "Of course, some need to be prompted..." He changed the subject as they passed another ancient oak, to tell the story of a very reluctant student who end the end, had the oak with the strongest roots.

When they got to the shrine, they were gently but firmly separated and led off to their individual rooms.

Minako looked around her at the bare walls within the small room. She placed a hand on the back wall, which was natural stone. Iím on the wall of the mountain face. A shudder went through her body as she thought of the cave system where she and Artemis had found Lunaís capsule. Then she went out to find dinner, leaving her thoughts behind her.

"Oh, I have to sketch this!" Peggy promptly dropped everything but her notebook as she walked to the window in her room. Her pencil was in her hand even as she spoke, the craggy summits being recorded forever in her mind. As she sketched, a nose, beard, then a closed eye made its way into her picture and she was impressed with the sleeping power of the spirit of the mountain.

Mamoru gazed at his room, disturbed in some way he couldnít define. Plants kept appearing and disappearing within his grasp as he tried to pin down the wrongness. Then he walked forward and ran his hand over the picture on the wall. Itís not a wrongness Ė itís a rightness. Too right. How did a picture from my childhood as Endymion end up in my room in a twentieth century shrine?

Fire dominated Reiís room. Not only did the fireplace extend the length of the room, but there were lit candles in every nook, on every shelf. The only decoration was a symbol of fire. Rei breathed in and relaxed. For the first time in a very long time, she felt comfortable. The only thing missingÖ A rattle of glass interrupted her musting, and she walked to the window and opened it. Phebos and Dimos flew in, scolding her for taking so long. They perched on a shelf that was scarred with claw-marks, and they started eating the grain that was in a pocket on the shelf. Rei laughed out loud. She knew logically she should be suspicious, but it all felt right to her.

Shinozaki listened to his room as he sat on the bed. Heíd unpacked his clothing and now was waiting for a summons. Somehow he felt there would be one. In the meantime, he listened. Listened, and waited.

"Neru!" Usagi bounded into her room. "Neru-chan! Have you seen this place? Isnít it just the niftiest?! Thereís five different chime sets in my room! My parents would never even let me have one! And the cutest little fountain set! Thereís a strip of rabbit wallpaper around the top Ė all the letters of the English alphabet in the most adorable rabbit forms, and Ė" Neru let Usagi rattle on, smiling at the exuberance of her friend. She was happy to be here with her. It didnít really matter how or why, it had been so long since she and Usagi could just be friends. Neru understood, about the Senshi, and why Usagi couldnít tell her since she wasnít one of them, but all Neru had ever wanted was to give her support to her friend.

"Oh, wow!" Umino sat down at the computer and immediately got online. "Theyíve GOT to be fiber-optic linked! Man, this is great!!" The time went by. A ping reminded him of dinner, but he ignored it. Suddenly, the system went dark, and a single message scrolled across the screen, "GO TO DINNER." Uminoís mouth hung open. Finally, he closed it, "I guess I am at school after all."

Chad looked out his window, staring down into the valley below. He wasnít a naturally quiet person, but this valley seemed to calm him. He picked up the guitar that had been sitting next to his bed and strummed it. He sat down and stared at the lit fireplace. Without his willing it, his fingers started to pick a calypso that merged into his favorite part of the Fantasia Para Un Gentil Hombre. Then the fire took his music and wrapped it around itself.

The water was warm. Ami closed her eyes as she trailed her fingers through the fountain. She opened them to look out at the snow covering the hill outside her window. Water and ice. And which part of either have to do with being a doctor? Ami was going to sit down but found she couldnít bare to leave the fountain. So delicate and strong. Contained, yet free. Is this my lesson? Am I suppose to learn from this? Or just enjoy?

Makotoís fingers trembled as she picked up the portrait of her parents. She quickly put it down before she dropped it. Her hands rose to cover the tears as they started down her face. An arm went around her mid-back and a voice spoke comfortably, "Itís all right Makoto-san. They didnít mean to upset you." Mako turned, "Greg." He smiled at her, "Itís all right. Theyíre going to help us. All of us." Makoto grinned weakly, "I donít think Iíve ever seen you quite so happy, Greg." Gregís smile grew wider, and he flung out his arms in an expressive gesture, "Oh, Makoto-san. You donít know yet, but you will. This place, these people, they are Good!" He sat down on her bed abruptly, "Iíve seen the Evil," he shuddered, "and I tell you, these people are Good in a way that I can only compare to Usagi-san. They will teach us to be ourselves here." Mako smiled, and sat down beside him, "Just what we all need." But her words, though light, were very serious indeed.