The Darkest Road
by Notre-Dame-des-Fleurs

Episode Two: Memories of a Childhood I

* * * * * * * *

Part of report from the Shitennou Archive (S. A.) main bank in the Castle of the Sun, dated 5th day of the 7th moon, A. P. 649:

"Birth of Nephrite. Event took place without greater complications. Mother and child are presently in good health. Mesala-san exhausted, but no aura/life energy-problems detected. About forty percent of his power bound up in mostly Earth-related spells. His magic seemingly a bit different from Kunzite's, and not as strong. He has been placed under the care of the staff along with his comrade."

* * * * * * * *

Note from spy located in the Castle of the Sun to spymaster on the Moon, dated 8th day of the 7th moon, A. P. 649:

"The last rays of the sun might be beginning to blaze."'

Deciphered meaning: The last leaving of Amaterasu might be activating; abnormal energy has been noted in the Holy Grail.

* * * * * * * *

Official declaration by the King Endymion XVIII of the Golden Kingdom of Earth, dated 17th day of the 1st moon, A. P. 652:

"Let all people and all gods share our joy that the Player of the Harp in His grace has gifted us with a son and heir. Crown Prince Mamoru Endymion was born yesterday to the happiness of the entire realm, strong and beautiful with gifts of hope for the future. His mother, my lady-wife Queen Relisiana, is also in good health. Let all people and gods also praise the Player, that the third Child, the Tennou Jadeite, was born this morning."

I stood over the lavish cradle, stroking the soft face of the baby resting in it. "Mamoru," I whispered, for which time in counting I did not know. I spoke the name in wonder, marveling at the wave of love that rose in my heart with it.

I had never imagined myself as a mother. As a warrior, yes, and as a ruler, perhaps, but not as wife and never with children.

A Sailorsenshi did not generally have a family, after all. And a century ago, less, I would have been given the henshin wand instead of the ring, would have sworn faith and loyalty to the Princess Serenity of the Moon Kingdom and not to the King Endymion of Earth.

A century, however, was a long time ago these days. The world was changing, and changing fast. The kind of arranged marriage that I had entered had been unthinkable two generations ago. They were still disliked, but nobody doubted their necessity nowadays.

I was proud, had always been proud, and from my first years of living I had been taught to serve my realm - when it turned out that the greatest service I could do it was not becoming a solider, as I had always thought, but to become Queen-consort of the Earthen Kingdom, I had had little choice but to consent. Young I might have been, but my kingly brother would not and could not have forced me. He had never had the need for such measures.

Upon being told that my greatest sacrifice, my foremost duty, would be swearing to spread my legs for a king instead of taking the oath of never opening them for any man, I had calmly accepted. Any fool could see that my brother was married and would have royal children of his own to inherit him and take up the wand, and however disappointed I might be, I was not stupid. I was the sole princess of Mars, and I knew to do what had to be done.

I had fulfilled my duties well enough now, having given birth to a son older than the Moon Princess I would otherwise have served. And I realized, standing here lovingly over the child I adored more than I would ever have thought possible, that I, by doing this and loving like this, had lost the ability to be as calm and calculating and cold as was needed for the Head of the Shitennou Committee.

* * * * * * * *

Funeral speech by the High Priest, dated 14th day of the 7th moon, A. P. 654:

"It is with great sorrow that I find myself compelled to announce that such a cold and cruel hand as that of death has plucked the fairest flower in the garden of Earth, the Lady Tolina. Her beauty and spirit both were a joy for us all, just as her courage to take it upon her to give birth to the fourth Tennou. I am confident that it would ease her heart to know that the child has been successfully transported to Lady Mesala.

"Few, if any, manage to keep such cheerfulness and strength in the face of the Night as did she, and it is a loss not only for us, but also for the Light itself, that she is now gone. It was typical for her, though, to go of riding despite the pregnancy. A broken neck is unhealable, but your courage and spirit, Tolina-san, are unkillable. May the Player and His Harp grant you a reincarnation as light as yourself."

* * * * * * * *

Extra report in the S. A. filial in Yedo, dated 3rd day of the 4th moon, A. P. 654:

"The second Tennou seems to be having dreams with at least partly prophetic content. Presently, a majority of them are thought to be nightmares; he is apparently so used to the others as to not think about mentioning them. He has been instructed to retell what he can of them, but more often than not he is unable to remember much about them. He mentioned a road through darkness and a girl, but was unwilling or unable to give details."

I didn't make much difference between the world of dreams and the world of reality, but I was very much aware that I would never be able to find this place in the waking world. Examining my surroundings curiously, I discovered them to be vaguely familiar, as though seen in a previous life. It appeared as though the dream that had been teasing me for so long had finally manifested itself.

The soft, warm glow enveloping me, the warm pulsating as that of a heart - how many times had those sensations flown elusively through my mind, always a step ahead of my searching thoughts? Night after night had I awoken at this point, but I knew that I would not this time. Even though, unlike some of the others, this particular dream held no elements of threat, it was a deeper, more urgent feeling than mere curiosity that drove me onwards, into the strange landscape.

And suddenly there was a sound behind me, the sound of sunlight falling over a smiling sea, a girl's voice shyly saying, "Konnichi wa."

The simple greeting called out to me in a way that nothing ever had before. I turned towards the speaker as though be-spelled, faced an angel born of that same sunshine her voice had held within it.

In front of me stood a creature of Heaven, ageless and naked, shining so brightly as to force my eyes away from the searing light that enveloped her like wings of divinity.

She was a mirage, a sleeping child's dream, and yet I knew I would never get over her, nor my first desperate love for her.

"Watashi wa Naru," she said, letting me hear once more that wonderful voice. "Anata wa Nefuraito. Kore wa Yume. Anata no yume. Watashi no yume."

I felt her step closer, take hold of my hand, as she said, "Watashi-tachi no yume."

The light had faded, softened, and I looked up into a landscape that had not been there before. Saw a girl who differed not slightly from my closest memory. Without the cloak of sunshine she was surprisingly ordinary in appearance, or so I thought until I realized, dumbstruck, that she held no magic within her. For a human, she was the most beautiful, most perfect creature ever in existence. But her looks (which are easily changed in dreams anyway) mattered little, really, because when she smiled...I knew with a certainty I had never experienced before that she was perfect, gorgeous. An angel.

She began to talk again, but I didn't understand much Nihong, and though I had grasped the previous sentences, I was lost within moments in the stream of words now leaving her mouth.

"Sumimasen," I interrupted her. "Wakarimasen."

Her hand, not a shimmering of white fire anymore but a small warm human limb, placed itself gingerly on my forehead. I trusted her to take whatever she wanted from my mind, and the intrusion was little.

"I am sorry," she said, the words foreign in her mouth and coming out with a strange accent. "I have never used another language before. You are most welcome here, Nephrite of the Stars."

"Arigato," I smiled, speaking in Nihong as much as I could manage because the modern language didn't quite sympathize with the loveliness of her voice. "Demo...Koko doko? This is no ordinary dream."

"Of course it is not," she replied, a touch of amusement in her innocence. I couldn't decide if I should rather be glad that I could understand her or disappointed with the sounds themselves. "It is ours."

Spreading the skirt of the simple white dress she now wore, she folded her legs beneath her and sat down in the light green grass. She looked to be fourteen, maybe fifteen, and wavy red hair fell around her heart-shaped face. "Will you sit with me? I am not very used to this; the only company here is my mother. But I felt it, at once you were born, that you would be the one to come here too."

I sat down immediately, wanting nothing but to make her happy. "Who is...your mother?"

"I think the humans called her Amaterasu."

And with that utterance, a great lot of things fell into place in my head. So we are in the Grail, inside the pure heart crystal of Amaterasu Omikami! And this girl, she must be...

"Yes," she said. "When the Queen of Heaven gave up her pure heart to create a weapon and shield against the darkness, she was expecting me. As I was yet unborn, and as I was embedded in so much of her love, my soul was placed here inside the Grail."

She laid a hand on the ground, and the grass vanished again, baring the warm glow of before. "This is my mother," she said, and I could indeed feel the love of mighty Amaterasu in the light. "But," she continued, and there was a shadow over her face, a darkening of the laughing green-blue of her eyes, "this is also my mother."

And in a vision of whirling darkness I saw what I knew to be my fate, my destiny of insane evil far beyond description. In the midst of it, her mouth drawn into a grin of pure viciousness, stood a woman painted in blood and black. Most terrible of all was the fact that I could almost find her beautiful.

Around and over her fell waves of intense evil, and I knew her to be a queen of hatred under a queen of the Eternal Night. A scepter was in her hand, and in the crystal which crowned it I could see a road through darkness so massive as to make the color black appear bright. I couldn't make out if there was an end to that road, if there were any light or hope where it stopped, or if it would come to halt in the same misery that it had started.

Then, through all the numbing hopelessness and agony that filled me, glowed a weak star of care; blinking confusedly, I found myself having fallen backwards and lying panting on the ground, Naru's hand holding mine tightly, her face pale and worried as she leaned over me. The darkness was gone, and slowly I felt the freezing fear dissolve in the embrace of warm love that once more surrounded me.

"Daijoubu ka?" she whispered, and I managed a reply that I was fine, she need not worry about it.

"She scares me too," she admitted. "But she cannot reach us here. Not yet, at any rate."

"But she can't be Amaterasu," I cried, desperate to believe that such was the case. Failed, when my companion nodded sadly.

"She is. When a person has her pure heart crystal extracted, she looses her life, but not immediately. For a while, she remains alive as an impure, detestable creature. And before Mother's body had died, she became possessed by a demon Queen. She is outside the Walls now. She will get in one day, because she is still partly human, and the Walls were never meant to keep humans out."

"It can't be..."

"Iie," she said, after a slight hesitation, and I knew she was lying. "It need not be so."

"Perhaps it need not," I said with a touch of grimness, "but it will."

"You do not have to see it," she said. "You will only dream the future if you choose to believe your visions true. If not, they will cease to come."

"What about you?" Dark fates notwithstanding, that was the thing that mattered most.

"I am not exactly a dream. I will be born one day, when the prophecy is fulfilled."

"Prophecy?" I asked.

"The Words of Choice," she answered. "There is a small passage in them about me; When humans of rock walk and rock of human approaches; in the Sun's Heart she rests, the one who can be called to life in exchange for a star. Love she brings, and with that love the heart shall be lost until found by a greater heart."

My thoughts were racing with the words, but she interrupted them before they could reach any real conclusion.

"I fear you should go back now. It is almost morning, in your world."

I felt the dream begin to dissolve around me and called out a desperate, "Matte yo!"


How can I stand to leave you?

"Will I remember? If you are born, will you be a babe? When will she come?" The questions tumbled out of me, but her smile was warm, like a burst of sunshine on an autumn day.

"You choose yourself what you are to remember.

About my birth, I am not entirely certain - as you can surly understand, I have never been born before. Still, this is a dream, and therefore it is controlled by the dreamer. The only thing I cannot change is my age. I think that this is how old my Mother was when she chose to forsake her humanity and become the Queen of Heaven. Thus, I think I will have this age.

As for Beryl and the demons... I do not know. I merely pray that it will be a thousand years and more before they arrive.

Mata ne."

And with those last words the dream faded.

I sat bolt upright in the bed, staring for a moment at the faint starlight falling in through the window. With a probably quite sheepish smile plastered over my face, I raised a hand a placed it on the cheek she had touched during those last moments of farewell. I was far too excited to even contemplate falling asleep again, and so I threw the blankets aside and jumped out of bed, making my way carefully through the room in order to not alert the nurse.

There really weren't many people whom I could ask without being thoroughly interrogated, and I had no desire to open my heart for any of the teachers. Instead, I padded over to Kunzite's bed and shook his shoulder, whispering his name. Perhaps it wasn't so much that I hoped to get any information as that I needed someone to talk to. Fortunately, Kunzite had always been an easy sleeper.

"Nephrite," he mumbled, so quietly that I had to lean forward to catch the words. "What...?"

I climbed onto his bed, praising my luck that he was obviously too curious to dare curse when I landed ungracefully on his legs.

"Sorry," I said, speaking as quietly as I could.

"Never mind. What is it?" he asked, drawing up his legs so that we could both manage to arrange ourselves in at least semi-comfortable positions.

"Have you ever heard of Beryl?"

"Let me think... Wasn't that the name of Amaterasu before she became the Sun Goddess?"

Oh. It seemed Kunzite really did pay better attention at the lessons.

"Do the words In the Sun's Heart she rests, the one who can be called to life in exchange for a star; Love she brings, and with that love the heart shall be lost until found by a greater heart mean anything to you?"

"Not really. They're part of the Words, if I remember correctly, but apart from that..." He shrugged. "The Sun's Heart ought to be the Grail, or possibly the Castle of the Sun, but that much I fear is obvious. Why?"

"No reason."

"Come one, Nephrite, you don't honestly think you can wake me up in the middle of the night to ask weird questions without explaining yourself?"

Well, that had been pretty much what I'd thought. I know it was dumb, but I hadn't been thinking all to clearly then. By the way, hadn't Naru said it would be almost morning?

"I really should go back to bed now."

"Oh no, you don't." I tried to slip away, but he gripped my arm and wouldn't let go, and within minutes both of we tumbled to the floor with a loud thud. It was a given that that alerted the nurse, hence it wasn't long before I was in for the third degree despite my precautions.

I wasn't good enough at lying yet to get out of it without having to tell them anything, but I did manage to keep the most important parts to myself. I'd always detested the idea of people I didn't trust going through my secrets; my mind was mine, and no one should dare intrude without my consent. Naru and Beryl, especially, were far too intimately entwined with my heart and my destiny respectively to be willingly surrendered. They got the girl and the road through darkness, but after that, thankfully, they left me alone.

* * * * * * * *

Part of report from the S. A. main bank in the Castle of the Sun, dated 14th day of the 7th moon, A. P. 654:

"The fourth child has been born without complications. Mother well, child small but healthy. Magical powers the weakest of the four. Yet, the power of the Shitennou has given us a greater break from the Eternal War than we have experience in the last half-millennia."

I stood uneasily, my back all but pressed against the closed door, Nephrite in a similar position beside me. There was no obvious reason for our tenseness, the room seemingly empty, and well furnished besides. The problem was that it was not quite as desolate as it looked; that one piece of that furniture was a cradle.

I sighed. "Darkness take that blasted woman."

Nephrite nodded in vivid agreement. "I wish."

And then we simply stood again. Nephrite's mother doubtlessly deserved a cruel fate, although perhaps not exactly the one we had just discussed. Seriously, to push us through the doorway and lock behind us before we had a chance to protest, leaving us with the exhortation to "acquaintance your new comrade".

"Oh, dammit," I muttered at length, boredom at long last claiming victory over the fear of babies that seemingly possess all boys. "We might as well take a look at him."

"I guess. Preferably before he starts screaming or somesuch."

Still, Nephrite did not move, and so I took it upon myself to cover the few feet's distance to the cradle.

Fortunately the baby seemed to be sleeping, and thus not probable to start being noisy. It was a very small child, even I, with my minor experience of babies, could see that. Small and pale and delicate.

"Zoisite, huh?" I muttered. "He certainly doesn't look like a soldier."

Nephrite, finally approaching and coming to stand on the opposite side of the cradle, gave an amused smirk.

They claimed that becoming a Tennou was, in some aspects, a conscious choice, that our unborn souls had chosen it. I wasn't sure if I believed them or not, but I definitely couldn't image a more unfitting body for a soul which had decided to become a solider."

"I suppose we'll simply have to hope that looks can indeed be deceiving," I mumbled, searchingly touching a fingertip to the baby-soft skin of Zoisite's cheek. "Or what do you say, little one?"

I realized my mistake - though, strangely, I couldn't regret it - when shimmering emerald eyes blinked open. There was...something...about the look in them that caught my attention. I didn't know what, but there was something that made this Zoisite very special.

It was only subconsciously that I registered Nephrite saying, "Now you've done it."

I did, however, notice him giving me a strange look when I blurted without thought, "Lady Tolina really must have been as pretty as they say to get a baby like this."

My mind was brought back into acute awareness as one of said child's surprisingly strong hands caught in a strand of my hair, pulling hard. Sharp pain assaulted my scalp, but I couldn't even be angry with him. Gods in heaven, I was smiling like an idiot.

Nephrite laughed at the scene, obviously far too amused to offer any assistance. Irritating and painful it was to say the least, still that vacant smile did not leave my lips as I bent to the troublesome task of freeing my hair from Zoisite's grasp. They had been vividly green once, those tresses of mine, but were bleaching out rapidly, now having a color somewhere midway between white, silver and turquoise.

"Seems we won't have to nag for a puppy anymore, hmmm?" Nephrite teased.

"He's a baby, Nephrite, not a pet. Moreover, he's supposed to become our comrade. It would probably be good if you could start treating him like that." I didn't now why I bothered, or why I cared at all, and was too surprised by it to stop my rant. "Besides, I can't remember ever asking anyone for a puppy. More to the point, puppies are cute. Babies are not."

"Oh? You seem pretty taken with him non the less."

And with those sparkling verdant eyes staring so intensely at me, I somehow couldn't find the heart to deny that.

* * * * * * * *

Message from spy stationed in the Moon Kingdom to spymaster on the Earth, dated 7th day of the 6th moon, A. P. 655, deciphered form:

The Eternal Night has vanquished the Moon asteroid called the New Moon by corrupting its Queen, Nehelenia. It is rumored that she went to Elysion to lay claims on both Helios-sama and the kinzuishou, but was denied and turned away. She has now been banished from inside the Walls by the Queen Serenity, but had at that point already placed a curse of young death upon the newborn Princess Usagi Serenity. May the Harp save us all.

Leaning my head against the cold glass of the window, I felt frozen to the core. Not the Princess, I screamed and cried and begged inside my mind, praising the Light that it was so easy to maintain an inscrutable expression when in the form of a small black cat.

Though it shamed me to admit, I was hiding. If the queen saw me like this, or Artemis, they would know, and with the knowledge of them knowing, I would break.

Ever since coming here, there had been nothing in my life but the line of Selene, the unbroken procession of Serenity after Serenity, the line that must not be broken.

The queen presently inhabiting the monarch's quarters in the Palace of Moonlight had never married; her child's father was a well-kept secret. Hardly surprisingly, it was rumored that it was the Moon itself, or perhaps the ginzuishou, that Serenity had conceived with, but I, a woman myself and well used to the corridors of power and deceit, held the shadow-shrouded visit of Helios for a much more probable explanation, though naturally I agreed in official situations that the princess was the fruit of a bodiless miracle.

I did not believe the queen aware of my guesswork, and would prefer to keep it that way, as I was quite confident that Serenity would not appreciate my knowing. I knew that I wouldn't have, had I been in her position. And indeed, that was half the reason for my hiding.

Since my coming here, the Serenitys had become my family, my mother, my daughter, my sister and best friend. Diana was a pain and a grief, too few sunny memories and far too much horror, but I held myself for strong, and I had gotten over that. Insomuch as I was able, I lived on. As for the man I'd married happily almost two hundred years ago... Artemis was a knot somewhere in my chest, but a warm one, almost comfortable in spite of the troubles it sometimes created with my breathing. I knew myself well enough to admit that I would miss it if it were to disappear. Though however one looked at it, a knot was still a knot.

Artemis was expected back this evening; had not been here yesterday night, when so much darkness had forced its way into our lives. (Don't let the Princess be cursed, oh please not the Princess...!) He was on Mercury, if I remembered correctly, and I had no illusions as to what he was doing there. Though in all fairness I could not, at this point, claim that I minded him giving away the parts of his love that I could no longer receive. Half his heart was mine, half at least, and Diana would always reside in it - if he needed or wanted to spread the rest out between other women, it was not for me to judge.

What bothered me was not his whereabouts, but my own. It was illogical, ridiculous, yet I could not help but feel that I had sinned and the princess been punished. Great events were born from small happenings, and if I had been here, if I had said something, done something... But she was supposed to be safe! She must be safe, please, don't let her...

Resolutely silencing the rambling voice in my head, I turned to face the evening that so hunted me. I remembered it with perfect clarity, could recall every detail as though it had been frozen on the inside of my eyelids.

It felt as though I stood in the doorway once more, my heart pounding with something more than the anticipation which filled me. Then, after smoothing out my skirt with a motion that would have gone for nervous if preformed by a younger person, I stepped into the room.

I recognized the smell of him at once, though it was incomparable weaker when felt as a human. What I planned to do here with him now was not something for which my feline form was appropriate.

I had contemplated this action for a long time, fought a war inside my mind. I had no right - I had failed my home world, failed my family, failed myself, could not risk doing anything that might intrude upon my absolute devotion to the Serenitys. But there was that strange heath to my heart, as though it had awakened again after a long sleep.

I had earned it, I thought suddenly, had paid for this sudden, unknown pleasure with my sweat and tears spilled over the last century in other people's service.

It was strange, almost disturbing, that all those arguments became irrelevant, a meaningless, forgotten noise in the back of my consciousness, as fast as I laid eyes on him. But they did, and surprised I found I could almost take pleasure in that.

He was sitting on the bed, bare-chested, his back to me, when the sound of my footsteps made him turn. My heart was not merely beating now, but pounding. I wondered if it showed.

"Luna," he said, and there was a smile in his voice. "Such serendipity."

"Yes." Holding out my hand towards him, I admired his movements as he neared. I'd given myself to him once before, but that had been in a rush of fire, a passionate and rare moment when I was caught off guard by his presence. He could not have dared to hope that I would allow such intimacy again.

But there was something special, surely there was something special, when such a hero's heart was beating in such a plain human being as he. Though I must admit that my scientific interest had soon taken other forms.

And now there was most certainly something special, for he was holding my hand, and kissing it, and his other arm encircled my waist, the fingers catching in my hair. What was I to do but wrap my own arms around his neck and finally cover his mouth with mine?

His face glowed with the kisses I'd covered it in, his blue eyes displaying a heat at odds with the coldness of the color; I was trembling, melting, and then finally, finally, the last clothing fell away, and I was buried between the bed-sheets and the hard warm body moving over me.

It was eons later that I leaned over him, felt his finger trace the lines of my face, and said, "Kakeru."

"Yes?" The hands never stopping their discovering.

"There is a child."

"Oh," was all he said, but that one syllable was all that was needed. It was fuller of joy, even, than the arms wrapping around my waist and pressing me closer.

More eons still had gone by when I reentered the palace. With that first step inside the castle, though, time had stopped. Surrounded by near-hysterical servants and counselors, I made my panicked way to the queen and the little princess. I dismissed most of my companions during the brisk walk, and so there was nothing but the doorframe to support me when at length I reached my goal.

Feeling close to retching, I stared at the wasted room.

The Queen Serenity stood tall and white in the midst of it, her regal nobility making the chaos of destroyed furniture and ripped fabric all the more surreal and horrible. The great mirror above the mantelpiece was dark and unreflective. And beneath it, in the white silk of her cradle, the princess screamed.

Pressing my free hand to my mouth, I was tormented by the screaming children. Children screaming, Diana screaming, Usagi screaming, a child screaming...

That was when I felt the last of my children leaving me.

The Queen Serenity took no action; I had no way of knowing if she noticed the blood running down my legs. Moving my hand from mouth to stomach, I was absently glad that my skirt was long enough to sweep over the floor and cover the mess that would come.

It was a child that I would have liked to keep, but the world was not as I would have liked it to be. That was how it was, and how I should never have allowed myself to forget that it was. In any case, all of that is over now.

I wondered how many people there were who knew. There was no privacy in a palace such as this, so the all but scandalous news of my miscarriage must be out now. Some people would believe it, and some people would not, but every one of them would hear. I sighed.

Artemis would come tonight. Only by blinking could I keep the tears at bay.

He would take it upon him, of course, in that aspect there would be no trouble.

But he would ask, two things might he ask, and I did not know what I would answer to either one. The first question was one I could refuse with comparable ease, as the child and Kakeru were my secrets exclusively. Neither belonged to him, and I could answer that, though kindly.

It was the second question that panicked me, left my mind empty and trembling. But surely, surely, he would not dare ask if I loved him...?

No, I thought, calming at last. Of course he wouldn't. Or-

Let go of it. Shaking my head slightly, I let my thoughts led the way back to Kakeru.

I had paid for him as well now, paid fairly though unwittingly for his seed with the blood of our unborn child.

* * * * * * * *

return to Index / go to Chapter 3

The Nephrite and Naru Treasury