Sailor Moon Fan Fiction ❯ Holding out for Everything ❯ This is the Girl ( Chapter 2 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
Chapter 2
This is the Girl

Whispering softly through the room, a soft breeze gently caressed the face of the young girl still laying in bed. She wasn't asleep but there was nothing in the world that was reason enough for her to get up any faster. The bed was much too warm, and the world much to cold. Unfortunately, her governess didn't agree with this line of thinking, and the Lunarian Princess found herself stripped of her warm blanket and exposed to the teasing breeze. She tried to huddle closer to her pillows and sheets, but it didn't help.

“Come now, Serenity, you're a young woman, not some temperamental child. Get out of bed this instant.”

The words were lost on Serenity as she tried to fling one of her large feather pillows over her legs. The new blanket was torn off as well though, and used as a weapon against her bottom.

“Luna, it's early,” the young girl whimpered, and vainly tried to protect her bottom from another wallop.

“Yes, the perfect time to get up. You don't want to keep your mother and her guests waiting for you with breakfast, do you?”

“They can eat without me.”

“Serenity, you know very well they can't. You're to be their next queen, and not too long from now! You cannot give them a bad impression right from the beginning.” Luna put the pillow back on the bed next to Serenity's head. The last comment seemed to have clipped the princess' tongue, since nothing but silence filled the room. Slowly, the royal legs slid to the edge of the bed, and within moments Serenity was up. Soon to be queen or no, her suddenly sullen demeanor was impossible to miss.

“I don't care what I wear today,” she finally said. Luna smiled at her and went to fetch a gown from her wardrobe. Serenity wandered over to her small balcony. From her vantage point she could see the gardens through the glass of her closed door. Her stomach twisted into a knot as she thought about leaving this place. She was still angry with her mother for having sold her off to these strangers, giving her to them like some sheep or cow to marry their oh-so-gallant-and-wonderful king. There were good intentions behind the actions but Serenity was convinced her mother had not tried hard enough to find some other way. She didn't want to leave. She wanted to stay and enjoy her life, not be packed off to another kingdom and wed before the next turning of the moon.

"Here we are, we'll put you into this. Wipe that sour look off your face, Serenity, or your guests will think you already had a breakfast of lemons." Luna's humor was lost on Serenity as she slipped out of her nightgown and into the cold fabric of the offered garment. Once her back was laced up, she sat down in front of her vanity and allowed Luna to run a comb through her silvery hair. The attention to her locks seemed to calm her down a bit, as it always did, and soon she felt her eyes closing. Luna finished quickly though and wrapped Serenity's hair in the two buns with flowing pigtails she always had.

"Why do I have to go, Luna?" Serenity whimpered as she stood from the stool and slipped into a pair of soft white slippers. All Luna did was sigh as she guided Serenity into the small bathroom and waited for her highness to brush her teeth. Together they then left the room and walked down the corridors of the palace to the dining room. Luna was relieved to see that they were not the last two to arrive as all who were present rose and offered the princess a bow or curtsey. All together there were only about ten people in the room. Queen Selenity sat at the head of the table looking calm and collected, her eyes sparkling when they saw her daughter. Both women had similar features, though Serenity's face was more untamed and innocent.

"Serenity, it's good to see you this morning. Come sit down." At her mother's beckoning, Serenity did come and sit at her right hand.

"My Queen, you hospitality has been absolutely splendid, but I fear that soon I shall have to be returning back to my Lord." The man who had spoken had thinning brown hair and rugged features. Serenity would have guessed him to be in his late forties. He had come with the army her 'betrothed' had sent, leading the troops and fighting in the battle himself. He looked much cleaner now though, more so than when he had first come in from his long journey all covered in sweat and dust and smelling of horse. He wore a clean green tunic with a silver studded belt about his hips. However, even the clean clothes and washed hair couldn't make him look dignified. No, that wasn't the way to put it. He had an air of dignity about him, that much was certain, only he wore it better in iron studded armor than in a silver studded belt.

"Yes," Queen Selenity said softly as servants began carrying breakfast into the hall. "I had hoped you would be staying longer, but since you have taken all the counsel you need with myself and Artemis, I can see you being anxious to go back to your king. Very well, when will you be leaving?"

He looked uncomfortably from the queen to his own future queen. "Tomorrow, before the rising of the sun."

Serenity saw her mother's spoon falter in its path to crack a hard-boiled egg. "Tomorrow? That soon? I had hoped you would stay for three more days at least." The spoon hit, the egg cracked, and the man winced.

"My Queen, as much as it pains me to leave so soon, I fear I must leave on the morrow. There are still many rebel troops from Prince Diamond's army about, and I was ordered to return to my King as soon as the battle here was finished. Also," he paused for a moment as he picked up a silver fork, "it is vital to get the Princess to safety as soon as possible."

Serenity watched her mother take a spoonful of egg and swallow it before setting her utensil down. "Of course, General. You must forgive a mother's heart for its weakness. Serenity is my only child, and the thought of her leaving is a bit unsettling."

"I can understand, my Queen,” the general said before clearing his throat and placing a strip of bacon in his mouth.

There was an uncomfortable silence in the room for a few moments. Serenity felt as if she wasn't even there; they had been speaking about her as if she was an inanimate object, and now no one even glanced at her. It didn't take long for the silence to stretch to the point where every cleared throat and clanked utensil seemed deafening. Serenity nearly jumped out of her skin when her mother spoke.

“I trust that the high waters in the mountains won't be a problem for you. The rivers run high this time of year usually.”

“We’ll make sure to pass only where it’s safe, your Grace. We found a few rough spots on the way here, but nothing we couldn’t circumnavigate easily enough.”

The Queen nodded before finally noting that there were other people present. Her eyes fell on Serenity’s untouched plate. “Not feeling well, my dear?” she asked gently. Serenity brought her eyes up to meet her mothers, peeling them from her cold breakfast. Biting her lip, she pushed her chair back a little. “May I please be excused?”

“Of course. Luna, take my daughter to her room and see that the doctor take a look at her. I want her feeling her best for the trip tomorrow.”

Serenity stood, curtsied quickly, and was out of the room within a few short breaths. The sound of Luna’s steps fell in behind her right away as she hurried to her room. She ignored everyone that they passed who bowed and curtsied, rushing instead to the sanctuary of her own bed.  As soon as she reached it she collapsed onto the soft quilt and buried her face in the pillow, finally allowing her tears to flow freely.

“Your mother ordered me to go get the doctor,” Luna said quietly from the door.

Serenity let out a short bitter laugh as she turned her tear-soaked face to look towards the door. “Do you really think,” she whispered, “that a doctor is going to be of help to me?”

Luna’s gaze melted as she shut the door and walked over to sit by her princess and slowly stroke her back.

The day was cool and overcast. Serenity kept expecting it to rain but as evening approached the sky cleared a bit and stars could be seen peeking through the clouds. Standing on her balcony, surrounded by chests and boxes full of her belongings, Serenity felt heartsick and irritated. She had spent a good part of the day trying to visit places and people she loved, while at the same time avoiding her mother. She knew it was the last day she would see her in a long time but she didn’t care. It was her fault she had to leave after all.

Her room had been quiet for only a short while. All afternoon servants had been bustling about, packing her things and preparing for the departure. Now the room seemed too quiet and empty. She had wanted to go on a ride through the city, to see everything one last time, but that small pleasure had been denied. The city was still trying to clean up from the attack, she was told. Nothing was in order and there might still be some enemies lurking about.

Well, it was her last night in her kingdom and she wasn’t going to just sit about and do nothing. Grabbing her cloak, she padded out of her room, walking quickly down the hallway. With her hood up over her head, she made her way with little notice, receiving only a few stares from guardsmen. The palace was unusually busy for the time of night, but it was also housing a significantly increased number of occupants and they were getting ready to leave the next morning.

Serenity reached the kitchens and scurried past, heading to the door near them that lead out. She wasn’t too keen on trying to exit through the main gates and hoped she would have more luck here. She approached the small gate that was her exit from the palace walls and was stopped by two young soldiers.

“What is your business leaving here?” the shorter of the two asked her. He had stubble growing on his chin and looked weary. Serenity gave him a smile.

“One of the ladies is craving some spiced lemon tea and we’ve run out of the saffron she likes to add. I was instructed to go out and find some, but the kitchen doesn’t have any either.”

The taller soldier sighed. “Women. Nothing simple can keep them happy I tell you. Always has to be something special.”

Serenity bit her tongue as the shorter man scratched his chin lightly. “Which lady is it, Lass? I’d wager it’s that toothy dowager that seems to have her nose in everything,” he sighed before placing his hand on his hip. “Either way, all the shops out there are closed, the ones that weren’t burned to the ground anyway. You best get back and try to sneak in something else into her drink.”

Serenity sighed. “I know a few merchants who I’m sure wouldn’t mind me stopping in after hours, please I—“

“Princess Serenity!” an unfamiliar voice called out. “Princess, I was hoping I’d get a chance to speak with you.”

Both of the soldiers and Serenity froze. They stared at her with puzzled expressions as she dug her nails into her palms and turned around to watch a lean man walking towards them. His wavy brown hair was long and looked too luxurious. His strides were smooth and long as he approached them, a smile gleaming on his face. “I saw your Grace leaving your quarters when I was coming to have a moment. I apologize for following you out here, but I didn’t want to miss the chance for a few words.”

Serenity bit her tongue as she tried to resist the urge to stomp her foot in frustration. “And who are you?” she asked sharply, feeling rather annoyed that her ploy to escape the palace for the night was foiled. She could hear the two soldiers behind her move. She turned and glanced at them and saw them both sweeping her deep bows. Despite their respect for her, they would not let her pass now. Her eyes went back to the newcomer who was also sweeping her a bow.

“Your Grace, I am General Nephrite of the Imperial Army of Terra. You have my apologies if I startled you.” He glanced at the two soldiers who were straitening up. “A lovely evening for a stroll, you had a magnificent idea. May I accompany you for a stroll through the gardens?” He held out an arm as he finished his sentence.

“It would be my pleasure,” she replied coldly as she took his arm. She could feel his warmth through the fabric of his coat. He led her slowly towards the pathway leading to the garden, matching his steps to hers.

The palace gardens were beautiful even this late in winter. The snow had melted a few weeks before and soon small plants would start popping out of the ground. Glow orbs were set up on poles all around the garden, illuminating the pathways and small gazebos. Small patrols roamed the grounds, keeping the late-night strollers feeling safe.

“Your Grace is most indulgent for giving me a chance to have a brief audience,” Nephrite said smoothly as they walked. “I fear I may have sidetracked your original plans. I do apologize.”

Serenity grimaced as she pulled her hood down off her buns. “What is it you wanted to talk about?” she asked shortly as she watched the path ahead of her.

“I wanted to thank your Grace for being so understanding and having such courage,” he remarked as he laid his hand over hers on his arm.

Serenity turned her head and stared at him. “Understanding? Courage? Where did this come from?”

“Your Grace is leaving her home and country. It’s not an easy thing to do. Your Grace is most wise and understanding to do such a thing for her people.”

Serenity felt tears prickle her eyes but she pushed them back. “I really have no choice. It’s my duty,” she replied bitterly, but stopped herself from saying more.

Nephrite led her until they reached a small clearing with a paved sitting area with some benches. Serenity could see the shadowy walls of the garden close to them with magnificent trees growing on the inside. She used to love climbing those trees when she was younger.

She’d probably never get to climb them again.

“Your Grace, his Majesty is not unkind, and he is understanding. He does not wish for this agreement to cause you grief. He will do all he can to keep you happy and safe.” He led her to a bench and let her sink down onto it.

“General, keeping me happy would mean keeping me here, at home. As for safety, well… I am going, aren’t I?”

Nephrite smiled gently as he sat down next to her. “Must the two be mutually exclusive?” he sighed as he pulled out a ring from inside his coat. “His Majesty asked me to give you this, a symbol of the unity you two will share. It was his mother’s and her mother’s before that. If anything should ever happen, it will be an express key to get you into Terra and to the palace there.”

Serenity picked the ring up from his palm. She slid it onto her finger. It was quite loose. “I’ll find a chain to put it on,” she said quietly. “I’ll lose it otherwise.”

“As you wish. I’m sure it won’t be a problem finding a jeweler later to make it fit.”

Serenity stood. “You’ll excuse me, General. I should get a little sleep at least before tomorrow. If there is nothing more, I’ll be heading back to the Palace.” Her voice was tight and left no room for argument.

“As you wish, your Grace,” Nephrite said as he stood up too and offered the princess a bow. Serenity nodded and turned. She hurried down the smooth stone path, keeping her eyes low when she passed the soldiers patrolling the grounds. When she reached the hallway leading to her room, she sprinted for the doors, her hair streaming behind her. Suddenly the solitude and emptiness of her room was very welcoming, and she sank down onto her bed.

She wasn’t entirely sure what the purpose of General Nephrite’s stroll and talk had been but she was glad to have had some friendly company. She laid her head down as she stared up at the ceiling of her room. Morning would come too soon, and she would need at least some sleep.

It didn’t come easily though but she had expected as much.

Wind rustled the leaves gently in the trees as Nephrite watched the young princess disappear down the garden path.

The breeze stopped but the rustling continued for a few moments more, followed by a light thud. Nephrite could hear Mamoru’s footsteps getting closer from behind.

“So that was her? That girl?”

Nephrite nodded. “That was the princess.”

Mamoru stopped beside the young General and crossed his arms across his chest. “She seems rather young.”

“She’s seventeen and will be eighteen before summer is over,” Nephrite replied. “Not so young to be a child but still… stupid, if you’ll pardon my saying so.”

Mamoru chuckled. “Aren’t all young girls?”

Nephrite snorted. “You have a point. Well, it’ll make your job all the more difficult,” he replied before clapping Mamoru’s shoulder. “Nothing you can’t handle though, right?”

“Right,” he replied with a small smile. “I’ll do what I can. I’m anticipating my job to be easy though with the retinue she’ll have along.”

“I hope it’s as easy as you expect.”

“Me too.”

There was a moment of silence as the two men stood still, lost in thought. Mamoru was the first to turn. “I should head back and get some sleep. You sent the things I asked for to the tavern?”

“Everything should be to your liking. I’ll have my messenger deliver your letter to your village within the next couple of days so they know not to expect you back.”

Mamoru nodded. “Thank you, I appreciate it. Take care, Nephrite. I hope we don’t meet any time soon again.”

Nephrite chuckled as tossed his hair over his shoulder. “I’d like to say the same. Farewell for now.”

The two men parted and each exited the garden the way he had entered.

I do not own the rights to Sailormoon or any of the characters. That honor belongs to Naoko Takeuchi, and I am simply a lowly author who can use her characters for my plots.

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