Continuing Tales

The Ties that Bind

A Sailor Moon Story
by Firefly-shy

Part 17 of 30

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The Ties that Bind

Hotaru opened her eyes.

Her eye sight was still dazzled by the flutter of bird's wings - she thought she still felt them on her face, even though everything around her was still and quiet. She looked down and discovered to her discomfort that she appeared to be kneeling on a solid mist. She gingerly stood up, brushing her skirt off and her knees - her stockings were torn at the knee (Michiru-mama would be displeased). That thought stopped her cold.


Her voice sounded loud to her ears - it echoed off of the nothingness around her. The atmosphere was cold, but she didn't feel cold. She puffed a breath out and saw mist - but still - even in her jumper and stockings she felt quite comfortable.

She considered attempting a transformation, but a small disturbance in the atmosphere caught her attention. She spun around and found herself looking at a tall woman with dark eyes.

"Don't be afraid," the woman said.

Hotaru took in a deep breath and said nothing.

The woman walked toward her, slowly, her black cloak seemed to billow behind her like slick wings.

She stopped about a foot away from Hotaru and inclined her head down.

"Hello, Hotaru."

"How do you know my name?"

It was difficult to meet the blank black stare, but Hotaru did it.

The woman smiled.

"I have known you for a long time. In fact, though you may not remember it, I once gave you a present."

"Me? Are you sure?"

Hotaru's little face was quite skeptical - it seemed to amuse the woman - she chuckled, softly.

"I'm very sure."

The woman looked around suddenly, as though someone had called her name. Then she held out both arms - and as Hotaru watched in surprise - a huge black crow appeared behind them, flying in the darkness. It lighted on the woman's outstretched arm and sidled up to her shoulder, nibbling softly at her long, snake-like black curls.

Hotaru felt something slimy touch her ankle and just stopped herself from yelping - what looked like a silver snake slithered past her, as if the mist were water. It slithered up the woman's pale leg and curled itself around her neck.

Closer to it, Hotaru saw that it was an eel.

"These are my servants," the woman explained, nodding respectively to the crow and the eel: "This is Corvus - and this, Angula."

Hotaru frowned in thought.

"Then, the wolf -"

The woman's face darkened.

"Yes, my pretty Lupia has been wounded by your guardians...almost unto death."

The sadness with which she said these words surprised Hotaru. The woman was sincerely concerned.

"Shall we go to see her?"

Before Hotaru could answer the mist around them blurred, then cleared. She hadn't felt herself move - but suddenly she knew she wasn't where she had been before. Even though the mist looked the same - it didn't feel the same. She caught the dark eyed woman watching her.

"Yes," the woman said, nodding to herself, "Very few understand the Mists - but you do, don't you?"

Hotaru wasn't sure, so she said nothing.

The woman took a few steps to the side and beckoned for Hotaru to follow her. The mist along the ground dissipated slightly - she could make out a form - bulky and awkward on the ground. She peered closer and then jumped back, involuntarily. The wolf lay on the mist, breathing shallowly and unevenly - whining softly to herself. Her golden eyes were closed very tight.

"I fear for her," the woman said, "Though she will not die, yet I do not have the power to wake her."

Hotaru crept a little closer to the wolf. She did look less frightening now that she wasn't snarling at Michiru and Haruka.

"Will she be alright?"

The woman smiled sadly.

"I do not know."

Hotaru's hand twitched. An idea presented itself to her.

The woman broke in on her thoughts:

"But you wanted to know what my gift was to you," she said, "First question comes first, eh?"

"What is your name?" The question came out before Hotaru knew she was asking it. But the woman didn't seem angry.

"I have a great many names," she answered, "But you may call me Morta."


"I am the goddess of Death."

Hotaru stared up at her. This pale woman, with her coiling black hair and completely black eyes - this was a goddess?

Suddenly, without her will - her hand began to glow a bright purple - like the light of her transformation. Am I transforming? she wondered, alarmed - but how could she without using her wand?

The light faded and she found her glaive in her hand - the cool bite of steel and the heavy weight were a familiar comfort. But to her surprise, she was still wearing her original clothes. How had that happened? She looked up at Morta and understood. She, Hotaru, had not summoned the Silence Glaive - Morta had.

"I'm sorry if I startled you," Morta said, "I haven't seen my glaive in many years."

"Your glaive?"

"Yes," she smiled, "It was mine, after all. Oh, but don't look so worried, dear Hotaru...I never take a gift back once it's given."

Hotaru stared at the glaive - the weapon she'd had since...well, honestly she couldn't remember.

"This must be rather confusing," Morta continued, "I don't suppose you remember receiving it - well, you were only a baby at the time."

"I've been a baby often," Hotaru observed, rather wryly.

"Yes - but it is your fate after all."

Hotaru stared at the strange being before her for some time - thinking deeply.

"In the Silver Millennium, you mean? Is that when you gave it to me?" she asked.

Morta shook her head.

"Oh, no, you had held it for eons before that time."

Hotaru felt her knees grow weak.

"Perhaps I ought to explain more slowly," Morta mused, "Though I wanted to help you while I still have time."

"Why? Is something going to happen?"

Morta simply watched her for a moment. Then she sighed and said:

"You are so young, Hotaru. I didn't expect you to be so young still. But then, children with even the slightest bit of mortality in them seem young to me."

She stretched out her arm and the crow opened its wings, hopping off of her arm to circle once above her head and then disappear.

"You see," Morta continued, "You are my chosen avatar - once you and I were very close, but...time does tend to dampen memories..."

"I am your avatar?"

"Oh, yes. I chose you at the beginning of time - you who are half mortal - like your sister, Pluto."

"Pluto? You mean Setsuna-mama?"

"Is that what you call her? How interesting," Death smiled.

"What is 'half-mortal'?"

"It means that you are neither a god, nor a mortal - your soul travels a different path. I can never die, but only continue to exist as I am, unchanged - but you might say that because of that, I do not exactly live either. Mortals must change, live and die. But you who are both and neither are changing and unchanging, deathless and dying. It is why every time your body perishes you are reborn. It's part of your nature - you are the Soldier of Death and Rebirth."

It was a lot for an eight-year old to take in, even a precious one. But Hotaru was nothing if not logical - she needed all the facts.

"And, Setsuna-mama?"

"Ah, yes. Chronos chose Setsuna to be his avatar when I chose you - and she is like you - she cannot permanently change. But unlike you, the consequences of her nature are that she will never age past her prime - the age at which she reaches maturity. If her mortal body were destroyed she would simply reincarnate into a new one. Similar to you, but different."

"What about the others? Haruka-papa and Michiru-mama?"

Death chuckled at her questions but seemed pleased at her avatar's inquisitiveness.

"The others are chosen avatars of their gods, but they are not like you and Pluto. Before their births in the time of the Silver Millennium they had never previously existed, and their powers are passed through bloodlines (in the case of the Moon avatar) or simply through the will of the gods - whereas, you and Pluto have been with us since the dawn of time and mortality. But do not be sad, your princess has given you a truly amazing gift - the immortality she will bestow on them will ensure that they will always be with you. You will never have to know the pain of their separation from you."

Hotaru's eyes were wide - her breathing came in deep gasps - normally such revelations would have overwhelmed her - but she felt, somehow, a calm beyond her age, something that assured her that Morta was telling the truth...

"But, this is not why I chose to speak with you," Morta observed, her face growing serious.

"Even though this is the future meted out by the Moon goddess, it doesn't mean you won't have to fight for it to come to pass."

Hotaru nodded. She was ready - her small hand tightened on the Glaive.

"I cannot be with you much longer - and there is much you will have to do without my help. I wish it were otherwise, but even the gods make mistakes sometimes, Hotaru - terrible mistakes."

Hotaru grew paler, but only tightened her grip on the Glaive.

"Tell me."

"You are so brave, little firefly," the goddess smiled, "That is why I chose you."

"Now listen, carefully. There is a darkness that invades the minds of even the gods, and once it takes hold, it cannot be stopped from its dreadful purpose - to devour everything in the Universe. You've felt that presence before - you know it."

"Chaos," Hotaru whispered.

"The same. She has dared to enter the gods' realm, from which she was banished - she has found the crack in the wall, and crawled in like a serpent. The guardian of Fate -"

Suddenly Morta flinched, as though in pain - her entire body trembled and the eel around her neck shuddered and slithered down her arm.

Hotaru took a step toward her, but stopped. Morta held her off with a warning hand, then seemed to regain control.

"Be careful, Hotaru, not to touch me." Death warned, "You mustn't."

Hotaru nodded, and took a step back - wondering at what could make the goddess of Death pale.

"You are about to meet my sister - she calls herself the Phantom Queen."

Hotaru's eyes grew wide.

"Yes, she is the one who commanded your capture. You must resist her, Hotaru, no matter what she asks. And you must not let her capture the Moon goddess' avatar - she will try everything she can to convince you to help her - but you must not -"

Morta broke off, and her face twisted in pain. Hotaru took a step forward.

"Stay back!"

The command froze her in her tracks. She watched as Death writhed and panted, then forced herself to straighten.

"I have so little time. Forgive me, Hotaru. Remember to have compassion. If you can, try to find the Guardian of Fate - he can -"

Death broke off again, and this time the pain seemed too much; Hotaru watched helplessly as the goddess collapsed to the ground - suddenly becoming transparent.

"I must go, Hotaru," she murmured, "But I am glad I was able to see you again. Take care of the Silence Glaive."

"I will, goddess!"

Death gave a small smile, even as her body faded into the mist.

"Be brave." her whisper echoed in Hotaru's mind, long after the goddess's black eyes were gone. She was alone again.

She heard a low panting, and realized the wolf still lay a few feet away, languishing.

Shouldering her glaive, Hotaru approached the animal cautiously, kneeling down next to its head. It didn't seem to heed her or even know she was there. Letting the glaive rest on the ground, but keeping her hand on it, she let her other hand rest over the Wolf's head. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and concentrated. On her forehead, her symbol faintly glowed as light sprang from her outstretched hand and covered the Wolf's body.

After a few moments Hotaru opened her eyes and let out a long sigh. The wolf's breathing stopped entirely, then its eyes snapped open - it gasped. Hotaru struggled up and away from it as it lunged clumsily to its feet.

Hotaru raised the glaive across her body and the wolf whirled on her, staring at her with its large golden eyes.

"Did you...wake me?"

It took her a moment to realize that the Wolf was speaking, and not growling. She nodded.

"You are the one I was sent to capture, child?"

Hotaru nodded.

"I see...what is your name?"


The Wolf approached her, slowly, sniffing in her scent - touching its nose to her glaive and then the hem of her skirt.

"Hotaru," the Wolf said, "Thank you."

There was a low sound in the air, like the bubbling of a brook - the wolf growled, but not at Hotaru. Instead Lupia put herself in front of Hotaru as the mist around them began to swirl.

"What is it?" Hotaru whispered.

"It mistress."

"But I thought that the goddess is your mistress."

The Wolf snorted.

"She is."

"But then..."

The low bubbling sound became a low laugh...the mist glowed a faint red. Hotaru held her glaive up, and felt in her pocket for her wand.

Out of the mist, a pair of glowing red eyes emerged - eyes shaped the same as the Death goddess' eyes. The curling, coiling red hair wound around her head, and down her back. A loud caw came out of the mist and the crow lighted on her shoulder - but Hotaru thought it did so most unwillingly. Only the eel seemed not to shrink from the red haired woman.

She looked down on Hotaru and smiled - a smile that sent shivers up Hotaru's spine. The Wolf growled low in her throat.

"Ah...I see Death's avatar before me," the woman spoke, "Very good. Lupia, I was told you had failed, yet I see that I was misinformed -"

The eel suddenly began contorting, flailing as if being electrocuted - it dropped to the ground and lay still for a moment. Hotaru hoped it wasn't dead.

"Angula knows better than to tell me stories," the woman tsked, "But no matter. Come here, avatar."

Hotaru stayed precisely where she was. The woman only smiled.

"My sister has warned you, I think," she said, "That was very foolish of her."

"Who are you?" Hotaru demanded.

The woman seemed to loom over her, her smile growing larger.

"I am the Phantom Queen."

"What did you do to Morta?"

The Phantom Queen threw her head back and laughed. Hotaru didn't appreciate the joke.

"Can it be that you have never heard of us?" the Queen asked at last, "Can it be that you don't know? How amusing."

The Wolf's growl deepened. Hotaru began to feel frightened for the first time.

"Look here," the Queen replied - her eyes glowing in the gathering darkness. She lifted up her hair from her brow and Hotaru watched the faint symbol flash in lines of fire on her forehead - it was the shape of three crescent moons - each facing away from the other, but intersecting into a strange, sharp pattern.

"Do you understand now, little shinigami?"

Hotaru frowned and raised her glaive - pointing it at the Phantom Queen.


The Phantom Queen's blood red lips grew into a sour pout.

"I am a goddess too, you know. I'm not sure what you think that toy will accomplish."

"Stay back."

"As you wish," she seemed indifferent.

"Corvus, Lupia, Angula - I ordered you to find the avatar of the Moon. Where is she?"

"We will capture her," the eel replied - its voice was haggard and thin, but clear.

The crow said nothing, but watched the Queen with black eyes - eyes that reminded Hotaru of the Death goddess. Why were her servants obeying the Phantom Queen?

"If you did something to the goddess," Hotaru spoke up, "I will punish you! I am her avatar."

"Yes, I know. That's why I brought you here."

The Queen looked down on her with an expression of disgust.

"Separately you are useless, but once I have the three avatars I will be able to control our power all the time."

'Our' power? - Hotaru puzzled. Riddles within riddles.

"Do not come back until you have captured Selene's avatar." the Queen ordered, "Lupia, guard the child while I am gone."

She didn't wait for a reply before disappearing.

As the red glow faded, and the eel and crow departed, the Wolf relaxed.

"Don't worry," Lupia said, "I will protect you from her."

"What did she do to the Death goddess?" Hotaru whispered, pulling the glaive tight to her chest so that she could hug herself and keep her hand from shaking. The Wolf noticed her movements and reached its head out to nuzzle her hand.

"She is the Death goddess."


Hotaru's purple eyes were wide with confusion and shock.

The Wolf regarded her dolefully.

"They are the triple goddess," Lupia replied, at last, "The Morrigan, the Moirae, the Parcae, the Norns...whatever mankind have called them...they are three separate goddesses, but yet they are one goddess entire."

"The Spinner, the Alotter, and the Shearer. The Weaver, the Measurer, and the Inevitable one. The full moon goddess, the half-moon goddess, and the dark moon goddess. Creation, Fate, and Death..."

"Oh, no." Hotaru leaned her head against the cold metal of the glaive - trying to make herself wake up.

"And we are bound to serve them." Lupia sighed.

"Which one is...then...that was the goddess of Fate?" she asked, finally.

Lupia nodded.

"She has a darkness in her," the wolf spoke, "It has driven her mad and she seeks to control the other two and claim their powers for her own."

Hotaru choked back a cry. She was alone. And she was scared. The wolf nudged her hand with its cold nose. Hotaru put her hand on Lupia's head and absently began to scratch her ear. Somehow, the simple gesture made her feel a bit better.

"It will be alright, little one." the Wolf promised.

"I hope so."

Hotaru looked out at the blackness around her, and shouldered the Death goddess' Glaive again.

Mina sighed.

Despite her best efforts to make herself remember the Silver Millennium, she hadn't recovered a thing - not one juicy detail of the kind of relationship she and Konnor - or Kunzite, rather - had enjoyed. She had pumped Rei for information: the priestess wasn't talking - and lately, any hint about Jade made her start throwing things. Then she had pumped Ami for info, but the little bookworm was too preoccupied by something (she wouldn't admit that that something was blond and answered to 'Zoe') and her own trip into the new and wonderful world of Jealousy to spare any details for Mina. And then there was Makoto - who had finally admitted to being in a relationship with Nolan - but who also refused to give details other than present ones. No Silver Millennium stories (apparently she and Nolan were having tiffs over these very details and Makoto was sick of talking about them). Which left Usagi - who had the attention span of a rabbit...and who thought it was too much fun to make Mina do all the work by herself...

It simply was not fair.

Sitting across the table from Konnor, she pretended to peruse the menu - glancing over the French names without a paying any attention - of course, she was actually sneaking glances at him.

He sat across from her, the candle light tinting his hair with silver highlights. He had come straight from work so he still wore a suit - this one was sapphire blue and set off his eyes beautifully. Not that he'd dressed up on purpose...

Mina had dressed up today - it was her punishment for losing the bet she'd made with him yesterday. She'd never expected him to ask her to a high-class French restaurant as his reward for winning...but then, she certainly wasn't going to complain!

He seemed more preoccupied than usual over the dinner menu -which meant that he was thinking about their situation and trying to sort it out in his methodical way. Not their situation - she corrected herself - the Hotaru/hostage situation. He probably never even thought of the other 'situation'...or even knew that there was one - if there was one...which Mina was beginning to doubt.

She involuntarily sighed.

Konnor looked up.

"Something wrong?"

"No, no," she chirped, "Just can't decide what I want."


He glanced at the menu.

"I think you'd like the Coq au Vin," he suggested, flashing her the barest hint of a smile.

"Sounds delicious."

She returned the shy smile with a killer one of her own, and it nearly blinded him. He instantly returned to the menu.

"Great, well, then I'll have the Pot au Feu, and we'll be set."

Mina reflected that the sooner he had the menu taken away so that she could see his face - the better.

She therefore reached across the table and tipped it down until their eyes met. She put just a hint of naughtiness into her smile as she inquired:

"What about dessert?"

The tone in which she said it was playful, to say the least - she just wanted to see what his reaction would be.

Predictably, he merely replied:

"I've heard the chocolate mousse is very good."

She sat back in her chair and sighed for the third time.

Luckily, the waiter came to take their orders. To her surprise, Konnor ordered a glass of wine - something he had never done in any of their previous meetings. She had assumed that he was a tea-totaller and was rather relieved to find this was not the case.

She had a glass of water, but raised it like a wine glass and clinked it into his. He gazed at her in mild surprise.

"What's the occasion?"

"Hm," she sipped her water, "Let's drink to...the past."

He clinked his glass with hers again, but didn't sip.

"The past?"

His grey eyes watched hers closely.

" know. I mean...the Silver Millennium...and all that."

She didn't have to clarify what 'that' was. Did she? Was there a 'that'?

He sipped his wine and declined to comment.

Mina tapped her nails on the table, a few short taps, and then cleared her throat.

"So, what's the first order of business for today?"

Konnor eyed her for a moment.

"Did you assume this was a business meeting?"

Mina blinked.

"Is-isn't it?"

He took another sip and said nothing - but he had that little half-smirk on his face that drove her crazy. The one that was impossible to read.

"If it isn't a business meeting, then what is it?" she asked, her excitement growing in proportion with her anxiety.

"It's not a it?"

"Would that be unacceptable?"

"No!" she squeaked a squeak worthy of Ami.

He cleared his throat and wiped his mouth.

"Friendly, of course," he added.

"Of course."

They stared at each other for a very awkward few seconds.

Psyche's lamp, this is insane! Did he actually just say that we are on a date! - Mina composed her mind and came up with a quick attack plan.

" remember the Silver Millennium, right?"

Konnor nodded, warily.

"What was it like?" she tried to sound casual.

Was he coming on too strong? Konnor had never been very good at this sort of thing. For weeks he had tried to determine how best to approach her - how to initiate something more than the pleasant but maddening camaraderie they had thus far. How would she take it?

Everything seemed to be going well so far. He thought. He'd almost lost it there when she asked about dessert...she obviously had no idea how nicely that particular dress set off her eyes...but he'd managed to keep his cool with a proper reply.

But why did she want to know about the past? Should he tell her?...

"There isn't much to tell," he answered, honestly, "I suppose you aren't referring to the actual physical time, or the geography or culture?"

"Not really, no."

The way she wrinkled her nose at these things made him want to laugh again - he quickly took another sip of wine to keep himself from smiling.

"You want to know about..."

"Let's start with the others," she said, quickly.

He cleared his throat, nervously, though his face gave nothing away. He could see the anxiety in her eyes. Was she unhappy? Perhaps she was having a similar problem adjusting as the other Senshi had had. He had seen what Zoe's approach to Ami had resulted in (though he could have predicted as much). He also knew that Jade was having slightly better luck, chipping away a piece at a time from Rei's cold shell. And Nolan had made the most progress of them all - it was true that he and Makoto fought almost every day - but each tiff brought them closer together - even he could see that their constant quarreling was just their way of adjusting themselves to each other and to the present circumstances...

But all of the men had one undeniable advantage Konnor did not possess in the slightest: what amounted to a past romantic relationship with the woman in question.

The truth of the matter was that, though Kunzite and Venus had had enjoyed the usual friendly banter, possessed a camaraderie based on their roles as leaders, even had conversations that had bordered on flirtatious at times...the truth was that as far as the Silver Millennium went...that had been it. Of course he had fallen in love with her - had been in love with her for quite a long time; but even up to the last day, he had never told her anything. Had never even hinted at it. And she had kept up the same pretense (or perhaps she'd truly felt nothing more than friendship) - he'd never known because he'd never asked.

How could he tell her that now? Especially when she so obviously thought there had been something more substantial between them.

It was awkward to say the least.

"Well, let's see." he began, "I presume you know all there is to know about Mamoru and Usagi-san?"

"Yeah, I've got that one covered."

"Alright, then - as I remember there was a ban on relations between Earth and the Moon."

"Started by the Earth, right?"

"Yes," he admitted, "And Earth was banned from the Alliance. If Usagi-san hadn't been curious, of course, that wouldn't have been a problem."

Mina giggled a little at this, and he had to dab his mouth again to hide a smile. Evidently she did remember some things.

"So who was first to go?" she prodded, putting her chin on her folded hands. It was remarkably cute.

"That would be Nolan and Kino-san."


"Obviously," he agreed, allowing a small smile.

"Tell me all about it."

"I'm not very good at this sort of thing."

"That's alright," she replied, tilting her head to one side. The sweetness of the look she gave him made his heart speed up. He assumed a frown in an effort to cover it.

"Uh, well...let's see. I was aware, by that time, that Usagi-san had been visiting Mamoru - and you and I had already met - "

He noticed her blush - beside the fact that it made her look adorable, he realized it meant that she probably remembered this encounter at least.

"We had agreed to separate them every time they met - but we also agreed not to inform anyone about the meetings."

"That was wise of us," Mina commented.

"In some ways."

"So Makoto had bunny-duty that night?"

He frowned.


"Nevermind," she laughed, "Just go on."

"Hm...yes, Kino-san arrived that night. Nolan also had guard duty - though we didn't call it that. I don't know the details, but when he came back - drenched through - I recall it was a particularly stormy night - he told us that he'd seen a goddess."

Mina's eyes grew wide.

"Wow. That boy sure has an active imagination."

"Yes," Konnor remarked, wryly, "He certainly does. Needless to say he explained himself, and we discovered that he'd met another one of the Senshi."

"And they kept meeting?"

"I assume that Kino-san performed a similar subterfuge as Nolan did - kept asking for guard duty - especially on stormy nights."

He paused as Mina laughed and the waiter brought their salads.

"Oh, Mako-chan," she sighed, "Of course she would do something like that. I bet she never even told me."

Konnor watched her smiling, and got lost in watching until he realized she was waiting for him to continue.

"How did you find out?"

"I overheard them talking one day - they were discussing what they ought to do about it - whether they should tell us or not. I pretended not to notice - hoping that he would come to me about it voluntarily."

Mina nodded in approbation.

"He finally told me all of it on the day we left to fight - the day Metallia attacked."

They were both silent for some time, lost in their own thoughts.

"Who's next?" Mina asked, at last, summoning a cheerful smile.

"Zoe and Mizuno-san."

"Really?" Mina blinked, "I would have thought they'd have been last - as shy as Ami is."

"It took them quite a long time, as I understand from Zoe, but apparently they achieved the best results of all of us."

" mean the engagement?"

She blushed again, and he looked at his wine glass.

"Yes, Zoe told me that they were courting - unlike Nolan, he was very adamant about being out in the open. He didn't care who knew about it - in fact I think he would have made a public announcement if we hadn't convinced him of the wisdom of keeping it relatively quiet."

"Sounds like Zoe."

"Yes," Konnor couldn't hold back the small smile, "He is honest but impetuous. It's one of my favorite qualities in him."

And you - he thought, but didn't add it.

"So he and Ami were engaged?"

"He told me that he was planning on asking her to marry him on the day Metallia attacked - an unfortunate series of events for all concerned. I don't know if Mizuno-san..."

"Oh, Ami remembers," Mina assured him, gulping her salad down, "Believe me. From the way things are currently going between those two - I'd give them six months - they'll probably be engaged for real by then."

"You think so?"

"I am the goddess of love!" she winked.

He coughed - had she seen him blush?

"So...Rei and Jade?"

"Now there's a conundrum for the ages."

Mina chortled into her salad.

"I'll say - the way they act right now I doubt they ever got further than trading insults in the Silver Millennium."

"Actually, you'd be surprised."

"By all means, then, surprise me!"

He paused as the waiter brought their main courses and took away the salad dishes.

Mina sniffed the chicken and took a delicate bite.

"Good?" He asked.

She chewed slowly, making 'ooh' and 'ahh' sounds, and funny faces that had him dangerously close to laughing. Finally she swallowed.

He waited.

"I pronounce it...perfect!" she rolled her 'r's dramatically, then laughed at herself.

"Very good, I'm glad you like it."

"Me too. Otherwise you'd be in trouble for suggesting something I didn't like."



They smiled at each other. Mina looked down, and tried to stop smiling.

"So, I'd be surprised...the ballad of Jade and Rei - lay it on me."

"First of all, this will probably be difficult to imagine, but Jade never actually admitted to having any kind of relationship or infatuation with Hino-san."

"I can't imagine!" Mina declared, facetiously.

"I didn't think so. And furthermore, when I confronted him with the fact that he carried her handkerchief in the breast pocket of his uniform, he told me that he had tried to give it back to her, but she wouldn't accept it. He said didn't want a perfectly good rag to go to waste."

Mina giggled around a mouth full of chicken and almost choked herself.

"I understand that Hino-san maintained a similar front. They are both very private people, so I have no clear understanding of how far their relationship went, but I do have reason to believe that he may have finally spoken to her sometime before the last night."

Mina nodded thoughtfully.

"I think so," she replied, "Jade strikes me as the type to play his cards close to the vest. But I bet when he plays them that's the final word."

"Yes, he is a very determined person. And a very patient man."

"Thank the goddess for that," Mina muttered.

They finished their meal, trying to avoid the obvious end of their conversation. When the chocolate mousse lay on the table between them, there was another awkward pause.



They looked at each other.

"I don't really remember much," Mina began, blushing, "I don't have my memories back...but no one has told me anything"

"Well, that's probably because...ah...well, frankly speaking, there is nothing to tell."

There. He'd said it. And she was looking at him as though her face had turned to ice.

"Nothing to tell?" she repeated.

"I don't understand."

Konnor sighed and pushed the chocolate mousse away. He leaned his head in his hands for a moment, then he looked up.

"Let's...go outside."

She gaped at him.

"But, the check -"

"I'll take care of it."

Mina watched as he slipped a bill into the little black book and stood to put his coat on. He then held her chair for her, and her coat.

She allowed him to lead her outside - the night air was chill on her flushed cheeks. She turned away from him and tried to compose her disordered thoughts.

So there had been nothing between them...all her anxieties, and hopes...everything - it was all a waste of effort. An embarrassing waste. He had never felt that way about her - that was clear. It had been a one-sided love - well, of course it had! Wasn't that how they all turned out? It was so bitterly ironic.

"I'm such an idiot," she muttered.

Konnor turned around, checking to make sure they were alone on the covered walkway by the restaurant's side entrance. The stars twinkled brightly in the dark night sky. It was a gorgeous night - but he couldn't seem to notice anything besides the fact that Mina was standing beside him. He took a deep breath, looking up at the sky. Then he decided.

Mina yelped as Konnor took her by the shoulders and turned her to face him.

"The reason there's nothing to tell is because I never told you anything."

Mina blinked at him in astonishment.

"Let me try that again," he muttered.

"The truth is that I wanted to tell you, but there were circumstances. The impropriety would have been...not that it mattered."

Mina continued to stare at him. He took a deep breath and steeled his courage.

"Minako, I always felt - from the first time we met - that is, I never expected -"

He stopped again. Looked at her. Then sighed, turned away.

Mina was beginning to understand. She tried very hard not to break into a smile.

"Let's try this," she suggested, when he turned around again. He opened his mouth to speak but she jumped on her tip toes, caught the collar of his coat and brought her face so close to his that their noses were touching.

He stared at her in surprise and she looked up at him with the innocent expression a cat wears when tipping over a fish bowl: a rather hungry and mischievous curiosity to see what will happen.

Konnor thought of several things he ought to say, or do...but instead, he leaned in a little closer. Mina closed her eyes.

"Excuse me."

The mild voice made them both jump apart.

Startled out of their moment, a very wrathful Mina and a seriously pissed Konnor turned to greet the stranger who'd interrupted them.

In front of them stood a man about Konnor's height; his hair was short and pure white, and his eyes startling. One was dark grey and the other pale blue. He was wearing what appeared to be very full trousers, and a sleeveless, full-length grey tunic with a mandarin collar. His clothing and the large silver staff he carried marked him as distinctly foreign.

"Excuse me," he said again, looking at Mina, "But are you the princess's guardian?"

"Who the heck are you?" she demanded.

"Oh, I'm sorry." The man smiled, apologetically and bowed low to both of them.

"My name is Shai. I'm the Guardian of Fate."

The Ties that Bind

A Sailor Moon Story
by Firefly-shy

Part 17 of 30

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