The first time the lilies appeared, they appeared quite literally in her path. Rei had been walking home after spending the afternoon with Minako when she spotted the bouquet at the bottom of the steps that led up to the Hikawa Shrine. It wasn’t terribly odd; the sidewalk in front of the steps saw a lot of foot traffic, and there was a bus stop close by. It was possible that the flowers had simply fallen out of someone’s bag in their rush to get from place A to place B.
Rei bent down to pick up the bouquet, smiling as she discovered that it was a bouquet of Casablanca lilies, her favorite flower. She glanced up and down the street, wondering if whoever had dropped them was still in sight, but the streets were deserted.
Not wanting the lilies to go unappreciated, she took them home with her and let their heavy scent fill her room.
She didn’t think anything of the incident until three days later when another bouquet of lilies appeared, this time at the top of the Hikawa Shrine steps. She had been getting ready to sweep the courtyard when she noticed them. The small corner of her mind that had grown lax and used to the peace since Galaxia was ready to chalk it up to a coincidence; people often brought offerings to the shrine after all.
But her eyes narrowed suspiciously when she found a note nestled amongst the flowers. For the beautiful miko, it read in an unfamiliar handwriting. She scanned the courtyard, hoping for any clues, but found none. Still, she couldn’t bring herself to throw the flowers away; they were her favorite for a reason. So they joined the first bouquet in her room, the scent growing strong enough to trickle into her dreams.
A week later the third bouquet made its appearance. Rei had gotten caught in a sudden downpour and was rushing to get inside the shrine, when the unexpected flash of white from the corner of her eye stopped her. The flowers were underneath her favorite tree in the courtyard, the one where she would often sit and read when she had the time; she and the other girls had also spent many a study session under that tree.
As thunder rumbled, Rei let out a huff annoyance as she hurried to scoop up the flowers. Some of the closed buds looked a little flat from the pelting rain, but hopefully they would still bloom just as lovely as the others had. When she was transferring them to a vase, she found another note, but the rain had smudged the ink so much that she couldn’t make out what was written.
Over the next two weeks Rei found two more bouquets under the same tree. The same note accompanied each of them: For the beautiful miko. When she discovered the sixth bouquet just as the girls were arriving for their weekly meet-up, she realized that it was time to come clean about the mystery gifts.
“Oh, Rei, what pretty flowers!” Usagi exclaimed as she and the others crested the shrine’s steps.
“Are they from a secret admirer?” Minako teased. When Rei didn’t immediately brush her off with a scathing retort, the blonde did a double take. “Wait, are they really? Rei, do you have a secret admirer?”
“I don’t know,” the miko admitted. She quickly filled everyone in on what little she knew, clutching the bouquet to her chest the whole time.
“That is so romantic!” Minako exclaimed, as Rei knew the Senshi of Love would. “But you don’t know who they’re from?”
“Not a clue! And it’s ridiculous is what it is! They’re just flowers, it really isn’t a big deal, but..” But she couldn’t figure out why they meant so much to her.
“But aren’t Casablanca lilies your favorite flower?” Makoto questioned.
When Rei nodded, Ami spoke up. “But Rei, let’s say that whoever is leaving the flowers knew that fact. And if they’ve been leaving the flowers at the shrine, well-”
That was Ami, always being the practical one. “I don’t think whoever is doing this is stalking me or anything. Though the thought did cross my mind at first. But I’ve been vigilant whenever I’ve been out lately, and no one has been following me. The flowers always show up when I’ve been gone for most of the day. So, okay, maybe they’re watching the shrine, or maybe they’re just a really grateful patron who sees I’m not here and wants to leave the flowers as thanks? I don’t know!”
“Have you tried meditating on it if you’re so anxious for answers?” Ami asked.
“Yes, but it didn’t get me anywhere,” Rei said with a sigh. “Some days it really annoys me, and other days I just appreciate having something pretty in my room. I don’t know, it just seems so silly to worry so much over flowers!”
“Well, as long as they continue to be just flowers, I guess there is no harm in them,” Makoto said slowly. “And they are pretty. Whoever is sending them to you must know a really great florist.”
“But when do you think whoever is sending them will tell Rei who he is?” Minako pitched in.
Rei just shrugged helplessly as the leader of the Senshi started off on a romantic tale of the secret admirer revealing himself in a dramatic fashion. She wanted the mystery solved, but she didn’t even know where to start.
Little did she know that it would be Mamoru, of all people, who would finally give her the answer she sought.
“Does anyone have any idea why Usagi-chan and Mamoru-san wanted to talk to us?” Makoto asked as the four of them entered the building where the newly married Chibas now lived.
“You don’t think…” Minako trailed off, hands going up to rest against her stomach.
“They’ve only been married for one month; we aren’t anywhere close to it being time for Chibi-Usa,” Ami remarked as she pressed the call button for the elevator.
“Well then what else could it be?” Minako asked, throwing her hands up in the air. “It has to be something big, or Usagi-chan wouldn’t have said that she and Mamoru-san wanted to talk to us.”
“Maybe they decided to go on a honeymoon after all and just wanted to keep us in the loop,” Makoto said easily as they all stepped into the elevator.
“Or maybe Usagi is sick! Or Mamoru! Rei, you haven’t sensed anything lately, have you?” Minako asked desperately.
“Nothing,” Rei assured her. It was the truth, technically; she hadn’t sensed anything evil or nefarious. In fact, she hadn’t sensed much of anything the last few days. Even the Sacred Fire had been mysteriously silent. And it wasn’t the silence that came from having no youma to fight; it was like the silence of the calm before a storm. And that worried her more than any strange readings she might normally have gotten. Something was going to happen today, she just didn’t know what. And so she didn’t want to needlessly worry the other Senshi until they had something more concrete to go on.
The group got off the elevator when the doors slid open for them, and then quickly made their way to the right apartment. But before any of them could knock, Usagi was opening the door and ushering them all inside. One look and they all knew.
“Usagi-chan, what’s the matter?” Makoto demanded.
“Why would anything be the matter?” the Moon Princess asked, her smile not quite reaching her eyes, and her voice just a pitch too high. “I just wanted to have you guys over for lunch, really, that’s it.”
“You’re a horrible liar, Usagi,” Rei said, not bothering to take the seat that was being offered.
“I knew it, you are sick!” Minako exclaimed as she rushed over to her friend. “How bad is it? Surely Mamoru-san can help you find the best doctors, or even Ami-chan, or her Mother!”
“Slow down, Minako, Usagi isn’t sick,” Mamoru said gently as he entered the living room. “Neither am I for that matter. This meeting isn’t about us.”
“Then what is it about?” Minako demanded as she slumped down onto the couch.
“You four,” Mamoru began as he upended a small pouch over the low table in front of him, “and these four.”
The energy in the room became tense as the sound of rock hitting glass echoed through the space. The Senshi all straightened up, eyes locked on the four stones in front of them.
“T-those are…” Ami began.
“You all know that the spirits of my Shitennou retreated back into their stone forms after the battle with Beryl, and that I’ve kept them safe ever since,” Mamoru reminded them. “For their sake, and mine, I kept them close. I can communicate with them, if I concentrate enough. They’ve been excellent advisors these past few years.”
“But?” Makoto prompted, knuckles going white as she wrapped her arms around herself.
“But about a month ago I discovered that they were gone,” Mamoru explained.
“Not the stones themselves, obviously,” Usagi amended as Rei’s gaze flickered over them.
“You mean their spirits no longer reside in their stones,” the priestess said tersely.
“Wait, wait. This happened a month ago? Why are you only telling us this now?” Minako demanded.
“I wasn’t sure what it meant, at first,” Mamoru admitted, gaze dropping down to his feet. “They had gone silent before; I thought that’s what this was initially. I was distracted with the wedding and I didn’t pay it the proper amount of attention.”
“So what did get your attention?” Minako asked, and the others could tell that she was using her Senshi voice.
Mamoru lifted his head and met Venus’ gaze. “Kunzite showed up at our door.”
A strangled sort of sound came from the blonde’s throat before she got a hold of herself. “They’re back.” It wasn’t a question.
Mamoru and Usagi nodded as one. “All of them,” the Prince added.
Rei’s gut twisted as pieces fell into place. “The flowers,” she whispered. She saw Usagi wince. “You didn’t say anything the day you saw me with the lilies!”
“I didn’t occur to me until after the fact that they could have been from…” she trailed off as Rei narrowed her eyes, daring her to speak the name. “Anyway, it was Mamo-chan's news to tell you, not mine. That’s why I didn’t say anything before now.”
“I told them not to approach any of you before I had a chance to speak to you,” Mamoru added.
“I don’t think they listened,” Rei muttered, trying to remember when she had found the first bouquet. “When? When did…”
“He showed up the day after Kunzite; on the third,” Mamoru said softly.
The same day the first bouquet had appeared. Maybe it hadn’t been dropped there by accident.
“What do they want?” Ami asked after a few minutes had passed in silence.
“You would have to ask them. From us they asked forgiveness, which we gave.”
The Senshi reacted to this news in varying degrees: Ami’s hands clenched in her lap; Makoto spun around and stared out the window, her face unreadable; Minako went pale; Rei didn’t try to stop the scoff that burst from her lips.
“You forgave them, just like that?”
“Rei-chan,” Usagi said soothingly, “they aren’t the same men, just as we are not the same as our selves from the Silver Millennium.”
“They are my Shitennou; I need them by my side just as Usagi needs you by her,” Mamoru explained, steel in his voice. “I understand that your feelings towards them won’t be the same -”
“No, because they weren’t directly responsible for your death back then,” Rei snapped. “He didn’t literally stab you in the back and laugh as you bled out on the battlefield.” Her voice was shaking with fury now.
“Rei!” Usagi cried, part reprimand, part shock as her Senshi spoke of events she never had before.
It was suddenly too warm, almost as if her inner flame was trying to devour her. “No, I can’t,” she said as she whirled around and stormed out the door. Instead of taking the elevator down, she rode it up, then found her way further up to the roof. A few quick words and she was transforming into Sailor Mars. She leapt from rooftop to rooftop, trying to do the impossible and outrun her past. But it kept following her, relentless in its pursuit as more and more memories from the Moon poured through her mind.
It was hours later when Mars finally dropped into the shadows of the shrine’s backyard, more exhausted than she could ever remember being. But the day’s surprises weren’t over. There, by the back wall, was a new bunch of lilies; this time the bouquet was tied together with a red ribbon.
Mars didn’t hesitate; she pointed a slender finger and flames leapt from her hand to devour the flowers.
The next day Rei locked herself away with the Sacred Fire. She meditated for hours, seeking answers but ultimately finding none. The only vision she received was a glimpse of a garden maze, but she didn’t know what to make of that.
She ignored several calls from Usagi throughout the day. It was childish of her, she knew that, but Rei couldn’t face her right now; not when she was still trying to sort through her own feelings.
Giving up on meditation around dusk, she decided to go for a quick walk to work out the cramps in her legs. No sooner had she started down the length of steps then the sound of approaching footsteps reached her ears and she was suddenly face-to-face with the very person she had been trying to avoid thinking about.
“You!” Rei growled.
Jadeite fumbled with the flowers at her sudden shout, freezing where he was. “I…”
“No! Take your flowers and go!” Rei snapped “I don’t want...just go!”
Jadeite’s eyes widened in panic as Rei started to hurry back the way she had come. “Malandra, wait!” he pleaded, reaching out to her with the hand that wasn’t full of flowers.
Rei found herself spinning back around before she was really aware of doing so. “What did you call me?”
Jadeite slowly lowered his hand. “I-I’m sorry. Endym - I mean...Mamoru-san didn’t tell me anything about you; he said that I - that all of us - would have to learn things about you and the other Senshi only if you allowed us to. It is completely fair, of course, but that means...that means I don’t even know your name in this life. Malandra is the only name I have.”
Rei trembled as he spoke her Silver Millenium name once more. No one had uttered that name in this life, not even Usagi. To hear him speak it so reverently took her back… “The lily,” she gasped as the vision of the garden suddenly clicked into place. “That was you?”
Jadeite glanced down at the flowers he held. “Yes. I wasn’t sure if they would still be your favorite in this life, but I hoped.” He shrugged.
“No, I mean back then, in the Terran garden...”
Jadeite’s eyes slowly brightened as he caught on to her train of thought. “You had never seen Terran flowers before, so when I asked after your favorite you said you didn’t have one. We were surrounded by all different kinds of lilies, so I picked the best one for you and suggested that maybe it could become your favorite. And it did. I only ever brought you casablanca lilies from then on.”
“I thought...they were my Mother’s favorite here, I thought that’s why I loved them,” Rei said haltingly, wondering why in the name of Mars she was sharing this information with him. “I didn’t think it was a trait left over from back then.”
“It could be both! Or, as you said, because of your Mother,” Jadeite said quickly. “I’m not trying to presume…” he sighed. “Like I said, all I have are memories of who you used to be, not who you are. So I went with lilies.”
“Mamoru said he told you to stay away until he had spoken to us.”
“He did,” Jadeite confirmed with a nod.
“He only told us yesterday. So why disobey him by continuing to bring the flowers?” Rei wanted to know.
“The first time...I was returning from just having reunited with Endymion. The bus I was on passed by your shrine and I saw you coming down these steps. And I just...I had to do something! I got off at the next stop, and it took me a while to find my way back to the shrine. On the way I passed by a flower shop, and I saw the lilies and they reminded me of all those perfect moments we had, so I bought them. But when I got to the shrine I realized I couldn’t disobey Endymion outright, so I just left them there. And then I didn’t want to stop. I started to view them as the first part of my penance.” He said the last few words in a whisper that Rei almost didn’t catch. Almost.
“You think flowers are going to earn my forgiveness?” she asked coldly, arching an eyebrow.
“Of course not!” Jadeite snapped, a flicker of fire in his tone. “But I didn’t know where else to start!”
“Start by obeying Mamoru. Start by giving me space,” Rei ordered, not really aware of the sliver of hope she was offering him. She turned and left, and it was only due to the fact that she was highly aware of his presence behind her that she even heard the crinkle of plastic. A quick glance over her shoulder showed Jadeite retreating down the steps, but he had left the lilies where he had been standing.
Rei turned her back on them both.
Malandra means black,dark or defender of mankind. I figured it fit with Rei, what with her being a Senshi and being one of the two black-haired Senshi.
The next day Rei was once again “ambushed” as she was trying to leave the Shrine, but the person waiting at the bottom of the steps wasn’t who she thought it would be.
Senshi and Shitennou stood and stared at each other, neither wanting to be the first to speak. When the white haired General sighed, Rei merely crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow. He had sought her out; he would have to make the first move.
“Princess,” he finally said with a small incline of his head.
“What do you want, Kunzite?” Rei asked. “If Jadeite sent you here with a message -”
“That is not why I’m here,” Kunzite informed her. “Though he did try to convince me to bring you flowers.”
Rei rolled her eyes. “Then why are you here?”
“I’m here on behalf of Aglaia.”
Rei startled at Minako’s Silver Millennium name. “How so?”
“Because I do not seek forgiveness from only her,” Kunzite explained. “You and the other Senshi are as much Sister to her as Jadeite, Zoisite, and Nephrite are Brothers to me. If we all are to heal from the mistakes of the past, it must be as a group.”
“She sent you to me for forgiveness?” Rei said disbelievingly.
Kunzite shook his head. “She would not force my presence on you this soon. I came on my own, but for her; for the chance at fixing things between the two of us, but also between you and the other Senshi. We were all friends back then, if you remember.”
“Back then, yes. Now…”
“I have no delusions that this will be easy,” Kunzite elaborated. “We all have a long road ahead of us. But we must start somewhere.”
“So what precisely do want from me?” Rei demanded.
“For now, nothing,” Kunzite admitted. “You did enough by hearing me out. I did not even get that far with Aglaia. She...slammed the door in my face.”
Rei resisted the urge to laugh.
“So for now I will merely say farewell, Princess,” Kunzite finished. “I do hope to see you again.”
Rei nodded slowly.
Kunzite made to turn around, then hesitated.
“Jadeite did ask you to say something specific to me, didn’t he?” Rei guessed.
“It’s not my place, I know, but he is my brother; I have to at least try,” Kunzite said. “He asked after your name.”
Rei shook her head, revealing nothing. “He hasn’t earned that information.”
Kunzite merely nodded in understanding, then left.
Rei sagged back against the wall that enclosed the shrine. She hoped the other Shitennou weren’t planning to pay her any visits; she didn’t think she could handle it in that moment.
With a groan she pulled out her communicator; she had to tell Minako about Kunzite’s appearance.
Aglaia (pronouned A-glay-a) means splendor, beauty in Greek. Very fitting, I thought, for the Senshi of Love.
Over the next two days Rei received visits from Nephrite and Zoisite. Both sprouted the same reason Kunzite had for visiting - they wanted to mend things with all of the Senshi, not just the women they had loved in the Silver Millennium. Rei managed to hear them out, but only barely. Memories of fighting them when they were under the influence of the Dark Kingdom mixed with memories of trying to sneak them and Endymion into the Moon Palace so they all could spend time with one another. It was driving her mad.
After another mediation session where she didn’t get any answers from the Sacred Fire, she wanted to get out, but a tiny fear that she would once again run into the Shitennou had her transforming and leaping across rooftops. She ran and ran until she could barely muster the energy to return home. And once she tumbled into bed, memories invaded her dreams.
The first time Serenity had disappeared from the Moon Palace, Venus had sent Mars in search of her. “If she is where I think she is, your psychic link to her will be the strongest tool in weeding her out,” the Senshi of Love had said.
Judging by the way Serenity had been sighing about the blue and green planet that hung in the sky above them, Mars didn’t have to guess twice as to where her Princess had gone. She couldn’t have picked a worse time to run off though; she was due to meet with a delegation from Neptune within the hour. Venus could fill in, but only for a time. But knowing she was on Terra was one thing; actually finding her was another.
Mars could sense she was close, but the garden she found herself in was practically a maze. She didn’t want to fully open her link with Serenity, lest she alert the Moon Princess that her Senshi was on to her.
She suppressed a sound of annoyance as she came to yet another forked pathway. Under any other circumstances, she would have found the sprawling garden beautiful (there was nothing like it on the Moon, nor on Mars), but at the moment she didn’t have time to oggle. Taking precious time to tap what parts of the psychic link she could, Mars ultimately chose the path to the left.
“I’d actually go right if you want to avoid the patrol that will come through in the next five minutes,” a voice said from above her.
Mars whirled around, summoning her Flame Sniper bow and arrow as she spun. Sighting down the length of the arrow, she spotted the source of the voice up amongst the branches of a nearby tree. He appeared to be around her age, maybe older, with blond hair (he was too much in the shade of the tree to tell exactly what color his eyes were). He wore his uniform as easily as she did hers; a Terran warrior, most likely. And he had snuck up on her. If she wasn’t so upset at herself she would be impressed.
“Well, that answers two of my questions,” the man said as he leapt down easily from his perch.
“Only two?” Mars asked, still not lowering her bow.
“Not the most important question, of course, but the fire display was a bit of a give away. So, Sailor Mars, if you are here for the reason I think you are, you should follow me,” the still-nameless man said as he moved towards the right-forking path.
“Why should I?” Mars questioned, moving to keep him in her sights. He had to be someone high up in the Terran military if he knew of her reputation. That narrowed it down to…
“Because I, like you I suspect, are currently down one Royal,” the man said with a teasing grin. “But where are my manners? I am Jadeite, Shitennou of the East, and one of Prince Endymion’s Generals and personal guard.” He bowed.
Mars’ eyes widened slightly. The Shitennou were as skilled as the Senshi, if Mercury’s intel was accurate. Just as the Senshi protected Serenity, the four Shitennou protected Endymion. She watched him for a few seconds, then let her flames disappear with a small twitch of her fingers. No sooner had she done so then the two picked up on the faint sound of approaching footsteps. “You said something about missing Royals?” she prompted.
“Follow me,” Jadeite said, and quickly led her down path after path. Right, left, left again, three rights, she kept track of it all. He finally slowed his pace and cautioned her by placing a slender finger against his lips. A slight tilt of his head had Mars cautiously peering around a hedge to see her missing Princess, as well as Terra’s Prince. Serenity was staring in awe at the strange flowers before her, while Endymion was staring longingly at the Moon Princess.
“They are called roses,” the Prince was saying as Serenity reached out to touch one of the red flowers. “I tend to these myself; they’re my favorite flower, actually.”
“Then they are now my favorite flower as well,” Serenity declared as she inhaled their unique scent.
Mars rolled her eyes even as her heart warmed at the look of utter bliss on the face of her Princess. She hadn’t seen Serenity so relaxed in weeks. Still, they couldn’t afford to be caught on Terra, no matter how amazing the gardens looked and smelled. She strode into the clearing, her harsh, “Princess” startling the two away from each other.
“Mars!” Serenity exclaimed, guilt flashing across her face. “I can explain!”
“You can explain later,” Mars said, holding up a hand to stop any long-winded story the blonde might start on. “After we get back home and you meet with the Neptune delegation. Or did you forget?”
“I...maybe,” Serenity admitted.
“She’s not the only one, eh Endymion?” Jadeite added, coming up beside Mars.
“What are you...the troop inspection!” Endymion groaned as realization dawned.
“Be glad it was me who found you and not Kunzite!”
Mars motioned to Serenity. “If we leave now we’ll just make it back in time.”
The Moon Princess turned to the Terran Prince, whispering something so softly that Mars didn’t catch. Endymion smiled at her, then raised Serenity’s hand to his lips. “Come, I’ll escort you back to the transport site,” he announced.
The two headed back the way Mars had just come, hands clasped tightly together. But as Mars went to follow, she found the way partly blocked by Jadeite. Her eyes narrowed.
“A moment, if you will, Sailor Mars. This being your first trip to Earth, you must have something to take back to the Moon with you.” He spread his arms out wide, smiling. “Why not take your favorite flower with you to remember us by?”
Mars rolled her eyes as she stepped around the blonde. “A generous offer, save for one problem.”
“And what would that be? Is our Terran botany not up to standard?” Jadeite asked as he kept pace with her.
“I do not have a favorite flower.”
“Why not?” Jadeite asked, genuinely curious.
“I have never seen any flowers like these before, so how would I have favorite?” Mars countered. “The gardens of the Moon Palace are incredible, yes, but...but not like this,” she admitted.
Rather than be deterred, Jadeite smiled. Pausing by a group of white flowers, he quickly picked one that had opened fully. “Then perhaps this one can be your favorite,” he suggested as he held the bloom out towards her. “It is a casablanca lily.”
Mars’ gaze switched from his smile to the lily in his hand before she slowly reached out and took the flower. Its scent was light and heavy at the same time, and she thought that the white petals would glow beautifully in the light of the Moon. Before she could say anything, her communicator chirped with a message from Venus; they were past due to return.
She hurried to catch up with Serenity and soon enough they were back home. And yet...as her Princess spun through the hallways, chatting excitedly about all the things she had seen on Earth, Mars couldn’t help but tuck the lily gently behind one ear, where it stood out vividly against her raven hair.
The next time she had to venture down to Earth - Serenity had slipped away, again! - Jadeite was there waiting for her with another lily.