Episode 25: Fate

Rhade woke alone the next morning. The bedroll was still warm, so Kasei hadn’t gotten up long ago. He stretched, yawning. He hadn’t been this relaxed since he and Okami had rescued Kasei from the Drago-Kazov prison. He sat up to try and find his clothes. Finding them, he stuffed them into his pack and pulled out a fresh set. Dressed, he headed out of the shelter to find Yuki sitting with a pot of food cooking over the stove. He looked up at Rhade, grinning.

“So,” he said. “How was it?”

“That’s kind of a strange question to be asking, especially seeing as how it involves your sister.”

Yuki waved dismissively. “Only odd if you haven’t yet seen her today.”

“Oh?” he asked, sitting down.

She’s been sitting over there on that dune since she got up,” Yuki said pointing. “She had a very odd look on her face this morning, one I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. I’m not quite sure what to make of it. It was kind of…vacant. She was looking around as if she had no idea where she was. She seemed to remember when she saw me, but she headed for the dune right after that.”

“Maybe I should go talk to her.”

“That would be good. Tell her that breakfast will be ready shortly. After last night, I figured that you two would sleep a little later.” Seeing Rhade’s embarrassed expression, he laughed. “You weren’t that noisy, but I saw you up on the dune and then heading into the shelter.” He cuffed the older man on the shoulder. “All I can say is that it’s about time.”

“You and me both,” Rhade agreed, grinning back. He got up and headed for the dune Kasei was sitting on. He sank down beside her and placed his hand on her thigh.

She jumped, startled. “Rhade, don’t do that!” She scowled at him.

“Lost in thought?” She nodded, looking back over the desert. “May I ask about what?”

“Mostly about how much my life has changed since I left home. Some for the better, but I think some change is for the worse.”

“Like what?”

She hugged her knees up under her chin. “I’m not the same person I used to be. I know that’s kind of an odd statement, but after what happened last night and the dreams I had, I’m afraid of how much I’ve changed. Yuki told me once that I used to be a lot more fun, that I used to laugh more. I never used to be this serious, even before I left. Odd isn’t it? I was happy here once, but now I don’t know if I can be happy here.”

“Considering what you’ve been through, I’m not surprised, If I’d been through a serious trauma, I don’t know if I’d want to be near my family either.”

“I thought you Nietzscheans were family oriented people.”

“We are, but a serious enough trauma will make even the most social creature into a hermit.”

“True enough. I’ll be glad to be back on board the Andromeda, heading off to fight Magog. That’s something I know, something I have a lot of confidence in. Well, I did. I’m unsure of how well my powers are working now, but I don’t think I’ll have any meltdowns.”

“Good to hear. What else have you been pondering?”

“Something I’m still trying to work out. If I ever do, maybe I’ll tell you about it.”

“Fair enough. Anyways, Yuki says that breakfast is almost ready. You’re doubtlessly starving.”

In response, her stomach growled. “I promise not to try and eat you if it’s not ready yet.”

They headed down and ate a quick meal before cleaning up and breaking camp. The packed up their things and mounted the Sandrunners one last time, heading for the city. Yuki in particular was eager to return. His awareness of Rhade and Kasei the night before made him ache for Beka. He just prayed that she hadn’t found someone else in his absence. It was a reasonable paranoia. She was a beautiful woman and any man would be proud to be called hers.

They reached the city entrance near supper time having had their lunch in the saddle. All three were exhausted, but apprehensive. They kept their proverbial fingers crossed, praying that the plan didn’t fall apart. It would be hard fooling their friends, especially the other three Guardians who know Kasei better than anyone save Yuki. Kasei in particular dreaded the wrath of her mother, even though it wasn’t real. She fingered the double helix band on her arm and swallowed nervously.

Rhade brought his mount over close enough so that he could reach over and squeeze her hand reassuringly. She smiled at him, feeling a little calmer. She led them through the streets and up to the palace gates. The guards saw them coming and opened them. Before they’d even stopped their mounts to dismount, a stream of people came out of the palace: The crew of the Andromeda Ascendant;the other three Guardians; the Queen, her consort, and Hihana; a sream of servants to help them dismount and to take the animals away. There was a bunch more people that came out, but they weren’t people that Rhade was familiar with. Some of them wore very elaborate clothing, so he figured that they were nobility of some sort.

Kasei dismounted and made a formal bow to her parents. She noted the expression of shock on the faces of the Andromeda crew at seeing the helix. Good. That’s what I hoped for. “Greetings, Revered Majesty.”

“Welcome home, Kasei,” she said warmly. “I trust that all is well.”

“All is as it should be. The Spirit of Nomaie came and healed me. I am mostly as I was, but my experiences are still with me.”

“As it should be,” Chuuseki said, embracing his daughter. “You must surely be tied from your long journey.”

“Yes, but if I sleep now, I’ll be up all night.”

“And cranky as a dune bear with a sunburn all day tomorrow,” Yuki added, dismounting. The instant his feet hit the ground, Beka ran up, throwing her arms around him and kissing him soundly. The Nomaiens in the crowd gasped at the scandalous display.

Kasei merely blinked. “She’s human,” she said shrugging. “They don’t have any taboos on this sort of thing.”

Hibashira eyed her twin children carefully. “Yuki, has this woman chosen you?”

Beka broke off her kiss so that she could answer. “Yes, Revered Majesty, I have.”

“And you accepted her claim?”

He nodded. “Yes, Revered Majesty, though I can’t understand why she’d want me.”

Chuuseki’s chest puffed with pride. “She may not be a Nomaien woman, but she’s a lovely creature all the same. You’re my son, Yuki. I wish you every happiness. If you’re lucky, you can get her to marry you before she changes her mind.” The crowd laughed at his blushes.

“What was that about?” Rhade asked, dismounting.

Kasei turned to whisper, “Nomaiens mate for life when they do at all.”

“I see.”

“So, Kasei,” Hihana said suddenly. “Where did you get that odd piece of jewelry? It’s the most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen!”

“Rhade gave it to me.”

“Oh? Now, which context of give are you using? Come now, we must be clear on this.”

Kasei took a deep breath. It was now or never. “Janshe rak tor el hanesse akarin emesyo, Telemachus Rhade sha ne.

Anyone who spoke any Nomaien stared at her. The silence in the courtyard was deafening. Hibashira tried to speak, but she was having difficulty forming any words at all. Finally, it was Trance who broke the silence.

“What does that mean, exactly?”

Tenshi turned to her. “She’s claimed Rhade as hers.”

Dylan nodded. “I figured as much. Kasei’s wearing a double helix band. Only married Nietzscheans wear those.”

“She married him?” Harper asked incredulously. “She hates him!”

“I hated him” she corrected him. “The healing I had helped me get rid of my hatred for him and the Nietzschean people.”

“This is insanity, Kasei,” Okami warned her. “You’re still under a life debt to him.”

“I know, Okami. I’m in no hurry to discharge it.”

“Kasei, you know it is forbidden to marry while under a life debt,” Hihana told her smugly. “What you’ve done is illegal.”

“Why?” she challenged. “For starters, he’s not Nomaien. Secondly, he’s the one my life belongs to. If I choose to accept him, that’s my business. Third, according to his people’s marriage customs, the female does the choosing, much like our own society, only they don’t form the kind of temporary liaisons that we do. That constitutes a marriage. It was only natural for him to offer me the double helix after explaining about it first.”

“If he explained, then what does a Nietzschean wedding entail?” Dylan asked.

“I put the band on my arm, and then I put the band on his arm.”

“And?”

“Do I need to spell out to you what you do after you get married?”

“No, I was just checking.”

Hihana growled at her sister. “You cannot do this!”

“Why? Because you want him for yourself? You’re just upset because I chose him first.”

“You have a fiancée.”

“That’s right, Kasei,” a man with deep golden skin, solid blue eyes, and long white hair said, stepping forward. “Me.”

Rhade stepped up to stand beside Kasei. “Sabaku Ryuujin, I presume.”

Ryuujin walked up to Rhade. “Don’t think that you can take her from me, laikerr. She’s mine!”

Rhade blinked, certain that he’d just been called something rude. “As I understand the way things work here, she’s not yours. You don’t get to do the choosing. She does. She chose me. Therefore, it’s illogical for you to assume that you stand any chance. Besides, Nomaiens mate for life, do they not? There’s nothing you can do about it.”

“I can still kill you,” he snarled, aiming a punch at Rhade.

He raised his bone blades, flexing them. “I’d think twice about trying that. I’m not just a soldier of the Commonwealth, but Terazed Kamen as well. Kasei has chosen me. Even though she owes me her life, I will still defend her.” He turned to Kasei. “As much as you’ll let me anyways.”

She sighed and shook her head. “Do as you will, but I’m not going to stand here and watch you two men posture and claim me. I’ve made my decision, Ryuujin. You know perfectly well that I never liked you. Even when I hated him, Rhade was still infinitely preferable to you. Hell, the Nietzscheans who held me captive were also, but not by much.”

“Kasei!” Hibashira exclaimed, outraged. Beside her was a woman bearing a resemblance to Ryuujin. “How dare you!”

“Revered Majesty, Lady Shugoryuu, I’ve made my feelings clear in the past. If you failed to heed them then, then I see no reason why I should hold back now. Besides, I’ll be leaving here shortly. I have a life debt to repay and a promise of help to fulfill. My friends need me, so I shall help.”

“You are a Nomaien and my daughter, so you shall stay here!”

“I’d hoped to not have to use this, but you leave me with little choice. According to a test the avatar of the Andromeda Ascendant performed on me, I am the reincarnation of a Nietzschean woman by the name of Vlakyrie Museveni out of Verdandi by Achilles of the Drago-Kazov Pride. 300 years or so ago, I had been married to a man named Gaheris Rhade out of Morgause by Lot of the Majoram Pride. Telemachus is the reincarnation of Gaheris Rhade.Therefore, I am only acting as fate dictated. Our marriage was cut tragically short when Gaheris was killed in battle just before Dylan and the Andromeda were trapped on the event horizon of a black hole, keeping them frozen in time for 300 years before they were rescued by Captain Beka Valentine and the crew of the Eureka Maru. We were reborn as we were as a challenge. If we could overcome our obvious differences, then we deserved to be together. Gaheris was my love. Telemachus is my love. We are senshi, though not born as such in the past. We were allowed to awaken as senshi now to bring us together.”

“And what about Seikou?” Hihana asked. “I thought he was the only man you would ever love.”

“I never said that I didn’t still. Rhade understands that. Seikou can never be reborn, so all chance I ever had at a life with him is dead. It died 8000 years ago when he was slain in the battle with Kage Neko. Thought he will always be in my heart, he is in the past.” She took Rhade’s hand. “As do the Nomaiens, so do the Nietzscheans. I have chosen. Such a choice is unbreakable by our most ancient laws. Death shall not part us.”

Someone in the crowd clapped and walked forward. Her dark reddish black hair was bound in a long pony tail. Her chocolate brown eyes were wide and bright. “That took considerably less time than anticipated,” she said happily. “I was worried for nothing.”

Kasei gave the strange girl an odd look. “Who are you?”

“My name is Aries. I’m a friend of Trace’s from the future she comes from. I apologize for having to be here, but events in the future are rapidly deteriorating. I came back to help. If I don’t, all I know may vanish. My home, my friends,” she swallowed nervously. “My parents.”

“Your parents?”

“Because of the instabilities in my time, my mother is in a coma. We don’t know if she’ll live. My father is distracted because of it and has lost his will to fight. He simply sits by her side talking to her, reading to her, telling her about things that are happening. He barely even eats anymore, only enough to keep himself alive. If mother dies, he might loose his will to live.”

“So you’re a senshi from the future come to help us fight in order to save your parents?” Aries nodded. Kasei sighed and shook her head. “Does this sound familiar to anyone else or am I hallucinating?”

“It does, but I can’t place it,” Yumeko said, puzzled.

“Chibi-usa,” Tenshi said slowly. “She came back from the future to get Sailor Moon’s help I saving her mother.”

“Yeah, but what she didn’t know was that Sailor Moon would be her mother in the future,” Okami snickered. “I remember Minako telling me that story. If Chibi-usa was anything like her mother, I’m glad I never met her.”

Yumeko walked up to Aries. “Are you like that? Are you the daughter of a senshi in this time?”

“I can’t answer you yes or no. It might make things worse if you know too much about me.”

“Can you at least tell us what your senshi name is?” Rhade asked. There was something familiar about this girl, but he couldn’t out his finger on it and that bothered him.

“When it comes time for me to use my powers, then I will tell you, I promise.”

Okami shrugged. “That’s good enough for me. Let’s go smack some Magog!”

“Could we at least eat supper first?” Kasei asked her.

Hibashira, Chuuseki, Ryuujin, Hihana, and Shugoryuu stared at them, unsure of what to make of any of this. Hibashira watched her youngest daughter carefully. “Kasei, if you insist on doing this, then you are no longer my Heir.”

“That’s not much of a threat, mother. I never wanted to be in the first place.”

“Fine. Hihana is now my Heir.” Hihana looked exultant.

“Don’t celebrate too quickly, Princess Hihana,” Aries warned her. “Your reign as Heir won’t last long. I know who will become the future Queen of Nomaie. I’m only saying this because I know that it won’t affect how the future turns out. It’s no surprise to anyone who can think. No offense, Guardian.”

Kasei sighed. “Look, I’m going to eat and pack. Anyone caring to join me for the evening meal is welcome to.”

Rhade found her up in her room that evening trying to decide on what to add to her packs. She already had a full one of books and small trinkets. Spread out of the large bed was an assortment of clothing and assorted other items. A couple stuffed toys, some ornately decorated daggers, a long sword that looked immensely old, some jewelry, a large book full of photographs, a miniature figurine of a Sandrunner, a woodwind instrument and a deep red, long necked instrument with six strings.

“Trying to make up your mind?” he asked, sitting between her and the picture album.

“All of these things are important to me, but I can’t take too much. What would I do with it all?”

“Why don’t you tell me about these things? I can help.”

She pointed at the long sword. “That sword has been in my family for countless generations. It belongs to the Queen and it’s passed on to the Heir when she is named. It should go to Hihana, but I can’t bear to part with it. Hihana doesn’t even like it anyways. The larger dagger was a gift from my father when I turned fourteen, when I ceased being a child. The smaller was a gift from Seikou when we completed our senshi training.”

“What about the clothes?”

“The white robe was worn the day I received the larger dagger and the sword, as I was formally declared Heir on the same day that my childhood ended. The red top and pants are definitely coming as that’s my formal senshi uniform. The black outfit is what I have to wear when I attend my mother at court. I wouldn’t even consider it, but it’s incredibly comfortable. The tan shorts and white top are what I wear when I go sand skimming. Harper tells me that sand skimming is a lot like surfing. It’s one of my favorite pastimes.”

Rhade nodded. “What about those pieces of jewelry?”

“The gold rings with the diamonds belonged to my grandmother, the one adult who understood me perfectly growing up. The necklace was a birthday gift from Tenshi, Yumeko, and Okami after we became a team in this life time. The four stones set into the chain represent our four auras. The plain silver ring was a gift from Seikou not long before he was killed. The tiara is something I only wore once, at my eighteenth birthday party. It’s pretty, but it’s not very practical.”

“The instruments?”

“The guitar I brought back from my first trip to Earth. Back then, I was lead singer in a band we called Zodiac. My stage name at the time was Aries. We’d created profiles for ourselves, and since Zodiac signs were important back then, we picked ones for ourselves based on our personalities. Mine was Aries, Tenshi was Pisces, Okami was Virgo, and Yumeko, when she finally joined us, was Libra.”

“Would you sing for me sometime?”

“If I could ever remember the songs I used to know, maybe. Anyways, the long flute is a traditional Nomaien instrument. I made it when I was six.”

“Very nice.”

Kasei made a face. “It looks nothing like the one I was modeling it after. Hihana made fun of me.”

“I still think it’s nice. The album?”

“The pictures in it are all of my friends, my fellow senshi, and of the senshi from Earth.” She flipped open to a page. “Here we are shortly before we came home. Standing in the far back is Chiba Mamoru. The next row is Meiou Setsuna, Tennou Haruka, Kaoiu Michiru, Hino Rei, Tsukino Usagi, Mizuno Ami, Aino Mianko, Kino Makoto, Yaten Kou, Seiya Kou, and Taiki Kou. In front is Tomoe Hotaru. The black cat is Luna and the white one is Artemis. The grey one is Miocci, Yumeko’s guardian. He wasn’t reborn with us after that. In senshi terms, these people are Tuxedo Kamen, Sailors Pluto, Uranus, Neptune, Mars, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, StarHealer, StarFighter, StarMaker, and Saturn. We had our disagreements, but we were friends of sorts.”

Rhade looked at Seiya. “He looks identical to Seikou.”

“Keep in mind that he’s really a woman in disguise as a man. It’s a long story. All of this is.”

“And the toys?”

“The most beloved relics of my childhood. Not even Yuki knows that I still have these.”

“My opinion is this. Take everything with you. There’s plenty of room on the Maru, never mind the storage capacity the Andromeda has.”

“You think so?” He nodded. “Then let me just grab my hair brush and ribbons and I’ll throw them in the pack.”

While she was grabbing those items, he got up and walked over to her closet. “I notice that you’re not bringing any of your dresses with you.”

“I hardly ever wear them, so why would I? Besides, I’m going to fight the Magog, not invite them to a fancy ball.”

“Still, wouldn’t it be nice to have one around just in case?”

“Admit it, Rhade, you just want to see me all dolled up like a Princess.”

“There is that, too,” he said grinning. He watched her finish packing before sitting behind her, rubbing her shoulders. “I came up to tell you that Dylan says we aren’t leaving until tomorrow. Presumably, it’s to let us rest from our trip.”

“Sensible,” she agreed, shuddering as he started to kiss the nape of her neck.

“in light of that, I thought maybe we could spend some time together up here. I figure this bed must be more comfortable than those bed rolls we were using last night.”

“You’re not going to ask me about what I said to my mother earlier? I’m shocked.”

“If you’d rather talk about that, I’m happy to do that, too, but I see no reason why we can’t do both.”

“Men!” she exclaimed, getting up. “You know I crave you, so you take advantage of it.”

“Did I misunderstand what you said earlier, then? Or were you just saying that to get your mother off your back?”

Kasei sighed and sat down, facing him. “I don’t love you. The problem is that I remembered things last night, things about my past, about Gaheris and Valkyrie. The part of me that is Nietzschean, the part that is still Valkyrie, loves you more than life. I am her, but I’m not her.”

Now it was Rhade’s turn to sigh. “Kasei, I love you very much and I hope that one day you will mean everything you said today about me being your love and fate brining us together. Until that day, I’m happy with what we have.”

“What we have is a misunderstanding. I won’t tell you again to interrupt me when I’m speaking. What I said today was the truth. I don’t believe I fate, but I’ve been told otherwise. Us being reborn like this, that was the truth. Fire senshi are, unfortunately, prone to visions and the like. Valkyrie loved Gaheris. I can only assume that, given time, I’ll develop true feelings for you and not this craving mixed with echoes of Valkyrie’s feelings and the slowly growing comfort I have when around you. I don’t love you right now. I’m ok with being with you, though. If I am truly destined to love you, then I will allow it to happen.”

“So…you like me then?”

“I’m growing comfortable with you.” She took his hand. “I think I like you. You’re at least a well-balanced individual, unlike that sadist Ryuujin.”

He looked at her hand. “That’s the second time today that you’ve done that.”

“What of it?”

“Yesterday, Yuki warned me to look out for things like this. Touching me without needing to, kissing me of your own free will, things like that.”

Kasei raised an eyebrow. “And what did that upstart of a brother of mine say it meant?”

“He said it was you making a move for me. He said that after he said that what you told me in the bath was close enough to him to a confession of love. I know you don’t, but what does this mean?”

“It means you talk to much,” she said, kissing him soundly.

Rhade let her push him down to the mattress. Her top today was laced, so he undid them with one hand, letting the cord fall to the floor. He got her out of it, but she sat back before he could touch her. “You and Yuki forgot one thing in all your brilliant planning yesterday, the one thing that you’ve never seen and didn’t ask about.” With one hand, she untied the loose ribbon holding her hair back. Loose now, it fell around her shoulders, falling forward over her bare torso enhancing instead of hiding what was there.

Rhade’s breath caught I his throat. “No wonder you wouldn’t let me see you with your hair down before now. Shining goddess of fire, you honor me.”

“Keep talking like that and you’ll never get away from me,” she purred. “You’ll be stuck with me forever.”

“If this is prison, sign me up for life,” he breathed, sitting up. He grabbed the back of her neck and brought her face close enough so that he could kiss her. In between kisses, they removed each other’s clothing, collapsing down on the soft mattress, Rhade on top. They kissed for a little longer before Rhade slid inside of her. Once he was inside, Kasei flipped him over so that she was on top. He managed to last a little longer than he had the night before, but not by much.

“How do you do this to me?” he panted. “I thought I had good stamina.”

“Perhaps with Nietzschean women, but I’m not like them. Once, I was, but not anymore.” She patted his cheek. “You’ll just have to build it back up.”

“Is that an invitation?”

“Since I have this craving, you touching me will inevitably lead to this. It’s more satisfying if you last longer.”

“Ah. A challenge, then.” He yawned. “For now, sleep is what I need. If I’m going to be able to keep up with you, I need my rest.”

“It’s been a long day. Let’s get under that blanket and get some sleep.”