Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon: Eternal

Act 06: The talent contest; Interlude 2

“Ouch! Serena, don’t pull so hard!” Jen yelled as Serena pulled Jen’s, long, thick red-black hair into a high ponytail. They still had half an hour to go until it was their turn up on stage but they still weren’t ready.

“Hold still and it won’t hurt so much,” Serena scolded, putting the elastic in Jen’s hair, then wrapping it with a long, bright red ribbon. “There. All done.”

Jen went over to one of the mirrors in the dressing room to put on her makeup. She made a face at the bottle of foundation. She hated the stuff as it made her skin feel inches thicker than it should be, but if she didn’t put any on she’d look like a ghost up on stage.

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest one of all?” a voice said coming up behind her.

“Negative points for the fairy tale reference,” Tyler muttered.

“Seiya! What are you doing here?” Jen said in surprise.

“Wishing my girlfriend good luck. Is there something wrong with that?”

“Not that I’m aware of,” Jen said reluctantly.

“Is it permissible to kiss you on the cheek?”

“I suppose I should’ve been more specific when I forbade you from kissing me,” she muttered. “Yes, that’s fine. I haven’t put any of this junk on my face yet.”

After doing so, he took the red rose out of his lapel and put it in her hair. “Good luck, Jen. Oh, just to let you know. After the contest, I’m taking you out for dinner. Later!”

Jen shook her head then put on her foundation. “What nerve!” She selected a color of eye shadow and started brushing it onto her eye lids.

“He’s absolutely delicious, Jen. If you don’t want him, I’ll gladly take him off your hands,” Tyler said slyly.

“Paws off, mutt. I lost fair and square and I refuse to let you fight for him or me. All you’d have to do is get in one good hit and you’ve won.”

Tyler gave her an innocent look. “What? Me? Do I look that strong to you?”

“No, and that’s the point.”

“Wolf, are you sure that your fixation on Seiya isn’t just some residual feelings of jealousy over something else that we won’t say anything more about?” Serena asked as she helped Tyler with her hair. Tyler scowled at her even though she knew Serena couldn’t see it.

Jen put on her red lipstick, ignoring the sudden pang in her heart at Serena’s words, and then stood. “C’mon Wolf. We’re on next.”

“Our next act is a band made up of exchange students from Canada who go by the name Zodiac.” The announcer said. “The curtain raised and the audience clapped politely.

Serena, with her blue bass guitar on her, walked up to the microphone. “Good evening, everyone!. As per the rules, we have two songs for you this evening. The first is a song entitled ‘Free Runner’, written by Tyler Wolf and Jen McCormick. Our second one was written by a band called Evanescence and is called ‘October’. I hope you enjoy our performance.” She stepped back and picked up her bass while Jen stepped up to the microphone as Brett, on the drums counted out the beat. The drums started, and then Jen on electric guitar, Tyler on keyboard, and Serena on bass came in, then the vocals.

Jen: Hey world!

       Guess who?

       It’s me.

       I’m back.

Wolf: I know what I want

       And I’m gonna get it

       If you keep it from me,

       You’ll regret it.

Jen: You see,

       I go where I want

       I do what I please

       I’ll have the whole world down on their knees

Tyler and Jen: You can’t stop me, I’ll say it again

                       You can’t stop me, don’t know where I’ve been

                        I don’t care; I’m not going back there

Jen: Hey world

       I’m back

       Back on my feet

       Running wild and free

Tyler: The night’s in my blood

            Can’t take it away

            I’m the Wolf and you’re my prey

            You can’t get away

Jen: You see,

        I go where I want,

        I do what I please

        I have the whole world down on its knees

Tyler and Jen: You can’t stop me, I’ll say it again

            I’m a free runner, don’t care where I’ve been

I don’t care; I’m runnin' free

           

The song ended and the crowd cheered. The girls took their bows and started in on the second tune. Jen swapped her electric guitar for an acoustic one and Serena picked up a second one. Jen sat down on a tall stool that Tyler brought for her and began to play. She started elaborately finger picking at the strings.

Jen: I can't run anymore,

I fall before you,

Here I am,

I have nothing left, 

Though I've tried to forget, 

You're all that I am,

Take me home,

I'm through fighting it, 

Broken,

Lifeless,

I give up,

You're my only strength,

Without you,

I can't go on,

Anymore,

Ever again.

They started in on the chorus where Jen sang one set of lyrics and Brett, Tyler, and Serena sang a set behind her. It had an odd effect.

Jen: My only hope,

Backup trio: (All the times I've tried)

Jen: My only peace,

Backup trio: (To walk away from you)

Jen: My only joy,

My only strength,

Backup trio: (I fall into your abounding grace)

Jen: My only power,

My only life,

Backup trio: (And love is where I am)

Jen: My only love.

Jen: I can't run anymore,

I give myself to you,

I'm sorry,

I'm sorry,

In all my bitterness,

I ignored,

All that's real and true,

All I need is you,

When night falls on me,

I'll not close my eyes,

I'm too alive,

And you're too strong, 

I can't lie anymore,

I fall down before you,

I'm sorry,

I'm sorry.

Jen: My only hope,

Backup trio: (All the times I've tried)

Jen: My only peace,

Backup trio: (To walk away from you)

Jen: My only joy,

My only strength,

Backup trio: (I fall into your abounding grace)

Jen: My only power,

My only life,

Backup trio: (And love is where I am)

Jen: My only love.

Jen: Constantly ignoring,

The pain consuming me,

But this time it's cut too deep,

I'll never stray again.

For the next chorus, Brett tapped out a rhythm on the snare drum adding another layer to the song.

Jen: My only hope,

Backup trio: (All the times I've tried)

Jen: My only peace,

Backup trio: (To walk away from you)

Jen: My only joy,

My only strength,

Backup trio: (I fall into your abounding grace)

Jen: My only power,

My only life,

Backup trio: (And love is where I am)

Jen: My only love,

My only hope,

Backup trio: (All the times I've tried)

Jen: My only peace,

Backup trio: (To walk away from you)

Jen: My only joy,

My only strength,

Backup trio: (I fall into your abounding grace)

Jen: My only power,

My only life,

Backup trio: (And love is where I am)

Jen: My only love.

The crowd cheered again and they bowed. As the band left the stage, the next act was announced. After that, there were four more acts, and then a break was called for the judges to decide on the winner. While the others went off to go get something to eat, Jen sat in the dressing room, fiddling with the acoustic guitar she’d used in the second song. She was so engrossed in what she was doing that she didn’t appear to hear Seiya come in and sat on a stool beside her. He sat and listened, sitting perfectly still, watching her fingers play over the strings, listening to the soft enchanting melody she played. He felt that he’d heard it somewhere before. It was similar to the one in the second song, but at times it moved into a minor key and turned from gentle and lovely to haunting and sad.

She stopped playing and looked over at him. “What?”

“Huh?” he said, caught off-guard.

Jen rolled her eyes. “What do you want?”

“Nothing. Just listening. You play so well, it’s almost hypnotic.”

“I’m not that good. Andalrien is much better than I am.”

“Who’s Andalrien?”

“None of you’re business,” she snapped, black eyes flashing.

“Sorry! It was just a question.” He made a note to not mention the name Andalrien again. “Anyway, before dinner tonight, would you like to stop at your place to shower and change? Taiki can give you a ride back if you don’t have a quick means of getting back there yourself.”

“Yes, I’ll need to shower and change. Do you think the others can get a ride back as well? Where are we going for dinner, anyway?”

“It’s a surprise. I’ll talk to Taiki, but it shouldn’t be a problem. Oh, you might want to dress semi-formally, though.”

“Looks like I’ll have to borrow something from Serena. I bring anything to Japan with me that would be appropriate.” Someone knocked on the door, saying that the judges were going to announce the winners soon. “I have to go. Later!” she said, leaving the dressing room after putting her guitar back in its case.

“And now for our Grand Prize winner of a shopping spree at the Juuban shopping center and a day with the Three Lights. The envelope, please.” There was a tense silence in the audience as it was handed to the spokesman for the panel of judges and everyone leaned forward as he opened the long white envelope. “Ladies and Gentlemen, our winner is…Zodiac!” The audience cheered. The senshi stood and clapped loudly with Usagi and Minako whistling as the four of exchange students in the band climbed the stage steps to claim their prize.

The Three Lights joined them on the stage and shook their hands. Seiya grinned as he shook her hand. “I knew you could do it!” he whispered proudly.

Jen poked through the closet she shared with the other girls with one towel wrapped around her slim body that barely covered the important parts and another around her hair to keep her from dripping water all over the wooden floors of the apartment and the tatami mats in the bedroom. Serena stood beside her, trying to help her decide what to wear. They finally settled on a spaghetti-strap black dress and a pair of Jen’s black boots with their lace up fronts and chunky heels. It wasn’t a combination that they thought would work, but it did somehow. When she was dressed, the twins sat her down on a chair they’d taken from the kitchen. Skye put a little bit of makeup on her face while Starr did her nails. Serena grabbed Jen’s brush and began to style Jen’s thick, thigh length red-black hair.

Tyler pocked her head in about halfway through the makeover session. “Are you guys done playing ‘dress the doll’? Taiki wants to know.”

“I doubt he used that exact wording, Wolf,” Jen said dryly. “Ow! Not so hard!”

“Hmm. I guess you’re not.” She left.

Finally Jen was deemed presentable. She followed Taiki out to his car. “I’ve already dropped Seiya off. It took him roughly five minutes to shower and change,” he told her, starting the car, laughing at the memory. “I think he’s nervous.”

“Imagine that. A big, famous teen idol being nervous about taking me out on a date,” Jen said, rolling her eyes. “From what I’ve heard, and seen, he’s not the shy type.”

“He’s not. He’s just a little on the nervous side. He has trouble with pretty girls.”

“If it makes him feel better, I’m not that fond of guys myself.”

Taiki lifted an eyebrow, and then laughed. “You’re so weird.”

“That’s what people tell me. You know, if I had a yen piece for every time someone’s told me that, I’d be rich.”

“Here we are,” he said, pulling up beside a restaurant.

Jen went pale. It was a real fancy restaurant, one of those places where it costs an arm and a leg to eat there. Literally. “This? I’ve heard of this place. It’s so expensive!”

Taiki grimaced. “Well, at first he wanted to just take you out for a burger or something like that. Yaten looked like he wanted to box his ears. I can’t say as I blame him.”

“Yaten? The short, weak, artsy, grumpy one who likes Wolf’s pet wolf?”

Taiki nodded. “Uh huh. Anyway, I told Seiya that he should take you somewhere nice.”

“I take it that this wasn’t what you had in mind, is it?” Jen sighed. “I suppose I’d better go in and try to enjoy dinner.”

“Do try to be patient with him,” Taiki said as Jen got out of the car.

Jen smiled reassuringly and entered the restaurant. Seiya was waiting for her. He stepped back and looked at her. Jen felt like a bug under a microscope.

“You look incredible,” he said, admiringly.

“You shine up pretty, too.” Seiya was wearing a pair of black pants, white shirt, black jacket and a red tie.

“Thank you.” He offered her his arm and led her to their table. Oddly enough, they were the only people eating there that night.

“Umm, Seiya, why aren’t there any other people here?” Jen asked nervously.

Seiya leaned forward, leaning on his elbows. “I wanted to get to know you without any one else around. Why? Is something wrong?”

“No, but where I’m from, a restaurant like this is always packed and very busy.”

“I see.” A waiter came up and took their orders, then left. “So, Jen. Tell me about yourself.”

“Do you want the gory version or the no-holds-barred version?”

“Gory?” Seiya lifted an eyebrow.

“I’ll give you the sort of gory, shorter version then. You be the judge. You see, I’m an orphan. My parents and baby sister were killed when I was five. My twin brother was adopted a year later, and I wasn’t. I’ve been shuffled from foster home to foster home. That’s how I met Wolf and Serena. Every one I’m related to has died in some hideous way.”

“Do you have a boyfriend?”

Jen looked at him, her black eyes narrowing. “Why do you ask?”

“Well, don’t kill Brett, but he said something about it when you were hurt.”

She sighed. “Yes, I did. Only one. Did Brett tell you much about him?”

“Only that he’s dead.”

Jen sighed. “Yes, he’s dead. He’s been that way for almost a year now. I watched him die, and I couldn’t do anything.” Jen’s fists clenched. The waiter came then with their meal and beverages.

The conversation turned to other things, like Seiya, the other two members of the Three Lights and school. Even so, Jen was very quiet. Their meals came and they turned to eating.

“I absolutely cannot eat another bite!” Jen exclaimed, putting down her fork. “I haven’t eaten that much spaghetti in years.”

“At least you can say that word right.” Seiya said, also putting his fork down.

“What? Spaghetti?”

“Yeah. That one. Ready to go?” He stood extending his hand to her.

“Go? Go where?” she asked, taking his hand and standing.

“How about a nice walk in a nearby park?”

“Do I have a choice?” she grumped. “Sounds great, really, but I didn’t see a park on the way here.”

“It’s about a half a block from here.”

“Let’s go then. You lead; I have no idea where we are or we’re going.”

Seiya grinned. “That’s a very dangerous thing to say, Jen.”

“No worse than my cooking.” She said as they walked out of the restaurant.

“You cook?”

“No. Well, yes, I do, but badly. It tends to make people sick.”

“I don’t believe it. I say you’re just being hard on yourself.” They turned a corner.

“Don’t make me prove it!” she said in a mock-threatening tone.

“You’re funny.”

“And you’re funny looking,” she countered. “Are we there yet?”

“Almost. It’s just around this corner. Ah. Here we are.” They turned around the corner and, just up ahead, were the gates to the park.

“This is a really nice place, Seiya.” Jen said as they walked through the park. “I haven’t seen such a place in so long.”

“I’m glad you like it. It’s usually very quiet at night. And lonely. Come on, I’ll show you my favorite spot.” Seiya grabbed her hand and started running.

“Hey, not so fast, Seiya! I can’t run well in this dress and boots.”

Seiya stopped. “Sorry, I forgot. You just don’t seem like the kind of girl who wears dresses very often.”

“That’s all right. You’re right you know. I hate dresses. This one is Serena’s. Pretty much everything else I’m wearing was borrowed except the boots. Those are mine.”

“If you don’t like dresses, why are you even wearing it? I can’t imagine you being forced to wear it.”

“That’s what they did. That, and... Stars, I can’t believe I’m telling you this... I wanted to look nice tonight.”

Seiya looked her straight in the face. “Really? I’m touched.”

Jen blushed, turning away from his eyes. Just like his eyes. She thought, feeling the tears forming behind her eyes. If I look at them much longer, I’ll go crazy, perhaps even blow my cover.  “It’s just been so long since I’ve been on a date.”

They continued walking. For some reason, they were still holding hands. Seiya wondered why, but didn’t object. If she didn’t mind, then he certainly didn’t. “Here we are,” he said finally, leading her to a bench on top of a hill overlooking a lake. They sat down.

“I don’t get it, Seiya. What’s so special about this place?”

Seiya sighed, leaning back on the bench, still holding her hand. “I like watching the lake, especially at night. See the sunset? It reflects on the water. It’s one of the most beautiful things that I’ve seen.”

Jen looked at the lake, but only for a few seconds. “It’s beautiful, but it hurts my eyes to look at it. Too many memories, painful memories, old wounds reopening.” She shook her head, forcing herself not to cry. “Sorry. You’ve tried so hard to make this night enjoyable for me, but all it’s done is remind me of the past.”

“It hurts you? Your past?” Seiya looked at her concerned. “Why are you crying? Come here.” Jen collapsed into his arms, the tears flowing freely from Jen’s mysterious black eyes. “Tell me, Jen. What’s wrong?”

Abruptly, her crying ceased and she pulled away from Seiya as if she’d been burned. “I can’t... I’m really sorry, Seiya, but... I can’t tell you. Forgive me.” She got up and ran as fast as she could. Not from Seiya, but from the face that haunted her every time she closed her eyes.

“I don’t like it, Yosayna,” StarHealer said, placing a pale hand on Andalrien’s paler forehead. “She’s not getting any better.”

“If only Okami and Wavesong were here,” Yosayna  said, looking at the bespelled Guardian. “Your powers aren’t as strong as they used to be.”

“Well, they’re not here, Yosayna ,” Nakerr said, annoyed. “Its harsh reality, I know, but we have to deal with it. I’m just as worried as you are, but she will get better. Someday.”

“Nakerr’s right,” a new voice said. “We mustn’t give up hope.”

“Yanehr!” Yosayna  said, running to embrace her husband.

“How is she?” he asked StarHealer.

“Worse. Without Duchess Wavesong’s knowledge of herbs and Countess Wildrunner’s healing powers, we have an extremely diminished chance at helping her get well.”

“Starinfinity was here earlier. She dropped off a letter from Wavesong. She says that all is as can be expected, except that Jalon’g was quite seriously injured. She’s made a full recovery, though. The twins are growing stronger under Dralden’s instruction. I knew it was a good idea to send my nephew along.”

“Well you know how much Shailara absolutely adores my son,” Nakerr said proudly.

“Anyway, she goes on to talk about Earth’s sailor senshi. She says their powers are quite weak and can’t stand against An’ei’s minions on their own. Three of these senshi are different. Five, actually, but only three that really stand out. They’re called SailorStarlights. They dress differently than the average senshi and their names are like the Guardians’. The other senshi are named after the planets in the system. From what Wavesong says it’s almost identical in construction to ours but with only one habitable planet.”

“What about the other two odd senshi?” StarHealer asked, wiping Andalrien’s forehead with a cool cloth.

“Well, their leader is a Sailor, her fuku has large, fake wings attached to the back. They call her Eternalsailormoon. The other is Sailorpluto. From what Wavesong’s been able to tell, she’s that system’s Guardian of Time, not unlike Starinfinity, only slightly different.”

“Does she say anything else?” Yosayna  asked.

“She mentioned a strong aura around several of her class mates at school. Okami’s nose has been doing overtime as well. She’s trying to confirm her suspicions, but both have been unsuccessful. They miss us. Okami has no patience for humans, as we all know. Ozhishi says he’ll bring back a bear for you Nakerr. Neilara and Shailara send hugs and are bringing back music for you Yosayna . Jalon’g, well, we’ll be lucky if she comes back with her sanity intact.”

“Jalon’g? Sane?” StarHealer laughed. “Since when?”

“Be nice Zalandre,” Yanehr scolded. “Remember how she was after the first major fight? Well, there’s someone on Earth, attending the same school as them, who is a carbon copy of …him.”

“You’re joking,” Zalandre scoffed. “That’s just too much of a coincidence.”

“Coincidence or not, I have Wavesong’s word for it. Even their names are close.”

“What’s his name?” Yosayna  asked, intrigued.

“Seiya Kou.”