Going to be tightening up the timeline, as well as upping the rating to a drastic 'T'. Oh nooo.
Truth was, she'd been around for three hundred years.
The few kingdoms that weren't wary of the Moon Kingdom asked its guidance in dark times. Queen Serenity offered- in exchange for an alliance, her best tactician, the reigning sovereign of the planet closest to the sun. The first Pharaoh Princess Mercury served was not the leader she would come to know hundreds of years later. She was iconified in stone during that space of three hundred years as the 'Blue Lady' that researchers would never be able to decipher the meaning behind. Painted entirely in blue pigment on stone, the Blue Lady was written as 'an advisor against Roman Conquest' and disappeared from history and hieroglyphs after the disappearance of the last Pharaoh she served. It wasn't clear whether her purpose was that of a deity or simply a specific, changing advisor who was constantly draped in blue; and historians would always be wrong.
She'd seen the rise and fall of many kings, of many thrones over the three hundred years Princess Mercury served Egypt. The very last man she served did not need her advice; he was a brilliant man on his own, even putting that wisdom into the games she'd watch them brutally play. He was fascinated by games, by play, that on one of her obligatory visits (appearances had to be kept of their alliance, even if he needed no tactical advisor), she had brought him a carved board and glass pieces of a game given to her by one of her fellow sovereigns. She called it chess.
She won their first game, and he didn't attribute it to his being new to it.
He'd met the other sovereigns on one visit. The queen and her daughter held a unique and unrivaled beauty, though her daughter bashful and unfocused on his Kingdom; it seemed she valued Earth for other things or other people. The princess of the red planet held all the beauty of Isis, the descendant of the Greek's goddess of love living up to her legend, and the fierce warrior that was the monarch of Jupiter was no different. In the light of these five women, one would think the short haired Princess Mercury was their shadow. He saw something different.
He saw brilliance, aged like wine, that had seen his ancestors and assisted them to victory. Ideas and ideals, appreciation for wit and the wise. Someone could have long golden hair and power imbued, violet eyes and the heart of a guardian, power and passion for the will to fight, or the hereditary beauty and voice of a love goddess, and while he was certain they were all brighter than the people around them, none of their traits were 'wisdom untold, cleverness unspoken'. If you wanted to be challenged, you wanted a brilliant opponent. And she was brilliant, with short locks of easily fluffed blue hair and a steady, wise voice. Her heart was in her teachings, and she recorded his every word, for his life would pass before hers, and she confided in him, sadly, that someday words would be all she had of him.
He asked her what wisdom in there in recording time, if you don't wake up and enjoy it for what it is? She blinked, draped in white cotton, settling the bound book on her stomach and the quill on top of it. He was rarely afforded time away from his advisors, but he had a secret hideaway near the Nile where he could escape for 24 hours, more or less, while everything else was handled. It wasn't a record. It was a diary. She was in such trouble. This was a business relationship, or at the very least, one amicably kept up between kingdoms. She shouldn't be lying in bed and staring at the ceiling, amazed at how comfortable and content she was. Three hundred years of serving different sovereigns and she finally finds herself allowing herself to love one.
To be fair, there were none before him that made her feel that way.
She felt common, even though in her position she was the very exact opposite, and it felt wonderful. To make choices that were reckless and to indulge in the sweet aftertaste that they gave her. Deity-like advisor and lover of the ruler of this land. The bed was packed with feathers and beaded with dozens of glass vials filled with honey that were said to keep pests away. He wasn't there, presumably attending to things he was needed for very early in the morning, when the sun told her it was nine, maybe ten. A cat leapt up and sprawled for her attention, and she couldn't help cracking a smile at how sacred they were regarded as here as she pet it.
A glimmer of light caught her eye; laid on the table nearby were jewels and gold in the style of the Egyptians. All blue, including the dress that she would wear beneath it. A note said that Queen Serenity had been informed of a Roman plot that was leaked, and Mercury was on leave for as long as needed be. He vouched for her vacation, probably after seeing the only time she was truly at rest.
She knew what the jewels meant. It solidified her position in this kingdom. No one would ever be given jewelry this fine without being akin to royalty. Her dress was dyed with consistent streaks of blue, of rich colors made from plants and herbs, so she wouldn't be mistaken for anyone else. All she could imagine, was that she felt she was being given exception to her fellow princesses. She shouldn't be gallivanting off just because of one person, there were rules to adhere to, she thought as she fastened the ringlets around her neck, and if she was willing to accept now, she had better be ready to tell the truth later. That a warrior shouldn't, couldn't…
But wouldn't was an entirely different question.
"I have to worry about Minako's true love of the week, and I have to chase after Makoto to make sure she doesn't clean house until two in the morning on a school night, but you, Ami?" Rei asked, peering up from her book of Shinto history. "I have to follow you because you gambled a date on Blackjack?" Rei crossed her arms and leaned across the table. "You realize this sounds like a really badly thought out youma setup, right?"
Ami made a pained expression. "For the truth, Rei-chan. This is still tied into my work as a senshi. If someone can tell me anything about this, because P- Setsuna won't, then I have to take every lead I can. You know this is a dangerous device and-"
Rei waved her hand as if she didn't want to hear any more. "You only act like an easily blinded dummy when someone's beating your test scores, I trust you, but I'm watching this guy."
They spent time quietly after that, Ami refining her notes, Rei reading her book in that small corner of the museum library until he showed up. The red soldier's face said it all when she saw him: Ridiculous hair? Check. Suspicious pendant? Check. Red eyes? Check. Ami, you idiot, this is clearly someone working for the other side. Ami shushed her back to semi-relaxed as she greeted him- Yami, she called him, and Rei couldn't mentally face palm more. She was glad she had her pen in her pocket, and when he took out the deck to play, she told him to put it away, producing a brand new, factory sealed pack from her bag and tossing it on the table.
"You can never be too careful…" Marked cards and such. "And I'll be dealing for the both of you. Ami, you better be as good at this as you hope you are."
That was awkward. Ami had pleading, mentally apologizing eyes and he had 'don't sweat it, good friends are protective friends' eyes. After a few rounds, it really was a game of luck, Ami putting up her bravest poker face whenever she got 16 total, trying to prove herself wrong by asking for the occasional card. She felt like her playing strategy was like dodging trees in a forest while blindfolded. He smoothly took every round, every win and loss with the same face. Rei had begun to relax. She didn't feel anything off, like some sort of soul-sucking energy draining aura or similar; just two people playing cards. They were playing by betting 'chips', aka writing down from one hundred total and whoever was broke first, lost.
Ami bet her last three on twenty total. He had twenty-one.
"And the winner is tricolor over here." Rei made a grand mock gesture before slipping into her chair, grateful to be back to her book. Ami was bracing herself to break out in hives, holding out her hand to shake with a smile. He shook back, with a small smile.
"Your assessment of your playing, from the other day- that you play conservatively, was a little off. You stuck out your neck a lot more and you got closer to winning for it."
Ami shook her head, embarrassed. "It's just because I knew I would be up against someone who wasn't."
That gave him pause. She was a strategist from the beginning. Some faint sort of understanding and that's how she got so far, and- well, it wasn't going to be a date of arcades, and if the word date bothered her, it wasn't even going to be a date. The ebony-haired girl's glare was shooting daggers in his direction, but he didn't want to play cards with Ami- well, maybe he did, but that could wait for another time. He put on his jacket, she packed her things and thanked her friend, who was grateful for the cue to go.
Not suspicious, Rei thought. Just a strange guy. Why is that all the luck we have?
"This is one of a kind. They didn't use these back then- these hourglasses. Impeccable shape, there's not a touch of yellowing on the glass… some would think that impossible."
She quickly took a bite of her sandwich in order not to answer right away.
"Then again, I'm guilty of the same thing."
He took off that huge pendant and set the two next to each other, "No yellowing or rust or telltale age. It seems there's a lot of artifacts like this despite all logic."
"What exactly is inside your hourglass?" He asked. All he had ordered was something to drink. Cold tea was a sin but he found himself fond of it anyway. Acquired taste.
She paused, not exactly sure how to answer. "It's… something indescribable."
"So am I."
"He put his hands on the pyramid-shaped pendant and asked her, with a completely straight face, "If I told you I came from this, you would think I'm insane."
Let's see. Queen Beryl, the Dark Kingdom, Wiseman, Nehelenia, the slew of monsters of the week, being the reincarnation of the princess of an uninhabitable planet who also served the reincarnation of a princess of the moon, transforming with crystals and pens and talking cats and-
"I think I could believe it if you explained."
Well, she understood, but simultaneously wasn't any further in her understanding of the hourglass. A spirit of the past regaining his memories… wasn't she trying to step into the Mercurian Princess' shoes and understand the same? Who was winning here? Pluto had made her stance that if she was to learn more of Project Erasure, she would be on her own… maybe not anymore.
"You'll tell me if you remember anything about it?"
He pointed. "You owe me… if you find out about what's inside that hourglass, I want to know."
For a moment, just a moment, Ami felt cheeky. "I would stake it on another game."
"And I would win. Again."
"And I would say you're overestimating yourself. What fun is a game if you always win?"
"And I would say you're overestimating yourself. What fun is a game if you always win?"
Two sentences that made them both stop in some sort of echo. For a moment in time, they were repeating some age-old conversation, or something familiar, or something close. Ami felt like she had suddenly trespassed something even though she had said absolutely nothing wrong. She broke the awkward silence. "I won't be that stingy. If I learn anything new… I'll tell you."
He nodded, slowly, and they started to part ways down the street, as she was due for the bus stop back to her district in Tokyo. She reasoned it wasn't really lying… if she already knew exactly what it was, and there was nothing new to say, right? It didn't stop her from letting her fore head hit the bus window with a touch of guilt. She should have realized what her fun and games despite losing had been all along.
"I'm just manipulating him…"
He crossed his hands behind his head as he began the walk, wondering when his consciousness would fade out and return to its host.
"I'm just manipulating her, aren't I?