Coffee houses were easily deemed the favorite hotspot of a particular group of women, their wise eyes and sophistication prevalent in even their quietest days. However, as their group gradually changed, introducing a younger raven-haired former priestess to their graduated ways they found a new niche, their newest companion settling in with ease as she picked up and observed their habits. Sitting in a coffee house, however simple, was such a… classy alternative to the Crown Arcade Rei Hino and her lot of friends often frequented back when it was still standing. In a coffee house there were no boisterous customers ranting about video games, no chipper teenage girls squealing over dangerously handsome boy bands and certainly no grade-school drama floating around to bother customers. Here, there were adults, sitting in their separate booths and calmly discussing various items of important business. And well, who was she kidding, as she, Rei Hino, sat in the booth across from the always elegant Michiru Kaiou and exotically beautiful Setsuna Meioh, she had felt so much older, and dare she say it, slightly cooler.
These guys were definitely the high-society clique, the one people envied and wished they could be a part of but were too intimidated to try or even ask how they might acquire such enviable refinement. Rei supposed she was inducted purely by convenience being as they each shared in a secret life far more extraordinary than the average man could fathom. Nevertheless, as she sipped her cup of tea with her legs primly crossed beneath the table and her stunning amethyst eyes staring blindly out the coffee shop window, she released a pent up sigh.
In the distance she could see an ornately crafted spire peering out over the hills of houses, the white beacon shining magnificently in the sunlight and casting a soothing blanket of light across the acres it towered over. An at ease population wafted through the streets, casually tending to groceries and children as they carted past neighbors and new acquaintances. They were smiling brightly, the action not going unnoticed by the perceptive eyes of a porcelain-skinned woman as her finger unconsciously traced the gold lining of her tea cup. That was the Sanq Kingdom peeking over the hills of houses and it was beautiful, a fact that she could not deny. After all, it would just be a horrible lie if she were to say it was nothing to fawn over especially when that single white spire that sparkled in the distance had been enough to leave her gawking in awe at its infrastructure and design.
The gardens of the Sanq kingdom, she remembered from a recent trip, were lush with breathtaking green foliage as an array of gorgeously scented flowers bloomed in controlled vicinities tended by the talented groundskeepers. Greek columns interlaced with foreign architecture firmly stood at the foundations of the Sanq Kingdom's main wing, twinkling glass windows stretching beautifully towards the sky as velvety pearl drapes glistened through from the inside. Even the cobblestone walkway leading to the entrance was magnificent, each stone looking as though it were picked out individually for its natural luster and shine as they effortlessly withstood the weight of guests and carriages without baring any scratch to show for it. There was hardly any flaw noticeable in all its glory and it had been a somewhat unsettling realization for Rei and even for her dearest friend whose eyes had perplexedly marveled at the brilliance of this kingdom that neither had ever known about prior to their mass reawakening.
Usagi had seemed so stunned, so confused, an image that reflected clearly in the eyes of each her friends and even Mamoru. Rei frowned. The new world order and Preventers thought the Lunar Corporation was out to get them when in reality the members of that Lunar faction were more lost than they had ever been before. The rise of a familiar enemy power, however, is what snapped them out of their confused dance and reined them in to point out that there was still work to be done. Doing this, however, on a public scale was a new experience, one of which they'd have to handle as it progressed. Even with the gatekeeper of time on their side, the future was evidently unclear and largely unset.
And yet, even among their strange awakening and rapidly changing situation as a public organization, they still managed to find time to sit meditatively in a laidback coffee house sipping chai tea, espresso and café mocha with foam.
As the silence drifted amongst the booth, each woman found themselves rapidly consumed in deliberation, their eyes vacant despite their lively positions casually sipping their beverages in plain sight. Rei had theories as to why the outers often spent their time in coffee houses. For one, they tended to be fairly quiet during the day, save the morning where people were rushing for their daily caffeine fix. Otherwise, coffee houses offered quite a serene environment for those with much to think on and even for those that had absolutely nothing trifling with their thoughts. Another reason, she had deduced, was because it was public.
In retrospect, the outers were not the most social though they were admittedly charming when they needed to be and knew from experience what it took to sway people into giving them what they needed be it information or connections to a chain of other, more pivotal figures in the grand scheme of things. So to appear regularly in a casual setting where traffic was steady and regulars took note of other frequent customers, it was a nice way to quietly instill the idea that you were the average citizen. In a coffee house people could keep to themselves without being questioned whereas if you chose to consistently meet in a private setting you were automatically subject to receive pensive speculation about what it is you might be doing behind closed doors…
"I can't help but concern myself over Ami's condition and whether or not it was wise to send her to the South Pacific."
Rei looked up in surprise, catching the rare expression of worry upon Michiru's milky skin where she was usually smiling like a canvas of artistic perfection.
"Well it's a bit late for that," Rei replied, sounding a bit harsh though she hadn't meant to. "She's already on the ship."
"So it seems," Michiru chided, sipping carefully at her coffee. Her aquamarine hair waved around her feminine face, the worry that once resided there now gone and replaced by a mild look of indifference.
Beside her Setsuna sat unaffected, her ruby eyes turning slightly beige as she stared out the shop window. She was undoubtedly peering at the high spires of the Sanq kingdom, Rei assumed, since it had become a silent obsession for each of them.
"Still, I do hope her health holds up." Michiru's sky-blue eyes glinted with light, the small moment somehow catching Rei's gaze. It had been far too quiet at the table, a silence of which was growing in discomfort and not at all welcomed a fact that Rei silently took note of from the well tamed expression Michiru had offered amidst Setsuna's solitary notion to remain transfixed upon that gilded white castle. Though Michiru's concern for Ami may have been genuine, it was not a comment that was simply made to receive comfort for but rather a statement she hoped would ward off this unnatural silence.
"I remember hearing that hurricane season was fast approaching," Rei said, picking up easily on Michiru's intent.
"I heard the same thing," Michiru replied, still casually sipping at her cup as though she were completely unaware that Setsuna wasn't paying attention. "I feel guilty that she had been sent and I stayed. I would have been better-equipped to face that type of weather…"
Rei glanced to Setsuna, sighing as she noticed no change in her position.
"That was my same thought," she admitted, leaning back against the cushioned booth with a deep exhale.
That chamber of secrets nestled inside the olive skinned woman with long, thick myrtle green hair that extended far along her slender frame until layering to an end just above her hips was an unsettling place the senshi often wished they could peer in on but knew they could never do. More guarded than either of them, Setsuna was a fortress of thoughts, her knowledge of the universe impenetrable and frightening though she never made physical indications in front of civilians that she had known such secrets. To the outside she appeared normal though an inexhaustible sense of wisdom had always just oozed from her regardless of how she chose to smile, speak or dress. It was in those moments of silence where those garnet orbs would train themselves on a single object, dissecting it to billions of small pieces and specs of matter that she became evidently other worldly in her perception of life around her. And it was in these moments that her peers had grown weary and nervous with concern about her, always yearning to see what she saw but never knowing. Sure, she was their friend, but even then they were kept at bay as a largely invisible responsibility had weighed down Setsuna's shoulders and no one else's. It was the way it had always been and they reasoned that it was necessary else it would have crumbled centuries ago.
"Ami will be fine."
It was a resolute declaration. One that had sent chills through Rei's fiery soul and even Michiru's sea-faring one. All-knowing and intense, Setsuna's gaze had returned to them, her full blush pink lips pressing against the edge of her porcelain mug as she sipped at her cup of unsweetened coffee. "Besides, Ami volunteered in your stead since the two of you have that important meeting planned with the President of the Winner Corporation."
Michiru smiled wryly to her side, nodding.
"You are perfectly right," she sighed. "I can't believe such an important meeting had slipped my mind."
"Mmhmm," Setsuna hummed unconvinced, stirring her cup thoughtlessly.
Rei had to stifle a scoff, offhandedly reminiscing about the days where she frequented the Crown Arcade with the incessant chatter of Usagi and Minako in her ears. Most often Ami would be behind them, her eyes ravaging the pages of an interesting new book while Makoto walked in stride with eyes lost in a private daydream. She herself would choose to indulge in conversation or just silently walk along with them depending on how she felt that day. She smiled, fondly thinking on how easily she and Usagi used to push each other's buttons. It was especially difficult for either of them to hide their qualms or troubles when they were together and Rei found herself suddenly wishing that she were back to that simple time where she shouted her detestations at Usagi and her pigtailed friend shouted her own arguments just as loudly back. Now, however, times were different.
In a more mature setting, she sat at a table where thoughts and troubles were confined to each their own minds. They knew they should share and let the words air themselves out until a proper solution was agreed upon, but they kept to themselves even when their peers had attempted to coax the truth from their stubborn lips. Instead they were civil and poised and Rei more than anything wished Usagi were there with them. But even then, she doubted much would change. After all, even the clumsy crybaby she often criticized as a teen was different…
Feeling her heart drop, Rei could no longer sit still and pretend things were under control despite the constant haywire that had plagued her mind. She now realized another speculated reason why the outers frequently visited the quiet, public coffee houses found easily in any city. It was to keep from screaming. The strains and gripes of their life missions were brought to coffee houses to be buried beneath silence. This was how they coped. Together, in a place surrounded by those that were unknowingly protected from immeasurable harm, and isolated as they vicariously lived out their more simple dreams through the people they saw outside the window. Rei understood.
When she was a child, she could imagine having trouble accepting it. In a time where her concerns were barred to grade school proportions and her world hardly extended past her Grandfather and the shrine, she didn't seem to think that there was much to give up by accepting her calling as the senshi of Mars. Naïve, she even believed it would become easier with age and when she met the outers they seemed so much more refined, so at home with themselves and their duty. She wanted their conviction, their wisdom. And now she had it. What was funny, she noted with a sardonic scoff, was that she now wished to have her adolescence returned to her. Unfortunately, something so pure has no chance of being recovered once it's tainted with reality.
"Are you leaving?" Michiru asked when noticing Rei push herself up from the booth.
The raven-haired woman nodded wearily, feeling her throat dry as an unexpected weight of pain pierced its way through her chest. Even in the place where she would attempt to hide her scars, it seemed she couldn't stop her heart from feeling afflicted.
"I just need some new air," Rei murmured, shielding her eyes with sunglasses before grabbing her purse. "Call me if something comes up."
She walked away gracefully, her heels clicking rhythmically against the wooden floorboards until the bells rang at her exit. Inside, Setsuna and Michiru remained in the booth, Michiru now positioned across from her ruby-eyed friend. They continued to sip at their coffee, both completely poised and refined despite the war of emotions that waged behind their otherwise charming and unbothered visages.
This wasn't exactly her idea of a simple, uncomplicated assignment that Artemis had said would last no longer than the average tiff they had before their magically induced sleep that had lasted through centuries of unforeseen changes. Firstly, what they thought would be a global rest turned out to be a rest just for them which was a discovery they made a moment too late and secondly, the average tiff "back in the day", as they frequently found themselves saying, always included Sailor Moon's stunning attacks to seal the deal. So, as she stood gawking uncomfortably at the dauntingly sleek exterior wherein her most perilous fear was rooted, she unsuccessfully attempted to guess how long this fight might be without the aid of her pigtailed friend.
As the basic units of time tried to cross her mind, seconds gradually graduated to minutes which eventually extended to hours and then old math homework had somehow popped into mind to remind her of another real terror that she had of arithmetic, she sickly shook her head, already forgetting what it is she was trying to do in the first place and suffering a mild condition of amnesia. Her hands had taken an unnoticed habit of trembling uncontrollably, her pupils dilated to such a length that you would have never guessed her natural eye color was a godly emerald. Sweat marred her terror-filled face and though her thick, naturally curled mane shimmered with natural highlights among its ponytail of auburn mystery, it was blatantly obvious that she was far from happy.
"Oh, com'on," was said in succession to a grip that had placed itself securely around the brunette's right wrist. Tight-jawed and unchanging in her expression of detectable dread, the brunette had been pulled along the pavement towards the ungodly creation she had wished would have been dissolved in the years stolen away by a cryogenic sleep alongside her nine comrades. But no, instead of the invention being overturned by more sophisticated forms of travel like teleportation or trains moving at the speed of light, she had to suffer through the fact that her least appreciated object of technology had still existed, the only improvement made being that it could now fly to colonies that were floating around in outer space. It was a fact that had not been well received in our current brunette's eyes as she still struggled to stifle the gaudy hesitation bridling in her gut.
However, the stern and slightly amused, as was told by the smirk garnering her handsome features, sandy blonde insisted she, "…stop being such a poor excuse of an heir to Jupiter and get your ass into that ship so we can get this thing over with!"
Makoto had not been able to form a coherent rebuttal against her friend's abrasive language and rough handling, but when the situation involved airplanes she had a horrible habit of turning into a timid ball of distress with absolutely no means to protect herself. It was the one thing that actually had the capacity of derailing her long practiced skill of bravery against harsh conditions and quite frankly she wished that she could recant her acceptance of this latest mission and curl like a baby beneath her covers until she could just force the memory of this experience far from her mind.
"Are you seriously going to make me carry you onto this plane?"
Makoto gulped, suddenly blinking briefly out of her scared haze and glancing towards Haruka who stood unbothered at the half-way point leading to the aircraft. Incredulous royal blue eyes stared back at her, that mane of sandy blonde billowing in the wind giving her the look of a drool-worthy model as her white collared shirt ruffled around her lithe frame with the sleeves folded up to her elbows. A creased pair of khaki slacks covered her long legs, a black carry on resting against her hip as the strap was slung over a shoulder. Taking a deep breath, Makoto's hand tightened around the handle of her newly gifted bag in the shape of a cuddly brown teddy bear.
Haruka had gotten it for her as a joke in attempts to offend the brunette enough to make her push her fear aside and jump on the flight without hesitation. What she didn't realize, was that Makoto had absolutely no qualms with being termed a wimp when it came to flying and had actually taken a liking to this plush new bag for its versatility and soft texture. It reminded her of home, a place she desperately wanted to be now.
"Makoto," Haruka firmly called out, the impatience evident in the hard tone of her voice.
Like a child, the tall brunette looked towards her, stepping hesitantly forward as she wordlessly started her ascent to face her own personal nightmare.
Thank you for reading! As always, comments and suggestions are graciously welcomed!
Nerf-or-Nothing: Thank you for your reviews! I am so stoked Artemis made you squeal XD He makes me squeal too lol and you're right he is so gorgeous in the manga as well as Luna. Those two are like the Hollywood couple, I think, of the Sailor Moon arc. I mean Usagi and Mamoru have always been beautiful together but Luna and Artemis are just plain gorgeous. I just gawk at their attractiveness! I am also glad you liked the way Wufei is described. He's a hard one for me so I always struggle with that ^^; As for Duo, yeah, that guy is one of my favorites! I mean, he's resourceful, has a sense of humor with a dark past and can kick butt so I'm all in! lol Anyhow, I always appreciate your kind, kind words! As for your work here on this site you should get an award! You've breathed life into this section and it is awesome, not to mention inspirational!
Angelofvenus-l3: Thank you for your review! I am so flattered by your kind review and am ecstatic that you've enjoyed the characterizations so far ^^ There wasn't much Minako in this chapter but I hope it was still enjoyable. Thank you again for reading, it is truly much appreciated!
Agoraphobia: Thank you so much for your review! I'm so glad you like it so far and I will do my best to keep it going ^^
angelic aquarian: Ah yes, Ami/Duo ^^ I am in love with those two since they contrast so much but fit together so perfectly! XD I'm also glad that Wufei and Mina's interactions with each other have been reasonable. I always do fear that I may be making things a bit far fetched character-wise so it is a relief to hear that those two are believable in the ways that they act. Anyhow, I hope this chapter was enjoyable and thank you so much for reviewing!