Sweet Dreams

Chapter 9: Change Challenges the Soul

© 2006 by Pyrite aka Jessi Duffour

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Sure enough, I survived to stumble into my room after Lord Kunzite teleported us back to the quarters' hallway after the long lesson on using magic and powers. After fumbling with the key in the lock and staggering in, I closed the door behind me, locked it, leaned against the hard wood, and closed my eyes, wincing. I had never before felt such pain! Every bone and muscle ached, I even hurt in places I didn't know I had muscles!

I lurched to the bathing chamber, ready for a long, soothing soak in the hotspring. Maybe this'll help. After stripping and tossing my clothes to the side, I tenderly inched into the steamy waters, pain in every move. The heat in the dark water soothed, and I was relieved to feel most of the hurt subside. Sighing and sitting in the water, I rested my head back on the edge of the spring, savoring the gentle natural flow of the water, the steam flows traveling through the water doing miracles for my bruised and aching body.

I was already beginning to get used to this strange place, this Dark Kingdom. My thoughts were straying less and less to the home I could not remember, and more to the frightening challenge ahead of me: staying alive.

In truth, as much as the combat lesson was displeasurable, I was fascinated with magic...and enjoyed that lesson greatly. I recalled the introductory to magic...of learning how to sense this strange power both within me and in the world and people around me. I learned how to channel my own inner energy, Ki as Kunzite called it, through a certain "Pathos" or focus. He told me how one of the past Generals, Nephrite I believe his name was, could channel his powers through the Stars, his own special Pathos. Kunzite demonstrated his...a Pathos consisting of pure energy, absorbing other's powers, and creating weapons of deadly, crackling energy. I also learned, that using the power for 'wishing' was very taxing on my reserves and should be used sparingly.

We spent fruitless hours trying to find my own...but as luck would have it...all we turned up was a Headache Royal. I could perform minor blasts of formless Ki energy...but any one else could too in the Dark Kingdom, and besides, I could hardly knock an empty wine bottle off a stone. Kunzite told me not to overexert myself...that I would 'Find' my own Pathos. As knowledgeable as he is, though, his cryptic answers were beginning to get on my nerves.

I sighed and crawled out of the soothing warmth of the spring and dried off, pulling on a set of conjured clothing, thick and comfortable. I walked to the huge bed and climbed into the warm, inviting silken sheets. Snuggling into the comfortable, cherry blossom scented cozy sheets, my body a series of dull aches, accumulating with compound interest into a throbbing hurt, I sought a position that invoked the least amount of pain. I stared into the inky darkness of the room and whispered softly as I drifted into exhausted slumber.

"This had BETTER be worth it...that's all I gotta say."

* * *

I whirled around, my katana singing through the air, slicing a deep groove into the wall, stone shards flying from the force of the strike. Spinning, I pulled my blade up in a parry, the deadly sharp swords' clang ringing through the cavernous room. Dodging to the side, I leapt and dove into a roll, a sword embedding deep into the wall where my head had been a split second before. Hopping to my feet I jumped up and kicked off the wall, rebounding in a somersault over my opponent's head, landing gracefully behind him, my blade sinking into his shoulder. Pulling it out I edged back swiftly, every muscle tense in my guard, watching him with a hawklike intensity.

It has been over a month since I came to the Dark Kingdom...and I had been in constant training. Now the horrific wounds of war bothered me hardly at all, and I was becoming faster, stronger, and a little tougher to pain. Combat was not so bad anymore. My fighting skills improved drastically, and I was beginning to get the hang of rudimentary magic. But I still had a long way to go, and I was always surprised by new, often frightening, things to learn each day.

Silver eyes glittered as my mentor grimaced and grinned, clasping his shoulder. He smirked and nodded as the wound healed quickly, the pink blood trickling down his arm and back. He shook out his silvery mane of hair and straightened, smiling, slight pride in his eyes.

"Excellent! I see you have been practicing your acrobatic skill. A splendid use of the corner you were backed into." Kunzite smiled and lowered his blade nonthreateningly. Straightening, he bowed quickly then stepped forward, holding his hand out to me in an offer to shake it. Smiling merrily, I took his hand.

Just as I expected, I felt his fingers close around my wrist.

"But it seems that you had forgotten your first lesson..."

I clasped his wrist as he drove his blade at my chest, moving back with the movement in an unexpected dip, falling lightly to the ground and taking him down with me. In a fast fluid move, I planted my feet into his hips and kicked him over me, hurling my surprised teacher against the wall behind me. Picking up his blade that had fallen next to me, I rose and walked to him, my head tilted slightly. I dropped the blade next to him.

"...You mean 'Don't trust anyone'?" I smiled and blinked innocently. He coughed and slid slowly to the ground, the blade of a wickedly sharp ax having cut him through the back, a vivid pink smear trailing to the ground to where he slumped. He looked up at me slowly with burning silver eyes. I blinked in surprise, his mood having changed so abruptly. He slowly stood, his lustrous hair falling in a matted curtain around his face, no expression at all on his features...a sign I was coming to see as painful trouble.

"And I take it you know well the second lesson?" I blinked and stepped back uneasily as he stood straight. I have felt many a times the painful bite of the past training sessions. I nodded.

"The weapons of the Training Arena are enchanted...the wounds heal...." I blinked as he slowly pulled down a pair of boomerangs, a lightweight yet sturdy metal, razor-sharp.

"And the Third?" His eyes began to glow slightly and I glanced around uneasily, feeling a chill wind begin to blow throughout the arena. I gulped slightly, seeing that this was going to be unpleasant. Very.

"...There are far worse things than death in..the...Dark ...Kingdom...?"

"Correct, Boy." Suddenly he moved in a blur of motion, roaring and throwing the boomerangs with stunning force. I was caught in a brief moment of startled surprise. Suddenly I was hit from every which way by slashing blades. I fell to my hands and knees, shaking, gritting my teeth. Opening my eyes, I saw dozens of clean, deep cuts on my arms and legs. Wincing, I looked up at Kunzite, standing there with the two boomerangs, glowing a hot pink with infused energy in his hands. Gasping, I shuddered violently as the Ki energy he infused in the swift weapons sent electrifying jolts through my body. I fell over, clenching my teeth in agony, choking on a pain filled scream, as I felt as if a lightening bolt struck me. Finally, the effect subsided, leaving me panting on the ground. Squeezing my eyes shut, I steeled myself for another strike of the painful weapons. I started in surprise as I felt strong hands gently, yet firmly grasp my arm and pull me to my feet. I blinked in surprise at Kunzite.

"You are learning fast, yet you have so much more to learn, Pyrite." I stared wide-eyed in utter surprise. He never before called me by my chosen name, usually calling me Boy, or even Little Rat in some instances. As ridiculous as the name is, I could almost detect a touch of warmth in his voice when he spoke it. I smiled softly, warily. I had learned how to flow along with his sudden mood shifts.

"True, Lord Kunzite, but I couldn't hope to ask for a better person to teach me than you." He blinked in surprise at the unexpected flattery, his silvery blue eyes glittering in the light. Pushing aside my nervousness, I brushed my bangs out of my eyes and smiled sweetly.

"I'd really like to thank you for the time you've spent training me." I grinned wryly, blushing sheepishly "I know I must be a real pain in the neck at times...and I need to control my temper better...but I really appreciate you not giving up on me."

He stared at me in utter shock, as if I had said the exact last thing he'd expected to hear. His hand convulsed slightly on my arm and he let go, turning away.

"My life hangs on your success with the Queen. If you fail, I will die...."

"...Or worse?" He grinned wryly and glanced at me as he donned his jacket and cape.

"You learn fast. Good." I nodded and grabbed my own jacket and placed it on. Having learned early on that the jacket restricts my movement, I was faced with a small dilemma...how to hide a noticeable clue to my gender. Finding some long sashes in my dresser, I wrapped one tightly around my chest and wore the long sleeved dark violet undershirt over it. Much to my good luck, it worked perfectly, so I could take off the Jacket if I needed to...and not give away my identity. Buckling the belt and smoothing out the uniform, I walked over to Kunzite and stood next to him. We were surrounded by a flash of dark light and appeared in the Audience Chamber of Queen Beryl for our weekly Progress Report.

The tall man and I walked up to Queen Beryl and bowed low to her respectfully. As I straightened, I noted absently that the chamber was empty save for the three of us. A soft crafty smile graced her lips as she eyed us.

"Report." her voice echoed through the empty cavern hauntingly. Stepping forward, Kunzite related to her the exact progress of the training, adding a few statistical comments here and there and plans and goals for the future training sessions. I stood meekly looking down at my boots, torn between utter boredom and the gnawing fear of her displeasure of failure. She nodded approvingly as he finished.

"Excellent!" Her smile could do no credit to the Cheshire cat...a look I had come to know as death or reward to many a Youma. I kept my face mildly neutral...not daring to second-guess the Queen. That would be foolish, if not down right suicidal. "I am very pleased at your successful training, Pyrite. So pleased, in fact, that I am going to give you your first assignment."

Surprised, I glanced at Kunzite, noting his startled look. I glanced back at the Queen. She chuckled softly and traced her fingers over the eerie swirling orb in front of her.

"I will be needing to make a diplomatic trip to the Dark Moon." Dark Moon? "And I will have the two of you be my personal escort there, my Honor Guard." I was totally floored by the magnitude of the assignment. I bowed low and allowed a sincere smile to light my face at her praise. This should be fun! A Trip! Somewhere!!!

"My Queen, I am honored beyond words. Thank you!" She smiled slowly and chuckled.

"Such enthusiasm! Good. Kunzite...I wish you to debrief Pyrite on the Dark Moon and those we will meet there. We will be leaving in twenty-four hours. You are dismissed."

Snapping back to attention, I bowed to the grimly amused Queen and turned and glanced at Kunzite and stepped close automatically at his nod, knowing by now that he was going to teleport us out, as had become routine in the past month. We disappeared in the now familiar flash of dark energy, appearing in his foyer. After many arduous months of training in the Dark Kingdom, I had become used to the magic...and the teleportation didn't leave me with vertigo any longer, much to my relief. I turned to my mentor, a million questions fighting for place on my tongue, when he held up a silencing hand...knowing me well enough by now...and my inquisitive curiosity. I took a deep breath and held onto my patience as he silently walked to a grand set of double doors. Opening the doors he beckoned me inside. I promptly walked in quickly, eyeing the room briefly, intently.

It was a study...with enormous dark shelves of the unusual rock, filled floor to towering ceiling with books and unusual archaic collectibles! Old books, new ones, ancient tomes in dusky leather bindings, some seeming perfectly harmless, some sinister in appearance. Along one wall were archaic artifacts...a showcase with finely crafted blades and weapons, objects of different eras of time and nationality...some seeming of another world entirely. The magic I could feel radiating from the many books and countless items was startling, some verily glowing with a soft aura of power. Despite the variety of objects and books, they were all placed in a neat strict orderliness. What else would I expect of Kunzite?

I turned my attention back to the tall mysterious mentor as he motioned with a cool, commanding gesture to a noticeably discomfortingly hard wooden chair facing the desk and a softly cushioned large chair covered in scarlet velvet, obviously his. Refusing to be baited into another fight by his commanding oversuperiority, I calmly walked to the wooden chair and carefully sat down slowly, keeping my gaze locked to his, my face deliberately neutral.

I can see a test when it's getting thrown in my face now, Kunzite! You're pushy, I know, but you're doing it especially for a reason now...and I don't feel like getting baited into another 'suitable student conduct' lecture. I crossed my legs at the knee and placed my hands in my lap, watching him casually as he turned slowly and swiftly chooses a few tomes from the enormous carved bookcases. I resisted the urge to squirm: the chair was a hell of a lot more uncomfortable then it looked, that was for sure!

I managed not to jump as he plopped the stack of books in front of me with a loud thud, sending up a thick cloud of dust wafting in my face. I sneezed 'petitely', for a lack of better words. "An undignified squeak" as my mentor tends to call it. Drawing a careful breath, I managed to regain my composure, though my eyes still watered. Glancing at the huge stack of books, I managed a slight smile as he sat down across from me, steepling his fingers and eyeing me with narrowed piercing silver eyes.

"Cram session, eh?" His eyes narrowed further and I mentally sighed, the smile fading rapidly from my lips, keeping my face as neutral as I could.

"In a sense...yes." He waved idly to the stack of books and one rose and opened before me, the pages flipping on their own to finally open on a page, coming to rest in front of me. I peered curiously at the illustration on the page... a man who bore a startling resemblance to Kunzite. I blinked and grabbed the book, peering closer. I noted that there was a black crescent on his forehead...and his hair was definitely a bit shorter than my mentor's was.

"Hey, he looks like you!" I blurted out then paused, paling, realized that I was being a bit too impulsive again. Blinking, I looked up at Kunzite curiously as I heard him chuckle softly. I was relieved that he was amused rather than angered. Lucky me!

"Mere coincidence."

"Who is he?" I peered at the picture curiously.

"Prince Demando." I dutifully repeated, hammering the name and connecting image into my memory. Demando. Oh, like Diamond. Great, another rock named person. Oh well, could be worse...could be named after flowers...hate to see the guy named Pansy. Knowing my past track record, I'd probably pick Buttercup. I grinned at the thought... but immediately hid it behind my slender white-gloved hand at his perplexed, stern look. I coughed slightly and cleared my throat, cheeks burning in embarrassment. He sighed, and ran his hand through his long silver hair, shaking his head.

"I am beginning to have doubts in this decision by my Queen..."

Funny, I was thinking the same thing.

The End of Chapter 9 - Goto Chapter 10

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Disclaimer: Sailormoon is the property of Takeuchi Naoko, Kodansha and Toei Animation. All characters, settings etc. are used without permission. This is an amateur fiction, and I definitely won't make any money of it.

This page belongs to Stayka's Dark Kingdom Home at http://www.dark-kingdom.de

© by Pyrite aka Jessi Duffour - Email: duffour@gmail.com

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