Sweet Dreams

Chapter 29: In Order to Achieve Success

© 2006 by Pyrite aka Jessi Duffour


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It was an amazing feeling.

To be given command over the lives of others. A responsibility. A need to claim my adulthood. A right of passage from soldier to leader.

And judging by the faces of my motley crew squad of Youma, I could tell they weren't thrilled at the prospect of staking their fate and fortune in my hands.

Hoo boy.

Over the past days I had been here, I had followed in Kunzite's shadow and observed how he ran his impressive army. Like a well oiled machine. Any parts out of place he immediately discarded and replaced.

Ruthless.

Efficient.

Cold.

And in my perspective, all too easily thrown into chaos with a well placed wrench.

The Youma feared him...and he was treated with respect. But if they truly respected him for his worth and loyalty, I was compelled to doubt.

I had been trying to plan how to train my troops for over a week now, but my intuition whispered that I should wait and see. And I was very glad I did.

Eyeing this sullen sorry bunch of "Castoffs" from Lord Kunzite's troops told me that if his methods didn't work with them for him, they didn't stand a flying drunken monkey's chance with me.

There were four in all, and what a variety we had.

Herculae was the first in the lineup...and she truly lived up to her name. Taller than even my mentor, she was massively packed with taut muscles and raw power. However, it wasn't a violent temper I had to deal with, here. Rather, it was this aura of pensive uncertainty that made her seem much smaller than her impressive powerful build. Her upswept hair of a vibrant sapphire blue matched well with her tawny seagreen tone...granting her almost rounded features an almost cherubic appeal that made it easy to not notice the sharp fangs peeking from her lips or the long points of her ears. Her blue eyes were fixed on the ground as I walked past.

In other words, someone without the want to fight.

The next that Lord Kunzite pointed me out was Tori: a small childlike waif of a figure enshrouded in elegant white robes that hung from her shoulders and ebon locks that poured down her delicate from an intricate weaving of chinese buns to pool with her robes over the floor. She was almost pitifully frail under the attire...so not one for physical combat. There was a quiet air of recluse and cool detachment as she stared back at me with raven black eyes from a pale face and perfect low cut bangs.

Like a beautiful soulless doll.

In other words, someone lacking spirit.

Continuing past, I came eye to eye with a feral hot amber glare. Ookami. She was all too easy to mistake for a wolf with the fine brown fur that crawled over taut muscles, sharp claws, and her distinctly wolflike features bearing a wild sneer that revealed sharp fangs meant for rending flesh to shreds. As if, indeed, that was what she was hinting to do to me. Another surprising side note: she barely wore anything but tattered rags in a semblance of a bikini. Her ears were back amidst her wild feathery hair and her tail bristled with menace as I met her gaze evenly, boldly as I walked past.

In other words, someone all TOO feral and eager to fight.

And lastly there was Kurai. How else could I describe her except a classic style ninja? Shadows seemed to cling to the lean, gracefully balanced poised Youma standing before me. What her face was, aside from the midnight black skin and unsettling glowing crimson eyes was undeterminable as she was wrapped head to toe in black, an array of weapons littered across her person. And that chill aloof look she leveled to me silently. As if I were nothing, worthless, useless.

In other words, someone who was used to working lone wolf and looked down upon others.

Parts that wouldn't work too well in Lord Kunzite's clean meticulous machine of order. But...I was seeing opportunity glowing for me as I realized that their versatility, while with glaring flaws, meant there were equal, if hidden, merits.

It was my job to find them....and help them find it.

This should be fun.

Once my mentor disappeared in order to allow me to begin my task at hand, I turned to the four lined before me. Or rather, One glare, one stare past, another staring THROUGH, and another finding something more interesting on the floor.

"All right, first order of business....break time!!!"

Hopping up lightly to sit on one of the outcroppings, I crossed my ankles and granted a devil may care grin to them as I canted my head aside. Ah...THIS had their attention. The shadowy figure threw her hands up into the air as she balked with an eerie whispering voice. Kurai leveled me an ever so disdainful look to which I took amicably in stride.

"I cannot believe Lord Kunzite expects us to take orders from a child...this is nonsense."

My finger shot out to point to the sulking Youma....earning me quite a few surprised looks from nearly them all (Tori maintained her doll-like blankness).

"That's what I want to hear!" At my exclamation even she managed to bear a near startled look. The shadowy figure hissed a breath, slowly clenching her hand at her side.

"Don't you DARE patronize me."

Ah, she has a temper there. And echoing that was a growl from the wolven lass. I held my hands up in a placating gesture.

"Before you jump to conclusions, hear me out." I paused, collecting all their attention before I hopped off my rock to walk to them. I was flowing on the roll off the cuff of my sleeve and speaking the simple truth and logic as I understood it best.

"First topic. I don't want blind obedience. That works for Kunzite, but not for me. I need the insight you all have. And if it's a good, but alternative point to what I might have in mind, then by all means, debate away! I'm far from perfect, and I KNOW you all see different things that I might easily overlook. Just please don't waste your and my time on contrariness. I like good arguments with some substance to them."

Good, I had their attention fully. Apparently, this isn't something they had expected.

"Second, I KNOW what most of the Youma think of me. Prettyboy with a face sweet enough to get me into rank. I know there are rumors about me and Lord Kunzite. All I have to say is BULLSHIT."

The looks of surprise and shock on ALL of their faces at my expulsion was heartening. Apparently they've all been thinking the same thing. Damn rumors.

"I fought my way to this level by my own hard work. True I've been having to rely on him for a lot and followed him around like a shadow, but then that's the whole point of training, isn't it? To learn?"

Much to my own surprise...the blue eyes of Herculae were watching me with a surprising thoughtfulness, an intellect that had been hidden amongst the shy submissiveness.

"Now, to topic three...I want to emphasize that we are a team...and notice I said WE. That includes both each of you and me. You aren't just my responsibility, you are each others, too. Look at the person next to you. This is the person you want at your back. I know that the motto around this place seems to be "the one on top get all the glory." What's the point in beating down your comrades to achieve a job on your own if you NEVER succeed at it? No wonder the Senshi keep whipping our asses."

This earned me quite a few dark looks, but I glanced to the blue eyes of the powerfully built Youma and offered her a slight smile, tilting my head in a hint of a nod to acknowledge her watchfulness. Then I looked back to the Youma, crossing my arms over my chest.

"Now...Lord Kunzite gave me a lecture already about all of you. I'm not about to deny that he thinks you are all rejects and misfits, but, just from what I can see now, that's not the case. You just don't fit the expectations he has for all of you." I was treading dangerous grounds here...the status of my mentor, and the pride of these Youma.

"Why does it matter? We're your practice suicide squad. This is the tormented fate that failing Youma suffer when our commanders find our usefulness at an end."

I turned to look to Kurai with an indulgence in a wickedly wild devil may care grin.

"Over my dead body. We all make it, or none of us, got that? I'm not just spouting poetry. I hate giving speeches. I'm telling you what I expect, and what you should expect from me. Now...I'm going to want to talk to each of you so I can get a chance to know you better and so that you can get a better idea of who I really am despite the rumors milling about." And BOY were there a lot of them.

"All right, I'll call for each of you...until then...you've got the day off. Use it to think about what I've told you. Even better yet. Get to know each other better. Since we're working together...might as well not be strangers. Ok...Herculae...you're first. Come on."

And on those words, I turned on my heel to stride from the training area, hands clasped behind me. I know I left a whirlwind of chaos behind...and I couldn't help but grin to myself as I heard that whispering voice from the room in the back of me.

"For someone who doesn't like giving speeches, he talks too much."

The sound of heavy but careful footfalls beside and a few long paces behind me alerted me to the tentative following of the large Youma. I suddenly turned and shared a beaming smile to her...catching her by surprise and winking. "You don't have to skulk back there...I won't bite you. Why don't you walk WITH me?"

"...yes...Pyrite-sama..."

Her voice was so tiny...so strange from such a large body. She faltered a step before catching up easily to me with her long gait...having quite the nervous uncertain look.

"You don't like to fight, do you."

The amazonian Youma bowed her head with a hint of a look of misery...nodding slowly. Like a great turtle receding into it's shell. Well, it was time for me to crack that stone carapace.

"So what? Anyone else can fight."

Now this earned me a look of confusion and surprise from her. Pushing the door to my chambers open, I generously held my hand out in a symbol of courtesy and inviting her in as if she were a Lady of court rather than a passed off demon. She eased from her confusion slightly as she entered. Offering her the chair opposite my desk, I sat behind it, clasping my hands and looked up to her with seriousness as I remarked honestly.

"I'm going to be frank with you, Herculae. I want a strategist. Someone to help me formulate and find weaknesses in my plans and aid in executing them."

"M....me?" Her bright blue eyes were round...wide in shock. I nodded and leaned forward on my elbows, lacing my fingers as I grinned grandly.

"Yeah. I have faith that you're smarter than you let on. You see...fighters are fine, but in a war...they're not what shifts the tide. It's the ones that plan traps and safeties and theorizes moves and ingenious techniques that can end a battle or war before starting them. Sometimes...they can even prevent it from even coming to pass. Maybe find treaties or agreements. I think Kunzite never noticed, because he only saw your physique for war. I don't think he ever bothered reading your eyes to see you studying him and assessing his next move."

She watched me in silence, startled. I was guessing on that last part from her, and judging from her reaction, I could tell I hit uncomfortably close.

"Say...do you like to play Chess?"

"..."

I laughed lightly, waving my hand to stave off her uncertainty. "I'm not going to punish you. I'm just looking for someone who wouldn't mind teaching a dolt like me a move or two." And at this point I cued my most warm and endearing smile as a rest my chin on my hand. However...I had forgotten that I had folders and papers aplenty under my arm. I believe my look of surprise equaled her own as my elbow slid...then THWACK.

As I groaned and pushed myself to sit back up again...I ruefully rubbed my aching cheek.

"...owww....huh?"

And then...to my good surprise I heard the sound of stifled laughter. Glancing up through my bangs, I found the blue haired woman flushing hard in an effort to not laugh at me directly.

Therefore, I did it.

Starting with a light fit of giggles, I leaned back in the comfort of my chair as I indulged in hearty mirth. And sure enough...she followed suit...laughing along with me.

Grinning, I brushed my bangs from my eyes.

"Fantastic, Herculae! That's what I want to see. Never be afraid to express yourself. I won't mind...and if someone should give you grief for it...I'll teach them otherwise." And for once...perhapse the first time in her life...a smile is hazarded upon her cherubic features mingled with a deep confusion.

"You mean you would stand up for me?"

"Of course. You're my ally. I don't hold light to my promises."

"You aren't like the others...well..."

Curiosity raised my brows somewhat as she began to trail off into her small voice again.

"Go on."

"Zoisaito-sama was the only one who ever worked with the Youma in missions, but he never stood up for them. He reminded us where he stood, and where we fell."

"Now you know for certain I'm not him, right? I'm my own person. I just play by different rules than everyone else does. Oh....and do me a favor. Whatever is on your mind...whenever you want to say it...PLEASE do. I really need the input."

"P...Pyrite-sama..."

I tugged off my gloves and in a daring move, I held my hand out to her. She stared at it blankly..then looked toward me.

"We'll make a promise, all right? You be someone I can talk to...and I'll be someone you can always confide in. Shake on it if that is something you'd really want."

She hesitated...then reached out to my hand, clasping it in a tentative grasp. Though her massive mitt nearly engulfed my little dainty paw, she was remarkably gentle. I gave our clasped hands a hearty shake.

"Welcome aboard, Herculae."

Her blue eyes looked from our hands to me with a slightly surprised look.

"Your hand...it's so warm. And your energy...it's very alive."

This statement caught me by surprise. I smiled somewhat as I simply nodded, dropping my hand back to the desk.

"Thanks. I don't get many compliments like that."

"I have an acute sense for energies." Well, still spoken shyly, but at least she was beginning to volunteer information. Which meant she was becoming acclimated to my presence enough to relax her pensive caution.

"I'm going to keep that in mind. Got any other neat tricks?"

"Well, I'm stronger in defensive magic."

"Sometimes the best offense is a well used defense."

"Kunzaito-sama always said the opposite."

"Yeah, well, we're just going to have to prove him wrong."


The End of Chapter 29 - Goto Chapter 30


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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.


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


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