Under Black Wings is the second book in my series that started with Sailor Moon's American Dream. It begins more than a year after the end of Sailor Stars, when the last of the Inner Senshi are finished with high school.
But the mystery of Sailor Pluto was not on Rei's mind or any of the other senshi as summer approached. What was really bothering everyone was the absence of Sailor Moon. She hadn't been kidnapped by aliens or anything else they would have been ready for. She'd moved away. Tsukino Usagi had gone with her family to the United States because her father had taken a job there. No one was really sure why this had happened; some of the senshi thought it was because Usagi's father had lost a lot of money and was too poor to live in Juubangai or even Japan any more; others (like Rei) thought he was worrying about money like he always did and had gone to make more. Rei backed up her theory with pictures of the house they had in America: it was much larger than her old house, and the lot it was on was almost as big as the one for her grandfather's shrine.
But still, there was something wrong. Usagi wrote less and less, even to Naru-chan, who had been her friend since they were both tiny. Rei--and the other senshi, for that matter, grew closer to Naru over the months since she seemed to know more about Usagi than anyone else. Rei grew so upset at one point she told Naru that Usagi was Sailor Moon--and then Naru replied that she had known for a long time, and hadn't told because she didn't want anyone to worry.
Rei thought she had hit bottom with that, but she soon felt even worse. Minako, who had seemed have settled back and become even more childish than Usagi after all the senshi had acknowledged (grudgingly) the leadership of Sailor Moon, proved to be cannier than all of them in finding out what was really going on with Usagi. Minako had looked up Mika, a girl Shingo had been friendly with, and discovered that he had been writing to her ever since he had moved to the United States. Shingo had told Mika that his sister was having a lot of trouble at her new school. He said that she seemed to be trying hard, but that her grades were terrible, worse than ever.
That seemed to explain a lot. Rei wrote her a very special letter, being careful not to use any kanji that Usagi would have to look up--Rei had finally resigned herself that Usagi would never really learn enough of the many thousands of ideographs used in most serious Japanese literature. Rei was also careful with the content, trying to tell Usagi that she sympathized with her problems but that she should keep trying, without nagging or pointing out how poor her schoolwork had always been.
Rei got finally got a letter from Usagi two weeks after sending her special letter. It was not what she expected at all. It wasn't very long, but it didn't have to be.
She happened to be with Naru-chan and Minako at the temple when the letter came. They watched her read it, and stared at her for a long time until she looked up and noticed.
"What is it?" asked Minako. Naru had that question and more in her eyes.
Rei finally anwered, "Usagi has broken up with Mamoru. She was with another boy, and she is going to have that boy's baby."
The other senshi were all flabbergasted by the news from America. Usagi cheating on Mamoru? When they called, Usagi just blandly confirmed that she was having a baby by someone else, and Mamoru wouldn't say anything, except ask if they had any news about how Usagi was doing.
The senshi had lives of their own to get on with, and a fair number of enemies to fight, and not just in Japan. But there just wasn't any resolution of the bustup between Usagi and Mamoru.
Setsuna, Sailor Pluto, was absent until five months after the awful news arrived. Then she returned, just in time (as always), to take over permanent guardianship of Hotaru--her father, who had never really recovered from the damage caused by the demon who had possessed him, finally died.
Hotaru seemed fine until after the funeral, when she asked why Chibi-Usa had not even come to the funeral. Setsuna told her--and the others--that Chibi-Usa could never come back from the future again. Rei sensed there was more, but Setsuna said nothing else about Chibi-Usa's fate. Hotaru became very sad, and no one could seem to cheer her for very long.
Then Hotaru got a letter from Usagi. Hotaru read it many times. She wouldn't show it to anyone else, but she said it was mostly about how much Usagi missed Chibi-Usa, and how much she wanted to be as good as Chibi-Usa was. This did not sound anything like the Usagi any of the other senshi knew; Usagi loved her daughter from the future, but she'd also fought with her and competed with her. They were more like jealous sisters than mother and daughter.
"She's sounding like a mother," said Mako, when most of them were together soaking in a public bath.
Naru, not a senshi but in on most of their secrets by now, said, "She's going to be a mother, and pretty soon."
"Sooner than you," remarked Haruka--who was sitting away from Michiru today. Naru blushed, but giggled, remembering how Umino had taken the news.
"Or you," remarked Michiru, which led to the explanation of why they were sitting apart . . .
Then, they all got letters from Usagi's father--and airline tickets. He said he was worried about how she was behaving, and he wanted her friends to be with her when the baby came, and perhaps awhile longer, if they could manage. He also asked them if they could find out what had happened to Usagi's cousin Usagi--he said that his daughter seemed to miss her cousin very much, and he and Usagi's mother and even her brother were worried because they hadn't heard from cousin Usagi for a long time.
Since they all knew Usagi's father was a great worrier about money, they knew she must really be in trouble, if he would pay for all their tickets just to help her.
Ami and Umino sent e-mail to Mamoru, but he replied that Usagi still wouldn't talk to him, and he didn't feel he could tell anyone what her family had said to him in confidence. He did tell them they should come, though, if they could.
They all took the same plane. It was from a charter company they had never heard of: "Interversal Airways (part of the family of Grey Companies)," according to the airsickness bags. It had propellers. Rei made a remark about the plane looking older than her grandfather. Mako went pale for a moment, but Minako comforted her--and somehow kicked Rei in the shin, silently reminding her that Mako was afraid to fly and that Rei had said about the worst possible thing at the worst possible time.
Setsuna said the aircraft looked in fine shape, told them that its turboprop engines couldn't be more than a few years old, and went on to explain the entire history of the Lockheed Constellation. She was starting her second hour before she mentioned that she'd flown one. Hotaru said to Rei when Setsuna visited the restrooms, "Mama Setsuna is a pilot. Never talk about planes with her unless you want to hear about them for hours and hours." Rei considered jumping out of the plane, but pretended to be asleep instead. But Setsuna went on talking to the others as soon as she returned from the restrooms.
Setsuna was still talking on the bus from the airport where they'd landed--it wasn't near any city. The bus went on for a long time, and then they had to get off and wait for another bus. And Setsuna was still talking about planes and flying.
Rei hid out in the ladies room for awhile, and then Ami came in. "Is she still talking?" Rei asked.
Ami was using her miniature computer. "Oh . . . yes."
Rei groused, "How long were we on that plane? Four hours?"
Amy murmured, "Closer to five . . . "
Rei exclaimed, "Five hours? And how . . . what are you doing?"
Ami finished whatever she was doing, and turned her face and her attention to Rei. "Hino-san, you don't know much about flying, do you?"
"I know more than I ever want to know, now," said Rei.
"How long did you expect it to take to get to America?" asked Ami.
"I don't know," sighed Rei. "Two or three hours on a real airplane, I guess."
"You are wrong, Hino-san," said Ami. "It takes over twelve hours on a regular jet."
"Usually more. Rei, the Concorde couldn't cross the Pacific Ocean as fast as we just did. The Concorde is--"
"I know what the Concorde is . . . really?"
"Really," explained Ami. "I fell asleep on the plane so I didn't notice before, but I just figured out how long it took, accounting for all the time zone changes. I'll ask Setsuna about it, since she's the pilot among us."
"NO! She'll never stop talking then!" But Rei was too late to keep Ami from leaving, and too late to keep her from asking that question.
But Setsuna just said, "Yes, I noticed." And she didn't say anything else about the flight, or planes, or flying.
Rei was curious enough to ask the bus driver if he'd ever heard of "Interversal Airways" and it turned out he had. "I get passengers from them maybe every other month." That was really all he knew. But he was curious about them; it wasn't often he picked up a group to go to a private home.
They'd all seen pictures of Usagi's American home, which was much larger than her old home in Juubangai. But they all wondered how they were going to fit in--there were eleven of them, including Naru and Umino and Minako's mother, who had insisted on coming (or maybe Minako had really insisted--she had times where she needed her mother).
But instead of stopping at that house, the bus pulled up in front of a mansion. It was a little after six in the morning--the sun wasn't up yet, but it was light enough to see. There was frost on the ground. No one came out to meet them.
"Are you sure this is right?" Rei asked the driver.
"Yes. Look, they even put a picture of the house on my manifest." He took their luggage out of the belly of the bus, but he did not take it to the door. "I'd like to stay and talk, but I have a pickup to make. Have a pleasant stay in the old U.S. of A!" And the driver got back on the bus, and drove it away.
Rei went to the door and rang the bell. She rang it two more times before it opened. Three girls came out. They were colored--three different shades of brown, but they looked a lot alike. They were all in pajamas and robes. The tallest of them of them said to Rei, "You woke Sue up, you know. I hope you're happy." The girls helped them with their luggage. Shingo and a colored boy who looked like the girls came out and helped too.
Rei wanted to see Usagi immediately. Shingo told her where she was, but he said, "Don't yell at her, please?"
<Shingo is concerned for her? Is she dying?>, thought Rei.
Rei made her way to Usagi's room, simply abandoning her luggage. She had a thousand questions, but when she saw Usagi, all she could do was go to her bed and hug her. It wasn't for a long time that she noticed there were two strangers in the room along with Usagi and Ikuko, her mother. The strange lady looked about the same age as Ikuko. The unfamiliar girl, who had short strawberry-blonde hair, otherwise resembled the woman. The woman had the same bittersweet look in her eyes as Ikuko--but the girl was looking her with some resentment. <Why? She doesn't know me yet.>
The others started coming in. Ikuko started to tell them that Usagi needed to rest, but Usagi said no, come in--in fact, she ordered her mother to let them in. This was so unlike Usagi that Rei pulled back a little to look at her--and then she noticed that the strange girl wasn't the least surprised. Nor was the woman, nor even Ikuko, who let the incident pass.
Rei had to leave Usagi's bed to allow the others to have their turns. She looked around the rest of the room, avoiding the resentful girl for the moment--she would fight with her later, if she wanted, but not here . . . Rei looked at the photos. She recognized some of them from Usagi's room in her old house in Tokyo's Juuban neighborhood--but there were newer ones she did not recognize. She noticed that one of them showed Usagi and the strange girl--and Chibi-Usa. There was also a boy, who looked like the strange girl--a brother? He was standing close to Usagi--and holding her hand. There was another strange girl, who looked about the same age as Chibi-Usa--only Chibi-Usa looked older than Rei remembered her. She was so mystified by the picture, she picked it up. Then she was startled to hear someone speaking from just behind her.
"That's me, and Jimmy, my brother. The girl's name was Kimberly." The girl took the picture from her hands, and set it back in its place. "You should go settle in. Usagi had a bad night. She really needs to sleep some more."
<Usagi needs to sleep more?> thought Rei.
Rei settled in to a room. Even the mansion had limits with so many people, so she shared a room with Ami. They were tired from the time change, so they took naps. Rei was surprised that it was nearly three when she woke up. Ami was gone. She went downstairs. She didn't see anyone at first, but she heard someone ironing somewhere. She followed the sweet smell of spray starch, and found it was Usagi. "Just doing up some of otousan's things," she said.
"Should you be doing this?" asked Rei.
"I'm not sick, Rei-chan, I'm pregnant."
Rei noticed that there were a lot of freshly ironed clothes on hangars, not just men's things but women's and children's. She saw that Usagi was very deft with the iron, finishing a shirt in a short time--in fact, doing it faster than Rei could have. "You must have been ironing for a long time."
"Oh, a couple of hours."
"No, what I mean is--you're good at this."
"Oh. Thank you. There are a few things Usagi the big lazy klutz can do. But you are right; it took me a long time to learn."
Rei was rocked back on her heels by Usagi's remark. Rei remembered all the times she had nagged and shown up Usagi's lazy, carefree ways. She wanted to tell her that she had wanted her to try harder, that she could be so much better, if only--but she didn't. What she finally said after she recovered was: "Where is everyone?"
"Okasan is asleep," said Usagi, continuing to iron. "Shingo is visiting a friend. Everyone else is shopping. Okasan thought you would all need a few small things to be more comfortable here, but she didn't want to leave me alone . . . Maybe they went to the movies, too. Every big shopping mall here has movie theaters."
"Why didn't you go? Why didn't they wake me up?"
Usagi said, "I tried to wake you up. I couldn't."
"But why didn't you go?" asked Rei.
Usagi seemed to press down extra hard on the collar she was working on. "I just did not want to go."
Rei decided to leave it at that, for now. "Your father went with them?"
"Oh. No, otousan is in England now. He's taking pictures of their Royal Family."
"Really?" Rei smiled. "If only he knew . . ."
Usagi stopped ironing.
"What's wrong?" asked Rei.
Usagi looked at her, and Rei saw in her the queen she must be someday. She seemed much older. In her eyes, Rei saw infinite sadness. Yet she was not crying; the corners of her eyes were not even dewed. She spoke calmly and evenly "The future is not as we thought it was. I will never reign as a queen. So you don't have to hold your tongue around me. I'm just me. Just Usagi."
Rei said, "But you are the Moon Princess. You are Sailor Moon."
Usagi said, "Part of me was once the Moon Princess. But I will not be a queen."
"You are Sailor Moon!" insisted Rei.
"Yes. But I will not be a queen. I won't be Mamo-chan's queen."
"Mamo-chan will forgive you. I know him."
Usagi smiled, slightly, sadly. "Yes, you do, Rei-chan, and you love him. Why don't you go to him? You could make him yours. You would be good for him. You would make a fine queen, if that is still to come."
Usagi went back to her ironing while Rei thought about what she had said. Finally Rei asked, "Is this my fault? Am I why you and Mamo-chan split up?"
"No. I saw a long time ago that you would always be in Mamo-chan's heart, and he in yours. But he did not cheat on me. If you want him, you are going to have to work very hard to get him. Make sure you are ready to give all of yourself. Don't treat him like Yuuichirou."
Usagi shook her head. "You did not lead Yuuichirou on. But you knew he loved you. You should have told him you couldn't love him, the way he loved you. Told him so he would believe it."
Rei felt something running down her cheek--a tear. She brushed it away, and said, "I wasn't sure I didn't love him . . . that way."
"Because you also love Mamo-chan . . . but Yuuichirou would have forgiven you, I think . . . What happened to him, Rei-chan? When I found he wasn't at Hikawa Shrine any more, I asked your Grandfather. He said he didn't know. I knew better than to ask Rei-chan."
Now Rei wasn't bothering to wipe the tears away. Usagi looked into Rei with her too-old eyes, and Rei could find no more words.
Usagi he picked up a clean dish towel from one of the baskets around her, and dabbed at Rei's face, while embracing her about as closely as her swollen belly would allow. Then she said, "What happened to Yuuichirou-chan? It has been a long time now. Would you tell me?"
Rei answered. "Yes, I will tell you . . . Yuuichirou could not stand to be around me, his heart was breaking. He asked me to make up my mind. I got angry with him and told him he was not someone to order me. He was gone the next morning."
"And after that?" asked Usagi.
"I didn't find him for a long time, "said Rei. "Then I saw him one day with an old man in a park. A very old man, older than my grandfather. There was also a lady with them, much younger than the old man."
"I didn't go up to them. But I watched them for a long time, until Yuuichirou left them. I could see he was going to a street vendor to get something, and the vendor was far off. So I went up to the lady and the old man and asked about Yuuichirou. They were his mother and father. I told them who I was to Yuuichirou and how to find me if they wanted, and left before he came back."
"A long time after that, I got a letter from Yuuichirou's mother. She said that his father had died. She explained that his father had always been hard and mean to Yuuichirou, and hadn't understood his ways. But when the old father got sick, Yuuichirou was the only one of his children who came back to be with him for any time, until he died."
"But his mother also said in the letter that she didn't want me to see Yuuichirou. She said I had been very cruel to him, and that I didn't deserve anyone as kind and good as her son. She said if I saw him again, I would only hurt him again. She also said that Yuuichirou's father had left him more money than any of his other children, and that if I tried to see him, she would tell him I was probably only after his money." Rei looked up into Usagi's eyes. "Do you think she was right? Mostly right? That I would have nothing to do with Yuuichirou just because he had no money of his own? Whenever I thought of trying to see him, I would think about what his mother said."
Usagi shook her head. "I think it is because of Mamo-chan. You always hide what is in your heart. You even hide it from yourself."
Rei started to become angry at this intrusion into her soul. "How do you--"
Usagi was still calm, and her cool words doused Rei's anger. "I have learned some new things . . . Rei-chan, you must tell Mamo-chan what you feel. You must let yourself feel."
"No, it would be wrong . . . you are the one for Mamoru."
"I will not marry Mamoru. I will not have his child."
"It is your duty!" Rei asserted.
Usagi drew away from her, aroused at last. "No, it is not my duty. I will not be queen. I will not marry Mamoru. I will never have his child."
"Why are you doing this?"
Now Usagi's eyes seemed older than Sailor Pluto's had ever seemed. "You cannot understand, Rei. You will never understand, until you are a mother." Usagi took the iron, unplugged it, and put it into a metal rack on the wall, wrapping the cord around the handle. "I will speak no more of this. But I tell you, you need to see Mamo-chan. Not that I expect you to take any of my advice." Then she left Rei.
As Rei watched Usagi leave, she saw that Ikuko was standing just outside the door to the laundry room. Usagi's mother looked at Rei for a long moment before turning and following her daughter.
Next: Haruka and Michiru
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