SM Fic - Endymion & Shitennou (I)
Ways in Which Endymion Did Not Reunite with the Shitennou (I)
None of them could remember how long they had been there, save that it never seemed to be long enough for time to wear away the memories. At first it might have been a dream, until they realized they would never wake from it. Then with the return of the first of their memories they thought it was heaven, until they also remembered that they had helped destroy it.
After that the land had darkened and seemed to wither away, and they were certain that it was a nightmare or the hell they deserved. But then warm golden light and purifying silver had washed away the darkness in the land, washed over the curse that laid over everything except for that which each man carried in their souls.
From that time on, Elysian never changed.
They were the four lost souls that were trapped within this paradise. Once they had railed at each other, screamed blame and hurt at the weakness that in the end they had all shared. They had all comforted each other, told lies that no one believed in an effort to deny the own guilt and shame in their heart. Eventually, they spoke to each other little at all, all in a common understanding that they were sharing a common purgatory, waiting for whatever axe should befell them for their sins.
For all that they knew, they were the only living souls remaining in this land, or at least the part of Elysian they were allowed to be in. They had found early on that some invisible barrier held them away from the temple on the distant hill and whatever lay beyond that. And a great crystal lake effectively hemmed them in on the other sides of the field. But if there was anyone alive past the lake or the hill, they had never come to this field, nor shown any sign of their presence in all this time.
And so, it was to his great surprise when Zoicite knelt to absently pluck the berries from a low-riding bush at the edge of the hillside barrier only to find himself face to face with wide innocent eyes.
The cry immediately grabbed the attention of his other three comrades, especially since none of them had the need to speak aloud for a long time now. They all turned from where they were and stared at the strange spectacle of the small child who tumbled out of the bush to land in Zoisite's lap. Like dreamers finally waking from a centuries long sleep, the other three men gathered around their comrade and the strange child. The child, unheeding of their imposing presences, merely giggled and reached for Zoisite's hair.
The child smiled brightly at the four men through wind-mussed hair with bright cheerful eyes. Her sun dress was wrinkled by the passage through the bushes but there were no scrapes on her skin.
Slowly, Kunzite fell to his knee in front of the strange child. His normally calm voice was coarse through long disuse.
"Where did you come from, little one?"
She turned to him in a happy smile that seemed to ignore Zoisite in favor of Kunzite's silver hair. The child's seeking grasp abandoned Zoisite's curly locks to reach for those strands of silver.
"Papa brought me!" she declared. "This is Papa's special place!" Her other hand waved in the air as if to encompass the entire land.
"Who is your Papa?" Jadeite asked anxiously, feeling that they were all on the cusp of some revelation.
Wrinkling her nose in befuddlement, she simply repeated, "Papa is papa!"
"Eh..." Zoisite finally recovered from his shock to address the child, "what do other people call your papa?"
The child seemed to ponder the question. Suddenly, she brightened and announced proudly, "Elios calls papa King!"
A gasp ran through the four men. They hardly dared to hope...
The voice from further up the hill stopped everyone cold. They turned around to see a young man of bleached blond hair that fell in waves around a long horn rising up from his head hurrying down toward them. Worry filled his golden eyes which were fastened onto the child, and the four men found themselves forced back from him by an unseen force.
"Elios!" the child chirped, leaping to latch onto the stranger's leg. One hand pointed toward the four men as if showing off something presenting something that she had just discovered. "Look! Isn't that pretty hair?"
The young man signed and held out his hand to her, undoubtedly intending to lead her away. "You should not be here, little one."
But the girl danced away from his hand with impish grace, looking up at him with the same guileless eyes as she had the four men in the field.
Helios eyes flickered over the four other men. The familiarity and recognition told them that he knew who they were. "Because you should not come near these men."
The smile faded away from the child's face at the stern warning. She cocked her head again at the former shitennou with a puzzled look.
Helios looked uncomfortable as he tried to explain the history of these four men to the innocent child before him. "Because they have done bad things, and are being punished." His eyes were looking at the four people that he was speaking of rather than the child, warning them of their place.
The child looked dubiously at the four men again. "Like when Papa sends me to bed early when I broke Mama's vase?" she asked tentatively.
Helios' paused in his glare at the shitennou to smile indulgently at her. "Something like that..."
"Did Papa send them here to be punished too?" she continued curiously.
"Well..." Helios pondered how to answer that without having to go into the complications of who these men and what their crimes were.
"Helios?" He was saved from having to answer by the new voice that intruded on the scene. "Helios, did you find her?"
The man who walked into the field now was unmistakable to everyone present. His regal bearing did not look any more out of place in his simple white shirt and dark pants than it had been in the armor of a lifetime past. Cobalt eyes widened in surprise as they beheld the shitennou, but that was the only indicator that belied his calm exterior.
"Prince..." Nephrite could barely breathe the word, his eyes taking in the familiar features, and most of all the aura of all that was of the Earth that clung to the man.
Chiba Mamoru, once Prince Endymion of a long forgotten kingdom of Earth, stared as well upon the faces of four people he had long thought dead.
The frozen scene was shattered by the oblivious happiness of the child that had brought it all about in the first place.
"Papa!" she veritably flew into the arms of her father. Mechanically, Mamoru reached down to swing her into his arms, still staring at his former shitennou.
Kunzite was the first to fall to his knees before his former liege. He was quickly followed by the other three. Their hearts were beating rapidly as they faced the one person who meant the world and everything to them... and whom they had betrayed. As one, they averted their eyes to the ground, awaiting judgment.
Mamoru tore his eyes away from the four kneeling figures to look at the only person who could explain their presence.
"Helios?" he demanded of Elysian's priest. "How are they here?"
Helios sighed, knowing his other self that there was no getting around explaining everything now.
"They were once sworn to you, to Earth, and thus also to Elysian. The first time you all died, the power of the Silver Crystal carried you to new lives in this time. The second time they died... their souls came to Elysian."
Mamoru frowned. "Why?" he asked, unconsciously echoing his daughter from before.
"Papa?" his daughter piped up from where she had comfortably snuggled against his neck, "Elios said you sent them to bed here because they were bad."
Mamoru blinked at the seeming non-sequitor before he could translate her childish comparisons into what Helios meant. He frowned and wondered if some unconscious sentiment of his did indeed bind his former guardians here even after their deaths. Was it an unspoken wish to not lose the friends of another long ago childhood? Or was it a childish lashing out at those who had hurt him?
With a deep sigh, Mamoru turned and handed over his daughter to Helios. "Can you give us some space?" he asked quietly.
"Of course, King," murmured Helios with a bow. With the precocious princess in hand, he left for the temple.
That left Mamoru with the still kneeling forms of the shitennou.
"You can get up now," he said finally, his voice held perfectly emotionless.
The kneeling forms did not move, nor did they even look up at him.
"If you still hold me as master," Mamoru interrupted, belying his stoicism, "get up."
The shitennou rose to their feet, but still held their heads bowed, unable to meet Mamoru's eyes. Mamoru almost sighed in exasperation, wishing that he did not have to deal with these ghosts of his past on his day off, but knowing still that he had a duty to complete.
"How long have you been here?" he asked them, deciding to start with easier conversation.
"Since we...died at the hands of the senshi," Kunzite replied, ever the leader of the guard.
"That long?" Mamoru furrowed his brows in thought. "I don't remember seeing you around."
"We have been unable to leave this field, master."
Mamoru scanned the field in question with an appraising eye. Now that Kunzite mentioned it, he did see how the field was partially hidden by tall trees from the temple proper. Considering that he and the senshi had bigger worries on their minds when they fought Nephrenia here, it was not too surprising he never noticed this field and its inhabitants.
"So you have been stuck here the last few years..." he murmured. "Doing what?" There was honest curiosity in his voice. The shitennou that he remembered from the days of his first childhood had always been an active bunch of mischief makers. He couldn't imagine what lengths the boredom of a forced stay here could prompt them to.
The bitter self recrimination in that single word brought reality crashing down again. Mamoru's lips thinned and he crossed his arms in an unconsciously defensive posture.
"How much... what do you remember?"
"Everything," was Kunzite's soft response.
The silence that followed the answer drew out into uneasiness, before the other shitennou also added their own words.
"We remember our first life in the Golden Kingdom with you, master," Zoisite said sadly. "How we used to serve you before..."
"...before we listened to Beryl's lies," Jadeite put in when he trailed off. "We remember fighting in Metallia's service against the Moon until the Silver Crystal released us from its possession."
"We remember our life reborn on Earth in this time," Nephrite continued, "and how Beryl and Metallia found us again."
"We remember everything that we did as the minions of the Dark Kingdom," Kunzite finished bitterly, "until our death."
"But you also remember your life with me before the Dark Kingdom," Mamoru repeated at last, his arms falling to his sides again, "before Metallia's influence changed you."
"And we betrayed that life for nothing," Nephrite whispered sadly.
"We destroyed everything we held dear," agreed Zoisite.
"Not everything," Mamoru cut in before they wallowed any further in recriminations.
"We destroyed your trust in us," Kunzite said simply. "We tried to destroy you. And I..." He cut off suddenly, remembering the last encounter he had with the man before him in this lifetime.
The same memory was replaying for Mamoru as well, but he pushed it away, noting the way Kunzite's shoulders were slightly trembling from the force of his emotions. He'd never seen anything like it before in his most controlled guardian.
Looking from one to the other, Mamoru took in the guilt that lingered in each of their faces. Their tones more than their words also reaffirmed the decision that Mamoru was struggling with. Before he knew it, a few steps took him to stand right in front of his former guards. His hands were slightly unsteady as well when they came up to rest on Kunzite's and Jadeite's shoulders.
"You still have my forgiveness."
"Master?!" Shock caused the shitennou to look up in stunned surprise, meeting the wistful gaze of their former liege for the first time.
"How... how can you..." Zoisite sputtered, voice breaking on the verge of tears.
"Because I remember the days we spent together before the coming of the Dark Kingdom too," Mamoru told them. "Because I don't hold myself blameless for the things Metallia used to sow the seeds of distrust. Because I know how powerful that demon's control can be." He paused for a heartbeat, remembering what the senshi told him of his own actions while controlled by that demon. "And because... because we all need this forgiveness."