There was just something about her.
Perhaps it was her eyes- they were a soft brown, and looked like liquid chocolate. Maybe it was her hair- it was a vibrant green, and looked as though it contained the color of Terra’s healthiest ivy, and flowed freely with a life of its own. Then again, it could be her body- and what a body she had. Curved in the right place, and toned all over, she chose to enhance it with tight clothing and boots that made her already impressive inches stand out even more.
But to speak the truth, that wasn’t what it really was. It was her laugh- the thing about her… a rippling cackle that sent shivers down the spines of her friends (not that she really had any) and enemies alike. It was unique to her, and repulsive as that laugh was, it had an odd effect on people. They’d turn and stare, yet they were entranced in spite of themselves. And the fan certainly didn’t hurt either.
That women happened to be named Esmeraude- like all members of the royal family (distant though she might be) she bore the name of a precious gem. And at that moment, she was sleeping.
Most people never thought of the Black Moon Family resting. They were just too much, full of energy, full of vengeance. But though their bodies had high constitutions, even they must rest. She slept on black satin sheets, how cliché, yet how fitting. In sleep most appear innocent, but not the children of Nemesis. When they slept, the barriers they put up as protection came down, and all one could see was how very old they were. Esmeraude looked sad in her sleep, and the way her legs and arms twitched beneath the thick comforter showed she was having some kind of dream- and that it wasn’t a pleasant one….
She slammed Rubeus’ hand away, then fluttered her fan to try to deal with the heat. It was so terribly hot. How could Rubeus ever be such an idiot and get himself into such a mess in the first place? She wondered, then crushed the thought. If he hadn’t been, then she would never had had this chance. Now SHE was the First General of the Army of Nemesis, and well on her way to finally winning Demando’s regards.
Still, as she teleported away from the doomed ship, she felt a tinge of something-- it couldn’t possibly be regret. She didn’t feel regret- hadn’t since she had helped Demando assume the throne after the premature death of his father, Onyx. He had been Heir then, and only her support, along with that of Rubeus and Saffir, had kept him alive long enough to consolidate power enough to keep that position. She and Rubeus had never liked each other much, so she couldn’t be feeling regret. It just couldn’t be that…She almost thought she could hear Rubeus’ screams of denial.
There’s a certain threshold a person enters when falling asleep- the point between waking and sleeping, when all the senses become heightened to the point of needle-sharp sensitivity. And at that point, she would forever after relive that moment, hear Rubeus’ screams ring in her ears, feel the flames burn her pale skin the same way they must have consumed him. The pain was so intense, with fire licking at her from all sides. Then she would remember that she had escaped, thatRubeus had been the one who had died, and plummet into a restless slumber, forever falling.
God, she hated that. Heights always made her nauseous, though she hid it well. Sometimes, though, she would get the most terrible feeling of vertigo, like she couldn’t tell up from down, and that she was falling. Oh, how she hated that sensation. The only thing worse was the sensation that she got whenever Demando thought of the Neo-Bitch Serenity. And Esmeraude could always tell when her Prince was thinking of her.
Saffir sat behind his computer, looking up at her with those blue blue eyes of his. He was attractive-- all the members of the family were. Some might even be tempted to call him beautiful. All the men of the Family were that, too-- Rubeus looked like fire itself, while Demando held the changeless beauty of his namesake. But Saffir was a totally different case; he was mysterious and watchful, and Esmeraude hated dealing with him.
She walked into the room, the heels of her boots clicking with a confidence she didn’t feel. It was like bearding a lion in his den, coming to visit Saffir in his study. Those damn eyes of his just seemed to cut right through her, making a mockery of everything she stood for. Instead of concentrating on her, his fingers continued to type out patterns into the keyboard and other pads he had lying around on his desk. Probably trying to come up with another way to conquer Crystal Tokyo without getting messed up in the twentieth century, she thought cynically.
His desk was sickeningly well organized. He was so anal compulsive about it that she was sometimes tempted to sneak in when he wasn’t around and move things around, just to piss him off. Then again, he probably wouldn’t notice. He was too wrapped up in his world of tactics.
"What do you want, Esmeraude-chan?" he asked lightly, still pounding at his keyboard with nimble fingers.
The 'chan' he had attached to her name always sent her right near the edge, but she retaliated in kind. They used to play this game much more often when they were younger, but the fourteen year old Saffir had finally abandoned the practice after being accused by Rubeus of having a secret crush on his older cousin. The look of revulsion on Saffir’s face had kept Rubeus laughing for weeks. Esmeraude, though, had fumed for other reasons. It wasn’t that she liked the little bookworm; hardly that. It was the fact that he didn’t have the good taste to recognize her beauty. "I need you to make something for me, Saffir-kun," she purred, then let out one of her laughs.
He cringed slightly at the sound. "I don’t do love potions, no matter what you might think," he said.
She fluttered her fan, then swung it towards him using only two fingers. The move was elegant and smooth, and she was glad she took the time to practice it. She spent a lot of time making sure her hair and fan would perform the way she wanted them to. It was hard being the most beautiful woman in the galaxy. "Oh? I thought you did. Then how do you get Petz, I wonder?" Saffir just glared and she knew she had scored a point. "Anyway, that’s not what I need."
"Really," he said in a dead voice. "I don’t feel like mixing up any make-up products for you, so do us both a favor and leave."
That one stung. Just because she hadn’t been able to get the right shade of red that one time, he hadn’t let her forget. Still, the lipstick had been worth asking for his help. "Oh, no, cousin mine," she said, coming closer to him. She watched him tense, knowing that he hated having his personal space invaded. And if Saffir had anything, it was a large definition of what he considered to be personal space, especially where she was concerned. Like half a planet worth of space. "I’m here on business."
That got him interested. He hadn’t been particularly fond of Rubeus (their feuding had been legendary- much worse then the sparring he and Esmeraude conducted), and hadn’t really gone out of his way to aid the fiery General in his attempts to conquer the Tokyo of the past, aside from making the droidos which he had given to the Ayakashi sisters. Rubeus had returned the favor by ignoring Demando’s favored ototochan. "I’m listening," he said, saving his work and turning away from his machinery. He leaned forward and rested his chin on his left palm.
Esmeraude knew that this was a wonderful chance. Saffir was wonderfully brilliant, and was more then capable of listening to her and working on his project at the same time. But he put it aside to listen to her more carefully. She felt herself soften, seeing a glint of the quiet child she had met so many years ago in the library.
Squashing down the unexpected nostalgia, she laughed. "Rubeus was an idiot. Rather then try to conquer the Crystal Points, we can weaken Crystal Tokyo in a much easier way." With a laugh, she explained her plan for wedges of dark power.
Saffir considered her plan carefully. "It just might work," he said, sounding surprised. "What do you want me to do?"
Her smile turned coy. "I thought that was obvious. I need you to make the wedges."
Saffir sighed, then leaned back in his chair, an amused expression on his face. "In other words, do all the hard work for you. You don’t change, Esmeraude-san," he said.
"There’s no need to improve on perfection," she replied matter-of-factly.
Saffir rolled his eyes. "Whatever. But I have a price to ask of you first."
She flared, collapsing her fan. "I could have my Demando-sama order you!" she declared.
"My oniisan wouldn’t order me to do anything, you know that as well as I. If I refuse, you’re out of luck, since he’ll assume I have some good reason."
Damn, the little baka was right. Demando was amazingly blind to his little brother at times. Sometimes she thought Demando still thought of Saffir as that seven year old who had fallen hopelessly in love with his idol, his older brother. "What do you want?" Esmeraude seethed.
"I want to know why," he stated simply.
All expression dropped off her face, and she looked younger then her twenty-eight years. "Why what?" she whispered.
"Why do you serve him so loyally? Why do you love him so much? He loves the Neo-Queen."
No one had ever dared confront her on the issue so blatantly before. Her reaction was automatic. "He does NOT love the Neo-Queen! It’s just a passing fascination!" she declared confidently, though she wasn’t sure if she was trying to convince Saffir or herself.
He lowered his eyes, the brilliant blue shaded by amazingly thick lashes. "I hope you’re right, Esmeraude. God, I hope so," he said.
Esmeraude almost dropped her fan in surprise. Looking at Saffir, she recognized that he was in pain. With a jolt of surprise, she realized that without Demando, he had nothing, just like her. She turned around to leave the room, but was stopped by Saffir’s quiet voice. "Be careful, Esmeraude. The Wiseman is dangerous, and I wouldn’t want to see you hurt."
He spun around her, her long hair lifting off her shoulders as she whirled. "You sound like you care," she teased, though she was truly confused.
He sniffed derisively. "I don’t like you anymore then you like me. But you’re my family, and now that Rubeus is dead, you and Demando are my only family. It shouldn’t make a difference, but it does."
She didn’t know how to reply, so fell back into a laugh, though the laugh was noticeably weaker then usual. "Just make sure you have the wedges ready for me."
"Have I ever not been ready before?" he asked somewhat bitterly, then returned to the computer.
And he was. When he presented her with the first wedge, she was surprised that they were shaped like statues of her. She heartily approved of his good taste.
Now there was a mirror in front of her. She fluffed her hair, preparing to admire herself. Esmeraude looked into the mirror, and then screamed. The reflection that stared back wasn’t her own. It was that of a woman she had never actually seen in person, but this women had the greatest impact of almost anyone on Esmeraude’s life- aside from Demando himself.
The reflection that stared back was that of the ageless Neo-Queen Serenity, star of mystery. She smiled out sadly, and Esmeraude collapsed to her knees. "Wha-what?" she stuttered.
The Queen pressed her palm against her side of the mirror, shaking her head. "I don’t know. You’re the one who brought me here, Esmeraude-san."
"You know me?" Esmeraude asked, regaining some of her confidence.
"You’ll know me, or at least one of my incarnations," Serenity answered. "It’s all in the past, or the future, depending on how you view it," she said, biting her lip. "I never really understand time. I just trust Pluto to tell me what I need to know."
Esmeraude rose to her feet, cocking her hip forward slightly, regaining her sexy posture. This woman was the person she hated most in the world. It simply wouldn’t do to be less then her usual gorgeous and seductive self.
The Neo-Queen was beautiful, by some people’s standards. She was fair, almost as fair as Demando himself. She had long silver hair that was done up in a strange style. Her eyes, though, were a strange combination of innocence and wisdom, holding knowledge with faith. Esmeraude looked her over, and determined that the Queen’s beauty was nothing compared to her own.
"You really aren’t that pretty," Esmeraude said bluntly. "You are an absolutely zero in the sex appeal department. You don’t even have that much of a chest, and your fashion sense leaves something to be desired- I mean, white? It’s not even the right time of year, and it does absolutely nothing for you. And darling, you need all the help you can get." Then she let loose that laugh, sending ripples of sound everywhere.
Serenity blinked a few times in surprise, obviously at a loss for words. Her mouth moved soundlessly, trying to find something to say. "Endymion never has any complaints," she murmured finally, then looked at Esmeraude with keen eyes. "But that’s not it. You’d rather be me then you. Why?"
Esmeraude looked at her and knew she couldn’t lie. "Because at least Demando thinks of you. How come he never notices the wonderful thing right under his nose?" she raged at the pure Queen.
The Queen shrugged helplessly. "Men are like that. But my questions for you are simple. Why do you serve him so loyally? Why do you love him so much?"
The words echoed in Esmeraude’s hands, and she pressed her black-gloved hands against her skull, the fan finally slipping unnoticed to the floor. The Queen’s words were exactly the same that Saffir had asked. Why do you serve him so loyally? Why do you love him so much?
She looked into the mirror again, but this time, there was no reflection. Just darkness…. Her vision began to spin and that sensation of vertigo entered. She was falling forward, and there was no place she could land…
Falling…. falling… fallingfallingfalling…..…and worse of all, there was no one to hear her screams.
Esmeraude sat up in bed, a scream caught in her throat. There was a light sheen of perspiration on her skin, and she realized that she would have to shower immediately. She cursed, realizing it would take a good half-hour to get her hair restyled after getting it wet.
There is a reason that the denizens of Nemesis hate sleep. For in sleep, they relive the past and view possible truths, and are forced to confront the grim reality of their lives.
Esmeraude’s reality was simple. It all came down to a few questions. Unfortunately, she didn’t know what the answers were.
Even at the moment of her death, Esmeraude never knew those elusive answers.