From the memoirs of Chiba Mamoru, as re-told to Pandora Diane Waldron
"Mystery glows in the rose bed, the secret is hidden in the rose." --Farid ud-din Attar, 12th Century Persian poet.
CHAPTER 10: A Locket And A Handkerchief
Part 2: The Spectre Bride
Tea. Hot, steaming, green tea. Tea and sympathy. Yeah, that's what I need.
And there she is, the picture of grace, every man's ideal priestess, her hand busy with the tea whisk, allowing me to collect my thoughts after my morning jog, before she tells me some news she's obviously bursting to tell me.... Rei-chan.
Cripes, if Usagi had to do that, she'd probably dip her odangos in the tea cup and soak it up before I ever got to enjoy it. And can you imagine Usagi, preserving the traditional reverent silence that a Japanese well-bred lady should, while making tea, or anything else? I found myself starting to laugh, until I remembered again that she doesn't like me. And never will.
And that's why I had that awful nightmare. And that's why I feel like death warmed over this morning. Just as I have every morning this week, ever since I realized that Usagi is just my impossible dream. I should have known that dream princesses can't become real. I have been avoiding going anywhere that I know she hangs out, and, oh, it's killing me inside.
I know she spends a lot of time over at Rei's temple, but not this early in the morning. Rei, in one of her frequent, subtle digs about Usagi, pointed out that she, hard-working Rei, is up early every morning to tend the sacred fire and sweep the temple clean, and is never, never late for school. Usagi, on the other hand, sleeps through every alarm, arrives for school late, and sometimes even sleeps through the first class, much to Ms. Haruna's and Rei's disgust.
It was a lovely warm morning, so Rei opted to serve the tea outside on the terrace, where we could look down on the people and traffic scurrying past Sendai Hilltop. The cicadas were loud in the treetops surrounding us, but I could still hear the sounds of the street below. I found myself staring down and watching the people and cars, going by like so many blurs of bright colours.
I slowly sip the tea, and as I do, Rei can't hold back any more.
"You'll never guess who Usagi is hanging out with now!" she burbles.
My heart beats painfully at that opening. Oh, please don't say Motoki. Please don't say she's got another guy already. I'm doomed.
"She's started hanging around with the toughest girl in the school!" Rei exploded. "It's the unlikeliest friendship you can imagine! Everybody at my school and Usagi's school HATES her, cause she gets into fights all the time and keeps getting kicked out of every school she's in. You'd think that when she enrolled at Usagi's school, she would have been afraid, and avoided her. But here's Usagi, spending every lunch hour with her now. I hardly see her, and she's not coming to the study sessions as much...not that avoiding studying is anything new for Usagi, mind you. But if you'd have told me last week that this Kino Makoto would be Usagi's new best friend, I'd say you were insane. She has told me how they happened to meet, though."
"Makoto?" I frowned in surprise. "Isn't that usually a boy's name?"
Rei grinned. "You haven't seen this girl, Mamoru-san. She's like an Amazon. She can't even wear the school uniform, she's so tall, and even the boys are afraid of her!"
[NOTE: "Makoto" means "sincerity" in Japanese. In the Shinto religion, in which Rei is a priestess, one of the teachings is that all of humankind are the "Kami's" children, "Kami" meaning "nature deity." Shinto believers aspire to have "makoto", sincerity or true heart, which is regarded as the will of Kami. This is why many young boys in Japan are named "Makoto". While we're on the subject, I should mention that Shinto adherents sometimes wear "mamori", charms worn as an aid in healing and protection. From this same root word, meaning "protector, defender, guardian" comes my name, "Mamoru."]
She started to prattle on, and I stopped listening, staring into the coppery depths of the fragrant jasmine tea, which was a strong brew, the way I like it. She hadn't answered the question that was eating me alive.
Trying to control my inner anxiety, my eyes strayed down to the street below, and there I saw a blonde haired girl go by, followed by a white cat, with a bouncy, purposeful stride, hampered by very new shoes with very high heels that she obviously hadn't figured out how to walk in yet, and laden with shopping bags, with labels from Tokyo's trendiest boutiques. Looks like she has enough new clothes in those bags to provide a wardrobe for a fashion model, I thought, amused in spite of myself.
Her hair is almost like Usagi's, I thought, dreamily. But more of a deep golden colour, whereas Usagi's hair is so pale blonde, that especially in the moonlight, it can look silvery white. She looked like that, on the balcony the night of the Masquerade Ball, I remember. And this blonde haired girl has no odangos. It's just not the same without those flying odangos. Every girl should wear odangos.
By God, if she doesn't have a cat chaperone, too. White one, this one is, but can there be two cats with that crescent moon marking on the forehead? I wouldn't have thought so, but there it is, a quick gleam on his forehead, as he's bending down to look into a puddle. Why do cats always want to look at what's in puddles, I wonder?
That white cat has the weirdest meow I've ever heard. He has stopped dead behind the girl, is looking down into the puddle and back at the blonde haired girl, and lets out this loud cry, "Meeeeeeee-NAAAAHHH--KO!" He has just picked up something from the puddle. Something red and bedraggled. The girl has stopped and turned around, balancing tenuously on the new high heels to look at him. She runs back and grabs it from him. Ahhh, it's a hair ribbon. Must be nice, having a cat fetch your hair ribbons for you. I had thought only Usagi could be that oblivious, dropping stuff as she goes down the street, but I see I'm wrong.
"Mamoru-san! You're not listening to me!" Rei looked at me, her eyes narrowed a little bit, showing the beginnings of annoyance. I recognized the signs well. Rei, even when she is calm, is like a banked fire, waiting to flare up at the slightest perception of insult.
I raised my eyes from the intricately painted tea cup and looked her full in the eyes. "Gomen-ne, Rei-chan. You confused me for a moment there, and I'm so tired this morning, and having trouble concentrating. You see, for a moment there, I thought you were telling me that Usagi had a new boyfriend." [There, I sneaked in that opening. Hope it sounded like an innocent question.]
Rei's eyes widened into a stare, then she started to grin, and broke out laughing. "Usagi? Are you joking? No new guy for her. Just the same old, same old. She's got a terrible crush on that mysterious guy in the tuxedo who we keep seeing around town. She says he's so much classier than any of the guys around here. She just sighs, and acts all moony about him....Mamoru-san?" Her voice suddenly became sharp and alarmed.
"Hai?" My head snapped up at her tone.
"Will you PLEASE get that death grip off of my heirloom tea cup? It's the most delicate bone china, and it has been in my father's family for generations. The way you're holding it, it's going to snap like a twig!"
"Gomen nasai!" I let go of the tea cup as if it had suddenly become poisoned. So she's still dreaming about Tuxedo Kamen, who is so much classier...than me. Well, I don't have to break Rei's heirloom china over this, do I? I was suddenly ashamed. What must she think of me?
"Rei, I am SO sorry. I know, I'm terrible company today. Maybe I should go home. I have this awful headache, and I don't think I should really be out at all."
Rei's face changed, as she peered into my face more closely, and she looked concerned. "No, you probably should go home. You look very pale, Mamoru-san, and you don't look as if you've slept for days. I think maybe I should walk you home."
"Walk me home!" I spluttered indignantly. "What do you think I am, a helpless invalid?" [Girls!!! Why do they always fuss over me?]
"No, I don't think that. But I think you might feel better for the company. You don't need to talk, Mamoru-san. But I hope you don't mind if I do. Just give me a few minutes to clear up here and ask Yuuchirou to mind the shrine. I don't think you've met Kamuda Yuuchirou, have you? He's our new apprentice, training with my grandfather."
I watched as Rei called over a tall young man, dressed, like Rei, in a traditional robe, but this dignified effect was somewhat ruined by his stubbly beard and scraggly long thick light brown hair. I realized at that moment, that he had been hanging around the grounds sweeping for some time, and every now and then, looking up to glower at us.
We eyed each other warily, like two strange cats, I, who take pride in my appearance, and am never happier than when in a tuxedo and starched white collar, and he, Yuuchirou, who looked like an unmade bed. He might even be good looking for all I knew, but who could tell?
Rei told Yuuchirou her plans in a low voice. As she did, he looked me up and down with a dark, distinctly hostile appraising stare and then replied, "OK, but if you're not back in one hour, I'm coming back to collect you. You, Chiba-kun, don't you detain her! She has VERY IMPORTANT DUTIES here!"
[Hmmmm. I'll bet one of the duties she doesn't know about, is being a secret object of admiration to YOU, buddy. OK, I read you, not that I have any designs, other than friendship, on your precious Hino Rei, shrine maiden extraordinaire.] I let him see a male-to-male superior smirk, just for a malicious nanosecond, just to annoy him. Yeah, I know, that was spiteful of me, but I was in a really rotten mood at the time, as you well know, and spoiling to take it out on SOMEBODY.
Rei didn't see me smirk, nor the way that Yuuchirou visibly stiffened and glared back at me, then looked around nervously at Rei, the silent, pleading question all over his face, "You're not interested in that Chiba character, are you, Rei?"
Rei didn't see that look either. "Yuuchirou-san, I really must see Mamoru-san home. He isn't well, you know," and reproof was in her voice. "Ja ne!"
"Hai, Hino-san!" To my utter amazement, Yuuchirou instantly retreated from his aggressive stance, as if she had slapped him casually across the face, and hurried into the temple. [My God, he's got it bad for her, but he's so frightened of offending her, I wonder if he'll ever tell her. I shook my head in resignation, and went back to my own thoughts.... Well, after all, I wasn't so brave about telling my feelings to the object of MY affections either, so who was I to point fingers at Yuuchirou?]
We set off for my apartment building at a brisk pace. On the way, Rei told me how Usagi met the "tough" girl. "Just Usagi acting out of it as usual, Mamoru-san. Crossed the street without looking, and she nearly got run over!"
I grabbed her arm. "Rei! She wasn't hurt, was she?"
She looked at me a little disdainfully. "Usagi, get hurt? Nah, she has all the luck. The tough girl saved her butt, that time...like someone always does. Usagi has a charmed life!" And she laughed, and told me the rest of the story, as we strolled along the street.
"At lunch hour, would you believe that Usagi nearly got hit in the head by a baseball, and this Makoto caught the ball neatly and hurled it back across the field, right into the pitcher's glove? It's like Usagi was walking in a daze the whole day. I think I know why, Mamoru-san." Here Rei lowered her voice to a whisper. "Did you know she secretly went to this masquerade ball the night before?"
"Go on," I said encouragingly. [Please say she's so hopelessly in love that she isn't even aware of her surroundings!]
"Well, don't tell anybody, Mamoru-san., but she got SO DRUNK that night, that I think she had the most awful hangover all the next day. She isn't used to alcohol, you see." [Thank you, Rei. You just deflated my ego nicely there.]
"So, as I was saying, I asked Usagi, what is so special about this Makoto, other than that she seems to be at the right place at the right time to rescue you all the time? You know what she said, Mamoru-san?" She paused for a moment for effect, and then without waiting for me to answer, plunged ahead, chortling. "She says that she smells so good, that she's the greatest cook in Juuban District, and besides, she wears these really cool rose-shaped earrings all the time!"
"Rose-shaped earrings, huh?" [Sounds like a good reason to ME. ]
"What did I say that made you smile like that, Mamoru-san?" Rei looked at me in surprise at my sudden change of mood.
"Oh, nothing. Go on, Rei-chan. I'm starting to feel a little better. Tell me what else happened."
"It gets weirder," replied Rei. She was clearly enjoying herself now. "Usagi and her friends Naru and Makoto are set on checking out the wedding dresses at this new bridal shop downtown. I think they want to know if it's true that there's a spectre bride who comes out of the shop at night, and claims the souls of handsome young men for her own."
"A spectre bride?" Now I was intrigued. "One of those legendary ghosts who was widowed or spurned at the altar, and committed suicide, or was killed when she was about to be married, and so she haunts people now as a spectre bride?"
"I wouldn't know, Mamoru-san. But I get very clear vibes about things, and when I was meditating before the sacred fire early this morning, it told me there was evil to be found at that bridal shop, but whatever it was, it wasn't really a ghost."
Whatever it was, it wasn't really a ghost.... Rei's words echoed in my mind as I tried to snatch the sleep that had been evading me all week. What am I trying to prove, anyway? I love Usagi, and yet I'm staying away from her, because I am sure if she recognizes my voice as belonging to Tuxedo Kamen, she won't want to be with Tuxedo Kamen anymore. But staying away from her is infinitely worse, I now find. Here I am, pathetically hanging around her friends when she's not there, just so they'll talk to me about her, so I'll have news about her, so I won't worry about her, but I do, just the same. I worry she's met some other guy while I'm spinning my wheels. Which reminds me...Motoki.
I am talking about Furuhata Motoki, whose family run the Crown Game Center, the Crown Fruit Parlour, and a few other small businesses, all named "Crown." Motoki's mom laughingly told me one day, when I was working there, that she and her husband had called their first business, the video arcade, "Crown" because the English name was associated with royalty, so they thought the name would be lucky for business. They must have been on to something, because the Crown Game Center was such an immediate success with all the local kids, that it bankrolled their opening the Crown Fruit Parlour, which was a fruit market and café. They had since opened several other businesses, all called "Crown", and they were even thinking of making it a chain across Tokyo. All because Mr. And Mrs. Furuhata thought "Crown" would be a lucky name.
Sometimes I wonder if the name "Crown" resonated in my mind subconsciously, when I was first looking for part-time work after moving to Tokyo. Probably my mind went...Crown...Prince...Princess, and I am looking for a princess. Silly as that sounds, I bet that's why I ended up asking for a job there.
Though Motoki and I are very different personalities, perhaps for that very reason, we get along like a house on fire. All his other friends call him Furu-chan. I am the only one allowed to call him Motoki. He calls me the big brother he never had, and though we are both about the same age, he tells me jokingly that I am his older, more serious brother, who keeps him out of trouble. When he told me that, I said if he WAS my brother, I'd promptly disown him. He poked me playfully with his elbow and retorted that if I disowned him, then I couldn't keep showing up at the Game Center or the Fruit Parlour and guzzling free coffee whenever I needed a caffeine fix.
"OK, you got a point there," I grinned. Motoki knows all about me and my weakness for coffee and chocolate. When the Fruit Parlour gets a extra stock of chocolate treats, especially on holidays, and they don't sell it all, Motoki calls me over to pig out. If I'm studying at the time for an exam or a report, I pack up the laptop with me and work over there while munching, rationalizing to myself that I function much better with a steady supply of chocolate, anyway.
All this is by way of explaining to you why I was on such terms with Motoki, that when I awoke groggily and found it to be 10:30 PM, I knew I could call up Motoki and drop over to chat with him, AND get fed, after the family business was closed for the night. Motoki usually worked at the Game Center, but on this Saturday night, a staff member had called in sick at the Fruit Parlour. So Motoki was over there, filling in, since it was very busy in the summertime, and they needed experienced counter help in the cafe. His little sister, who was being trained to help in the family business, was at the Game Center tonight. I found that out when she answered the phone at the Game Center counter.
"So, how do you like working there?" I asked, making small talk.
"You REALLY wanna know?" she said, sounding a little peeved. "I HATE it. It's so busy, and all the girls, who are all dressed up like they're trolling for guys, keep coming up to the counter and whining, "'Where's Motoki? We want Motoki!' Mamoru-san, I didn't realize until they put me in tonight, that Motoki has a harem here--it's sickening!"
"Well, a guy can't help it if he's good looking," I replied. [I have some small experience in such matters.]
"Mamoru? PPPPPFFFFFFFFFFT!!" I could hear her sticking out her tongue at me all the way down the line. "Oh, yeah, I forgot I was talking to Chiba Mamoru, the Death Star of Tokyo, fatally attractive to all women over the age of 3 and under the age of 90!"
"So what's wrong with the women older than 90?" I asked teasingly.
"Oh well, by then, their eyesight's starting to go." she shot back, and giggled. "So how come you're looking for Motoki, instead of practicing your charms on all those hapless women?"
"Oh, you know me. I'm still waiting for my princess to come...OR...for you to dump that 15 year old boyfriend of yours and consider an older guy like me!"
"An older guy like you?" she mimicked my voice. "Yeah, right, Mamoru, the 17 year old prodigy of Moto Azabu High. Just because they let you skip a couple of grades doesn't make you older, Mamoru-san! Even if my baka brother does lie to the girls about your age!"
"He does?" I cried, surprised.
"Oh yeah! It's his devious little scheme for keeping all his little harem to himself. The girls ask him, 'Does that friend of yours, Mamoru, have a girlfriend?' And he says No, because they would quickly find out if he lied about that. But then he tells them, 'But really, he's a little too old for you--did you know he was actually19 years old?' Trouble is, it doesn't work that well. Some of the younger girls like the idea of you being older. Thanks to Motoki, everyone thinks you're 19, and because you're at a level with guys that age in school, the story's more believable."
I shook my head in wonder, "That Motoki, he's something else. But remember, my heart still beats for you. Marry me, then your father will let me take over the business, and together, we can rule the Crown Empire!" [This has been a running joke between us for a more than a year now, since she was 12. She likes insulting me and I tease her right back.]
"Oh, and I'll keep on your baka brother too, who has no head for business. I'll make Motoki the Vice-President in charge of Flirtation!"
She was roaring with laughter by this time. "No way, Mamoru--then I'd be fending off YOUR harem for the rest of my life! But thanks for calling, anyway. You cheered me up a lot."
I laughed and said goodbye.
After ringing 20 times, I finally got Motoki to pick up the phone at the Crown Fruit Parlour.
"Moshi moshi, Crown Fruit Parlour, Furuhata speaking."
Mimicking the gruff voice of an angry customer, I intoned, "You call THAT customer service, young man? Answering the line after 20 rings?"
He recognized my voice and started laughing. "Have a heart, Mamoru! You know how busy this place is on Saturday night, especially in this heat wave. I've been making two million fruit yogurt shakes for the waiting customers. So, what can I do for you?"
"Oh, I'd just like to drop by after midnight, after you close up. You feed me, and I help you with that science project you keep complaining about." I told him.
"Well, I'm pretty beat, but if you'll take whatever's left over, sure--come on over."
I was tucking into a steaming cup of ramen noodles, and slurping down a chocolate banana yogurt shake [strange combination, I know, but that was what was leftover at the Crown Fruit Parlour that night], while Motoki filled me in on his week's activities.
"Usagi brought over a new friend to the Game Center this week," he began.
"Oh?" I feigned ignorance.
Motoki, with hardly a breath to pause, warmed to his subject, gesturing with his hands in enthusiasm."Her name is Makoto. She must be the tallest girl I've ever seen, with lush brown hair in a ponytail. You should see her, Mamoru, she's like a..."
"Like an Amazon?" I finished the sentence for him.
"Yeah, how did you know?" He looked at me, bewildered.
I grinned. "Must be my famous psychic powers. The stars don't know everything, but *I* do!"
"And oh man, is she BUILT, Mamoru!" Motoki cupped two hands in the air for emphasis.
I looked at him narrowly. "Is THAT all you can ever think about, Motoki?"
He grinned, unrepentant. "Well no, sometimes I think about the other parts of their bodies, too."
"Good thing your girlfriend can't hear you talk like this, Motoki," I replied, in gentle reproof.
Motoki sighed. "What am I supposed to be, a monk, while she's away studying all the time? Anyway...," and here Motoki winked at me, "flirting with the customers is good for business. Even my father admits that. It figures, doesn't it, with all those giggling girls in the game center every week, that the one I fall for is this totally serious, studious type, the type who would never be bothered talking me up. In fact, she's as serious as you are, Mamoru."
I smiled a small secret smile."I'm not quite as serious as you think. I have my own way of having fun."
"Hmmmph, you, having fun? Never. Unless you call it *fun* to care for your little conservatory. When the girls ask if you have a girlfriend, I tell them that the love of your life is named 'Crimson Beauty.' They get really angry when they find out that's the name of a breed of red rose." Motoki snickered.
I cocked an amused eyebrow at him, and he had the grace to blush, a little. "You, Motoki, are incorrigible. But believe me, I have other ways to have fun too...you'd be surprised." My eyes looked out then to the darkened street, to the streetlights and rooftops, watching the wind rustle stealthily through the trees. I felt the restless blood rise in me. It seemed like a good night for Tuxedo Kamen to prowl.
Please go to: Part 3: Motoki Meets "Mako-chan"
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Final note:* The title "The Rose Garden" in relation to Sailor Moon, and the fan fiction of this title, is legally the intellectual property and copyright of Pandora Diane Waldron. If you wish to quote from it, use the title for a Sailor Moon-related web page, post the fanfic on your web site, or otherwise publish it, please first ask permission of the author, by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
A couple of people have used the title of my fanfic as a title for their Mamoru web pages, without either asking me first, or crediting me for that title. If you just want to use the title "The Rose Garden" on a site devoted to Tuxedo Kamen/Tuxedo Mask, the proper and polite thing to do is to give me credit as the author of that title, and provide a link to the fan fiction of that title, or to my e-mail address. If you don't, you are not only being unfair to me, but you are also doing a disservice to my fans, who come looking for my fan fiction with a search engine, and come away disappointed when they see the title on your site, and think it's my fanfic there.
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