Disclaimer: As always, thanks and copyright belong to Takeuchi-sensei, Kodansha, Toei and NHK. Notes to follow the story
Courtly Tales of Crystal Tokyo, Tale the First
Kuroko, Senshi of the Kitchen
Alright, alright. You want a story? One full of magic and fighting and great deeds done? Well, let’s see. I might just have the tale for you. It takes place in Crystal Tokyo during the Christmas season, after the Queen and all her Senshi had rebuilt the city after the Black Moon invasion. It was a long time ago now, you see. Not in my time, or your time or anybody else’s time, but in a time all its own. You see, the Queen decided to have a party…
The court was abuzz with anticipation. In an unprecedented event, all of Crystal Tokyo’s notables had been invited to the Palace for a Christmas party. While the Palace had always been open, (in the sense that anyone could enter the public areas,) and those with news or grievances were welcome to see the Queen, never before had there been a celebration of this kind.
As if to complement the festive mood, a soft snow had blanketed the city, the shards of ice and crystal reflecting each other in echoes of sparkling light. The area around the Palace was filled with onlookers as each new member of the court and invited guests disembarked from their transport. Crowds cheered familiar faces, and pondered the unfamiliar, all with a sense of being present at a historic event.
Inside the Palace, the buzz was completely different. While servitors moved with a sense of purpose, there was an underlying sense of pleasure that suffused even the hardest-pressed in the kitchen. Guards and guests mingled with relaxed anticipation, even as the tension began to build.
Neo-Queen Serenity was no hermit, of course, but rarely did she venture away from the Palace demesne, nor was she often seen among large crowds – and never had there been such a crowd at the Crystal Palace. The rumor of her arrival was like an incoming tide that pressed forward, then receded, each time growing in volume and strength. In a climax of applause, at last, she appeared.
As she passed, many bowed, a few knelt and one or two brushed hesitantly at the folds of her gown as she passed. But all commented on the loveliness of their Queen, and some voices were shocked to note how young she seemed. It almost seemed that she had blushed as she strode to the head of the hall, but that couldn’t have been right.
In fact, the Queen *had* been blushing, and was doing a poor job of hiding it. She had been Queen of Crystal Tokyo for well over a thousand years now, and while the job itself was old hat, the adulation of the crowds still, well, astonished her. The Queen waved to her guests, as she seated herself, and hoped that she looked calmer about this than she felt.
A squeeze on her shoulder caused the Queen to look up, where she found the relaxed and adoring face of her husband, gazing at her reassuringly. She gave Endymion a nod and smile, and looked about her for the rest of her court. A swirling eddy of humanity surrounded each of her Senshi and it was easy to spot them in turn. Sadly, the Queen thought of her messages to the Outer Senshi that had returned unanswered. Now that the crisis with the Black Moon had passed, they would have been welcome here. But she had heard no word from any of them in many centuries.
The evening’s festivities were many, and varied; dancing and singing and gifts for the guests. Many of Crystal Tokyo’s finest were honored and, at last, everyone was asked to attend dinner. As the Senshi were settled at the high table, Neo-Queen Serenity rose in her place.
“A long time ago, in Our youth, We were told tales of a king named Arthur. He would gather around him his knights,” here the Queen turned and smiled at her Senshi, “and his court,” her smile now favored her guests, “for the holidays. But before they ate, it was Arthur’s custom to hear a remarkable tale or see a wonderful event. And so, We have decided, shall we. Before those gathered here eat one morsel, we shall see an event or hear a tale of magic and wonder.” And the Queen sat, sharing a glance with the King, for he had been the only one who had known of her plan.
The noise in the hall grew deafening with the shock and surprise of all the guests, and the Queen’s ears rang with the protests of the Senshi, each of whom had several creative reasons for the folly of this venture. The Queen remained adamant, however, and soon an uncomfortable silence fell over the room.
Into this silence stepped a young woman. Immediately the whispers began again, for the young woman was none other than the Princess of the realm, Princess Small Lady Serenity. As a youth, she looked even more like her mother than she had as a child, and many had commented on her beauty.
The Princess stood before the high table and she made a deep curtsey to her mother and father, then turned to face the guests in the hall. “I have come here from my palace to report a terrible evil.” The crowd gasped, as the Princess’ voice rang out. “Some unspeakable horror has wrested my lands from me and cast me out.” The Queen was surprised, as she had heard no word from her daughter on this. “Forgive me, Your Majesty,” the Princess said contritely, “I did not wish to worry you during such a joyous time.”
The Queen smiled reassuringly and bid the Princess continue her tale. “As you know, my mother, the Queen, graciously gave me dominion over a rebuilt kingdom on the Moon, in order to prepare me for my own role one day as ruler of Crystal Tokyo. And since the Moon Kingdom’s rebirth, it has been a place of light and happiness. But a sullen darkness crept over my court and they lay now in a deep sleep, from which I am unable to awaken them. Nightmares they suffer…as do I, for sleep brings me no comfort, just renewed horror.”
Again the crowd noise rose. The Queen raised her hand for silence. Looking down at her only daughter, she asked, “What is the nature of this foe? Have you seen the creature that banished you from your home?”
The Princess shook her head sadly. “No, it attacks only at night, when we sleep. It is formless, a black cloud that chokes off the very air, but nothing can touch it, no weapon can fend it off, and when we wake…if we wake, there is nothing to be seen. Even my own Senshi have fallen to this evil night and are now in a restless and unwholesome sleep. ”
The Queen nodded solemnly. “This is a wonder, indeed.” She looked out into the crowd of guests and asked, “Is there no one who will journey with the Princess and defeat this monster to free the infant Moon Kingdom?”
Well, of course, the Queen’s Senshi immediately insisted that they be the ones to travel to the Moon, but the Queen put out an arm and waved them back into their chairs. Smiling gently, she told them that she could not spare them from her side. Surely, she said, there was one brave and noble citizen of Crystal Tokyo that would dare this adventure.
The silence was pregnant with tension, but no one stood to help the Princess. Again the Queen asked, was there not one among them that would take up the challenge?
At last, a voice was heard from the back of the great hall. A small figure was seen to move through the crowd. Thin and decrepit, it seemed that of all the great ones at the feast, only one poor servant from the kitchen would stand forth.
The Queen looked down at the girl quizzically. “What is your name, child?”
But the girl stood, head bowed and said nothing.
There was a small noise from the head table and the Queen turned to see Lady Mars looking more than a little uncomfortable. The Senshi cleared her throat and spoke, rather embarrassed. “Your Majesty, she won’t give her name. She came to the Palace some months ago, and asked to see one of the Senshi. I was nearby at the time and consented to see her. She gave no name, nor has she since then, but asked for a place in the Palace. We, ahem, found her a job in the kitchen.”
The Queen looked long and hard at Mars then turned back to the girl. Her brow furrowed she said, “They must call you something in the kitchen.”
The young girl lifted her head and the Queen could see large, dark eyes in a pale face. “Yes, your Majesty, they call me Kuroko.”
“A fitting name.” The Queen said as she noted the girl was dressed all in black. “Then so it shall be! Kuroko, you shall be Our agent and assist Our daughter to free the renewed Moon Kingdom.” And The Queen ordered Kuroko be given all that she desired in clothes and accoutrements, then brought back to eat with them at the high table. As for the Princess, she approached the Queen, sputtering with rage.
“Mother! How could you?” the Princess complained, while the noise in the hall grew and food was served to all the guests.
The Queen waved the Princess to a chair. “You asked for help, you shall have it.”
“But…but…but…” The Princess was beside herself with fury. “My Senshi! My court! You will allow a scullery maid to act as a Senshi?”
The Queen’s blue eyes were a little cold as she met her daughter’s gaze. “I wasn’t born royalty, nor were my friends. We might have been maids, or nurses, or teachers. Don’t assume that a title makes one noble.”
The Princess was hushed by that remark, but she seethed in silence through the rest of the meal…and she would not even look at Kuroko when she was led back to the table, clothed in a fine, black dress.
The two young women set off the next day, and the Queen herself bade them farewell. They had a long journey ahead of them, and the Princess had warned of challenges long before they would reach the new Moon Palace.
The Queen looked hard at Kuroko and noted that she had taken little with her, by way of either weapons or armor. This concerned the Queen, because as you might imagine, it was her daughter that Kuroko was meant to protect.
“Are you sure there is nothing that can be found for you?” The Queen asked the girl. Kuroko assured the Queen that all she needed would be found in time and the Queen wished her luck, though with some trepidation. Then, taking her daughter aside, the Queen gave the Princess advice on many things, both light and grave. Their leave-taking was private, so what was said does not enter this story.
In a short time, the two had passed out of sight of the Queen, at which the Princess called a halt to their progress. Her brows drawn together and her face very stern, she looked down at the pale girl by her side.
“I do not know who you are,” the Princess began, “or why you feel that you are worthy of this task, but you will fail. Only a Senshi might have the power to defeat this foe. And I doubt that you are a Senshi.” The Princess was very harsh and continued in this vein for some time, until Kuroko simply turned away and continued on their path.
Following along behind the dark girl, the Princess demanded to know why Kuroko had turned her back on a Princess Royal.
“Say what you like about me, but I have undertaken a task for the Queen. You may berate me as we travel – time will not wait for us.” Kuroko said no more, but proceeded to the gate between Earth and the Moon. All the while the Princess followed her, speaking harshly to Kuroko.
Some time passed and the two women found themselves before the gate that led to the Moon. Without a backward glance, Kuroko passed the doors, and the Princess hurried so that she would not be left behind.
Once on the Moon, the Princess addressed her “champion” with disdain. “Well, soon enough this farce will be at an end. The first challenge will dispatch you and release me to find a more suitable savior.”
By now Kuroko had ceased to pay any attention at all to the Princess, and so she said nothing. The Princess had been correct, however, and from the ruins of the old Moon Kingdom, two figures approached.
Smiling with joy, the Princess broke her stride and ran towards them shouting, “Vesta! Pallas! What has freed you from your sleep?”
But the two figures, who were indeed the Princess’ own Senshi, did not respond. Slowly, as if sleepwalking, they each raised an arm and as one, pointed towards their Princess.
The Princess, now realizing that there was something terribly wrong, slowed her steps and stopped. She could see Pallas’ and Vesta’s mouths moving but no sound came from them. Energy gathered at their fingertips, which still pointed directly at her. Protests died on her lips while beams of energy shot from their hands, and she tried to avoid the strike.
But the attack never reached her, for in a moment Kuroko had sped to the Princess’ side and carried her away. As the Princess was laid on the ground, she could just make out the three figures in battle, but her sight dimmed and went dark.
Kuroko, however, had returned to face the two attackers and with a word or two spoken softly, had repelled their attacks and knocked the possessed Senshi unconscious. The dark-haired girl spoke to them as they awoke. Freed from their compulsion, the Senshi knelt before Kuroko, who addressed them in low tones.
“Go back now to the Queen’s Court and tell her what has happened.” Kuroko commanded. The two Senshi stood, and bowing deeply towards their conqueror, took their leave.
By the time the Princess awoke, the Senshi were long gone. Turning to Kuroko, the Princess remonstrated with the girl. “What have you done with my Senshi?” She demanded.
Kuroko, looking up from bandaging a scratch upon her arm, and said, “I have sent them back to your mother, the Queen, to tell her what has occurred.”
The Princess snorted. “What? To tell my mother that you beat them by a fluke?” And she detailed the many ways in which Kuroko could not possibly have defeated her own Senshi. Kuroko nodded in agreement for, of course, one never argues with a Princess.
Once again, the two made ready to travel to the Palace. Despite her rescue, the Princess didn’t seem to be even a little appreciative and spent much of their time ranting about Kuroko’s deficiencies, both apparent and perceived.
At last they reached the Palace grounds and Kuroko turned to the Princess and said, “I think, Your Highness, it would be best if you hide, so that you won’t be attacked once again.”
Despite her objections to being commanded by such a lowly girl, the Princess could not argue with the logic of the idea, so she consented.
Kuroko added, “No matter what you see, please do not come out of hiding.” And the Princess sniffed, as if she would be so stupid.
Nonetheless, she was amazed to see Kuroko call out a challenge towards the Palace gates and even more surprised to see them swing wide – and her remaining Senshi exit. Juno and Ceres stood taller than Kuroko, and they smiled at her. The Princess shuddered, for even from her hiding place she could see that they were not nice smiles.
The two Senshi jumped and disappeared. Kuroko stood firm, but as the Senshi reappeared immediately above her, she raised an arm. As the combined attack reached her, Kuroko merely gestured and the energy was hurled back at her attackers, causing them to fall from the sky and lie on the ground, as if dead.
Forgetting the words of her champion, the Princess rushed from her hiding place, shouting. “Juno! Ceres!” When she reached Kuroko, she rounded on the girl, shrieking at her. “What have you done to them?”
Kuroko brushed the dust of the Moon from her clothes, then bade the two Senshi to rise. At once they did so, then knelt before Kuroko and thanked her gravely for releasing them from their possession.
“Follow your sisters back to Neo-Queen Serenity’s court,” Kuroko said to them, “and tell them there of what has happened.” Bowing low to her, then to their Princess, the two Senshi left, leaving a bewildered Princess behind.
“What does this all mean?” The Princess asked Kuroko.
The dark girl looked towards the Palace and sighed. “You should not have come out of hiding. If you awake and I am not here, do not despair, for I will rescue you.”
The Princess said nothing, but she was very confused and concerned. And into her thoughts entered for the first time a question…who was this girl who had so much power?
That night, Kuroko stood guard while the Princess slept. As the darkness of the lunar night gave way to a glorious sunrise, Kuroko stood by the gates alone…for the Princess had disappeared.
Now, the Princess awoke in a dark place and she was very scared. She knew something was wrong, and she called out for Kuroko, but there was no answer. The Princess was very frightened and began to cry.
A voice, dark and shivery, made her hunch together like a child. “Welcome home, Princess. I hope you don’t mind accepting my hospitality for a little while.”
“Who…who are you?” The Princess asked.
“I am,” the voice laughed, which made the Princess even more afraid, “The King of the Moon Kingdom. Or,” the voice paused, “I will be, when I take you as my wife.”
The Princess was now terrified, but at heart she was a Senshi herself and she pulled herself upright and shouted into the darkness, “Never! I’ll never wed you.”
The laughter made her flinch. “We’ll see.” Said the voice. “Some time alone in my nightmare world will bring about a new decision, I’m sure.” And the darkness vanished to be replaced with a vision out of an evil mind. “Please have fun with my pets.” The voice said and faded.
The Princess found herself, as she had not been since she was a small child, alone and afraid in a world of hellish nightmares. And all at once she thought of Kuroko, the girl she had abused and debased since they had met.
As she walked through ruined towns full of ghouls and monsters, The Princess remembered Kuroko saving her from an attack by her own Senshi, and her grace when she had been sorely used. And the Princess wondered if maybe, just maybe, the girl was strong enough to save her after all.
As for Kuroko, well, she had known what would happen if the Princess came out of hiding, so when she saw that the Princess was gone, she wasn’t surprised. But it left her in a quandary. She wanted to save the Princess, because she had loved her a very long time, but she had promised the Queen that she would free the Moon Kingdom.
Kuroko entered the gates of the Moon Palace and was immediately plunged into a horrible darkness. But darkness did not scare her and she walked on. Unidentifiable noises would draw close, and she could feel the presence of things in the air around her, but still she did not stop. She walked for a very long time in the dark, until she found herself in the palace itself, overgrown with weeds and stinking of decay.
The stones at her feet were cracked, the throne broken on the dais, and for the first time Kuroko became angry. Raising her soft voice, she called upon the creature that had caused the Palace to decay to appear before her. Her voice was lost in the ruined hall. Again she spoke and again her voice disappeared amidst the wreckage.
Kuroko stood, took a deep breath and at last shouted, “Beast – I command you to be present!” Her voice echoed in all the deep places, and rolled through the nightmarish landscape, gaining resonance with every pass…and the nightmare began to shatter.
Shards of ruined Palace walls fell about Kuroko as the horrible illusion was destroyed. The Palace hall stood now, revealed in its true form, its walls incandescent with an inner light. The throne was restored, for it had never been destroyed. Much to Kuroko’s surprise – and to her own – the Princess sat there now, watching as her champion called forth her challenge.
A noise came, like a moan, or a whisper of dead voices, and the Princess shuddered in her seat. A darkness gathered at the far end of the hall, driving before it despair and horror, but Kuroko stood fast. The shadows rolled past her and when they had passed, she found herself facing a giant of a creature. It had armor, or maybe it was scaly skin, and held within its grasp an object that made the Princess gasp. A polearm of a sort, it had a crooked end and the nightmare beast held it lightly. The Princess stood, her nails digging deeply into the palms of her hands, for this one object above all others was dear to her. This was the sole relic of the new Moon Kingdom. The Princess knew full well that no one should have been able to handle that weapon and live.
Nonetheless, the monster bowed deeply towards the dais, then made as if to attack Kuroko. The young girl made no motion, but stood ready. If this creature of nightmare was in truth wielding this weapon, she had no hope of success, she knew. She had only two chances – it might be that this weapon was an illusion, and if not, she had a single slim hope. It was unlikely that she would survive this, but for the Queen and the Princess, she would gladly die trying.
Once again the foul darkness drew close, The Princess could no longer see the combatants, nor could she move from her seat. Sounds of battle came to her ears and roars from the foul lord of nightmares, but that was all. Straining at her invisible bonds, the Princess found herself crying out Kuroko’s name and exhorting her to victory.
Inside the darkness, Kuroko heard these words and they moved her deeply. She leapt from where she stood as the weapon came crashing down. Lightly flipping in midair, she placed one hand on the long pole of the weapon. Finding it warm to the touch, she smiled a grim smile. For this was both very good and very bad.
Time passed but neither combatant could defeat the other. Time and again they drew together and passed, as two knights engaging each other, but neither could gain the advantage. At last, sensing fatigue in the girl, the beast rushed her. Kuroko sprang from her spot and with a twist, spun the weapon from the outlandish monster’s grip. With no more than a nod, and single motion made in deathly silence, the battle ended.
The Princess heard a terrible noise, one that had her cowering where she sat. In a terrific din, the beast’s last cry rang through the palace halls. The Princess found herself shrieking along with it but, as her cries died, so did the death throes of the horrendous creature. The gloom that had blinded her passed away, leaving only her tears to blur her vision. And as they too passed away, the Princess could only stare in amazement at the figure that stood before her. Kuroko stood, leaning heavily on the polearm, but stand she did. Perceiving at last her own foolishness, the Princess leapt from her seat and ran to catch the girl as she fell to the ground.
A year had passed. Once again great crowds were filling the areas of the Crystal Palace. Once again the city was welcomed into the bosom of their Queen’s home and the celebration was full of light and music and beauty. Once again, the Queen invited her guests into dinner…and once again there was a pregnant hush as she rose to speak.
The Queen called before her the Asteroid Senshi to tell their tales of defeat at the hand of a mere kitchen girl. Proudly they told of the invasion of the cursed creature of illusion, their own nightmares and their redemption by Kuroko. And the guests were amazed. Then at last the Princess herself stood and told of how Kuroko had faced the beast of nightmares itself, had stood strong and defeated it. At last, the final word was spoken and the Queen sat for a long time in silence. Calling Kuroko to stand judgment, the Queen looked solemnly at the girl.
“Kuroko, you have performed a great feat, and have gained Our grateful appreciation. Is there nothing more concrete that We can give you as a reward?”
Kuroko looked towards the Princess, then back at the Queen. “I’ll only ask for the one thing I have always wanted. I wish to be made champion to Princess Small Lady Serenity.” The buzz of the court was audible, but no one would speak loudly against the audacity of the girl.
The Queen turned towards the Princess, her eyes glittering. “And what do you have to say about this request?”
The Princess bowed her head and said, “She has earned her place.”
The Queen turned her bright gaze on the darkly-clad girl once again. “Well,” she said, “I suppose I have no reason to refuse your request…except one.” Dark eyes lifted to meet sapphire ones. “Won’t you now tell Us your true name?” The Queen smiled.
Kuroko smiled in return and turned to the court at large. “My name is Tomoe Hotaru. I am Sailor Saturn, Senshi of the Planet of Silence.” And as if she had spoken a charm, the entire hall was stricken with a profound silence.
The Queen looked at Kuroko, now revealed as Sailor Saturn, bearing the weapon she had won back from the beast that was her own Glaive. She turned to the court and asked, “What do the people of Crystal Tokyo say? Should this girl be given her reward?” And the roar of the crowd was deafening.
Thus was the new Moon Kingdom rescued, and Sailor Saturn came to Crystal Tokyo for the first time. And the Princess was very glad to have her friend returned to her after many centuries of separation.
Some of you might recognize the story I blatantly ripped off here, but for those of you who don’t, or for those of you too young to have read it, this is basely ripped from the story of Beaumains, the Knight of the Kitchen, one of the tales of King Arthur and his Court. In it, Beaumains is the somewhat nasty nickname given to a young boy who comes to the court by Sir Kay. I won’t tell you who Beaumains is, or what his adventure was, but do go out and read the story. It’s pretty terrific. If you found anything in this story to enjoy, reward me by reading the original, I’ll consider myself well paid.
Kuro means “black” and “ko” is a common ending for girl’s names.
With luck, this is the first in a series of Arthurian and folk tales starring the Senshi. Bug me about them, so I write them all. firstname.lastname@example.org