Allure – Chapter Four
by Dreams in Pink
|← Chapter Three|
The soft clicks of horse’s hooves disturbed the still night as the prince and his two generals finally arrived at their destination – the lakefront cottage. Endymion dismounted his stallion, his muscles growing weary as the damp air settled on his shoulders. His cheeks burned, kissed by the frigid night.
“She loved it here,” he whispered, memories of his mother flooding his mind.
“That she did,” Kunzite said solemnly, laying a comforting hand on the prince’s shoulder. “It’s been far too long since you’ve visited this cottage.” Endymion only nodded in reply. It had been ten years since his mother’s passing, and ten years since he last seen this particular lakeside. The two men stood silently as the water lapped against the shore. He had missed that sound. It had been those same songs that had lulled him to sleep as a child, along with his mother’s soft hum, and gentle embrace.
“Come on, let’s get these animals to their stalls,” Jadeite interrupted, leading his mare into the stable.
As soon as the woman was out of sight, Serenity felt a wave of relief rush through her. The fog swiftly vanished from the forest ground, and she could feel the temperature increase ever so slightly. Tightly pulling her cloak around her shaking shoulders, she started her trek home. The encounter replayed countless times in her mind, and her heart pounded as the woman’s crisp voice rang through her memory. She was trapped, in this on her own, with no one to rescue her.
‘Just do what she wants you to do, then go home’, she instructed herself, hoping that there was nothing more to the woman’s demands. Serenity stopped to take in her surroundings; she was no longer on the path home. Her breaths grew shallow, ‘It’s okay… you’ll find your way home. Just get out of the forest’. Her pace quickened, and she began to panic. Everything looked exactly the same, even the moon’s rays were deceiving her as they leapt through the branches, playing tricks on her eyes. She stumbled along the path, gnarled wooden fingers grasping at her cloak, reaching from the ground to grab at her ankles.
Before long she came across a clearing. She paused momentarily, listening intently and hearing water in the distance. ‘The lake… I must be somewhere near the lake,’ she concluded, her nerves beginning to calm. Across the open grassy field, she saw a glimmer of light and sprinted towards it. The odor of horses and hay overwhelmed her senses as she neared a small barn. She peered inside the open door, her gaze reaching a pair of almond eyes that glared at her defiantly. His midnight stained coat gleamed in the starry light, and she approached cautiously, awestricken by his equine beauty. Gently stretching out her arm, she laid a fragile hand on the stallion’s plush nose, his mood mellowing at her mere touch.
“Hello,” she cooed, opening the stall door, her hand travelling up his neck and down his shoulder. His ears flickered as she whispered to him lovingly. Tears of nostalgia pricked her eyes, and she recalled the countless hours she spent on the moon galloping on horseback through the plains. As if reading her mind, the animal knelt, inviting her onto his back. “I can’t…” she whispered, smiling wildly at the thought. Turning his head ever so slightly, he persuasively nuzzled his nose into her stomach. “Fine, but just so I can figure out where I am,” she said sternly, climbing atop hid sturdy back and taking a fistful of silky mane in her delicate fist. “Okay…” she breathed, as the horse stood to his feet.
The pair set off into the field, Serenity guiding with light kicks to his side. Reaching the lake, they followed the shoreline, until the world around her melted into familiarity; the large rock that stood as an island amidst the swirling water, the moss covered tree stump, lying in a bed of daisies. All of her anxiety was instantly released. Feeling the rider relax, the horse quickened pace and Serenity felt the refreshing night breeze caress her face. An airy giggle escaped her lips as they headed back the way they had come; she couldn’t remember the last time she felt this alive.
A few hours after their arrival, the three companions were situated inside the cottage in front of a roaring fire, drinks in hand. Their faces ached with laughter, as they in turn told timeless tales from their earlier years. Along with two others, Nephrite and Zoicite, Kunzite and Jadeite had from birth, dedicated their lives to serving and protecting the young Prince of Earth. Their years spent together created a deep bond between the men, one that had already survived numerous tribulations.
“Okay okay okay, I have to ask,” Jadeite said, trying to appear serious and sober. “Why the help?” They had been discussing one of Endymion’s earliest affairs; it had happened with a laundry maid, who at the time, was seven years older.
“It’s more of a challenge!” Endymion replied, his words lazy with liquor.
“That makes no sense,” Kunzite, the least intoxicated of the group, laughed, shaking his head.
“No, it does!” The raven haired prince shook his finger, “listen to me. By sleeping with a prince, me,” he pointed at his chest, “a noblewoman has nothing to lose and everything to gain. Her status can only increase.” He paused to finish the last drop brandy that pooled in the bottom of his glass, “Common women, have everything to lose and little to gain.”
“How do you figure that?” Jadeite wondered, running a confused hand through his sandy hair.
“A commoner risks her income – if she’s caught by the head… thing,” he stopped to search for the right word, “her boss, she would be fired. Her husband would find out, and she’d beaten. Her friends will know why, and would scorn her. A common woman, you have to seduce. You have to convince her it’s a great idea,” Endymion finished his explanation, his friends sitting back to digest his words as he poured himself another glass of the velvety liquid.
“He might actually have a point,” Kunzite admitted.
“So it’s the chase?”
“It’s the chase,” Endymion repeated with a nod.
“I heard you were lectured for your … pastime.” Jadeite chuckled; the thought of the prince being reprimanded was always an amusing one.
“I was,” he grinned childishly, “he said ‘no more screwing around with the help’”. His voice deepened, mocking his father’s aged tone, “Or I’ll strip you of your crown!”
“He’s said that before,” The general noted, knowing that it was one of the king’s favourite idle threats.
“He wants me to marry Beryl.”
At the mention of her name Jadeite’s light-hearted demeanor turned to ice, and the smile faded from his lips, “Beryl?”
“That would make for an awkward monarchy,” Kunzite stated, noticing the sudden shift in his friend’s composure.
“No kidding,” Endymion quipped with a heavy sigh.
“What ever happened to love?” The words slipped from Kunzite’s mind and through his mouth before he realized that he had even spoken.
“Ha!” The prince scoffed, downing yet another drink. “How many people do you know that are together for love?”
“So you don’t believe in love?” Admittedly, he was somewhat surprised by the remark. When had Endymion turned so cynical?
“I didn’t say that,” he corrected, “but most relationships are based on gain or lust, not love. These women, they think they love me… ” he shook his head as if to prove his point, “they only cheat because they’re not getting what they need elsewhere. See, it’s a gain, it’s not love,” he continued, his slurred words making sense in only his mind. “I’m not the kind of guy who falls in love,” the prince concluded, slamming his glass onto the table.
“I have a challenge for you.” Jadeite said suddenly, fishing a folded paper from his pocket.
“Jadeite…” Kunzite warned, knowing all too well that Jadeite’s ‘challenges’ generally involved Endymion’s skills in seduction – skills that currently needed to be put under tight control. Not to mention the prince was in no condition to be making any bets or accepting any quests. “Now is not the time.”
Jadeite threw daggers with a piercing glare, “You don’t even know what this is about,” he growled.
“I know you, and that’s enough,” Kunzite countered, “and as the Prince’s friend and advisor, I can say that none of your ‘challenges’ are a good idea. He is going to abide by his father’s wishes,” he boomed, and Jadeite receded.
“I need fresh air,” Endymion interrupted, nausea setting in as the effects of alcohol took hold of his body. Leaving his generals behind, he stepped outside, grabbing the lit lantern that stood by the door. The cool air filled his lungs and although he felt a piece of sobriety restored, his head continued to pound. The air chilled his sweat beaded brow, and he felt a shiver run up his spine. Wanting nothing more than to relish in the twilight’s tranquility, he decided to go for a walk.
The prince made his way towards the stables, wading through the cricket’s chorus as the path crunched under his boots. As he neared the building, he heard the faint patter of hooves approaching from the opposite side, and despite his drunken stupor, knew that something was awry. Setting the lantern on the ground, he pressed his back to the outer wall of the stables, breathing controlled as he listened intently. Taking only a mere second, he quickly peered inside, immediately noting that his prized stallion was missing. His jaw tightened in anger as he continued to listen, knowing that someone on horseback was drawing closer. He glanced once more, watching as a hooded figure returned Ryoma to his stall. With shock strewn across his face, he saw the creature kneel, allowing the rider to gracefully slip to the ground, and he watched as they whispered something wicked into his horse’s ear. Endymion reached for his sword, soon realizing that it was not at his side, ‘Shit!’ he mentally cursed.
Serenity returned to the stables elated, her cheeks flushed from kissing the wind. She dismounted her equine companion, giving him a loving pat while murmuring secrets into his ears, and making promises to return. Even if it had only been for a short while, she had been so at peace, so carefree. Her troubles had momentarily dissolved leaving behind that enthusiastic girl who fled to Earth so that she could devour the beauty of the planet. Knowing that it was time to leave, she gave the horse one last stroke before heading out. The princess shrieked as she felt a strong arm wrap around her neck, another seizing her arm, preventing a struggle.
“Who are you?” Endymion spat, having apprehended the mysterious rider. “Who are you?” He demanded again, his grip tightening, eliciting a yelp from his captive. She could smell the alcohol on his breath; her heart pounded and she squeezed her eyes shut, expecting the worst. Receiving no reply, he spun her around to face him, one hand still grasping her upper arm.
“You’re just a girl.” His voice was laden with disbelief as he inspected the outline of her delicate face radiating in the moonlight. Surprised to feel nothing but the loosening of his grasp, Serenity cautiously opened one eye. “I’m not going to hurt you,” the prince said, admittedly amused by her expression.
“I’m sorry!” The girl stammered, bowing her head apologetically. “I just… I… I was out in the forest, and making my way home, but I must have taken a wrong turn, and I didn’t know where I was and I came across your stable, and I don’t know what came over me,” she panicked, the nervous explanation pouring out at an incredible speed. Unable to handle the onslaught of words, he raised a finger to her quivering lips.
“What’s your name?” His voice was soft, and he felt as if any sudden movement would cause her to flit away. His vision began to blur, and he could no longer focus on the details of her face.
“Usagi,” she answered, giving him her alias as large crystal eyes ventured upwards, taking in his chiseled jaw line, and messy, raven hair that fell over tumid cobalt eyes. A slight gasp escaped her lips as soon as she realized who he was. ‘The man in the portrait…’.
“Usagi,” he echoed. Serenity’s mind was racing with the realization that she had absolutely no idea what she was supposed to do. She had never seduced a man, she had never made them fall in love with her – it had simply happened. “Do you know who I am?” He wondered, noticing that she had never fully bowed or addressed him appropriately.
Unable to find a voice to reply, she nervously shook her head, looking ashamed. Was she supposed to know who he was? Endymion only grinned – he liked this girl; there were no pretenses or expectations. However, his smile was soon chased away by the headache that assaulted his senses. He rubbed his face with a panged groan – this was the precise reason he didn’t drink excessively.
“Are you okay?” She asked tenderly, reaching out to lightly touch his arm.
“I’m fine.” He was bewildered by her genuine concern.
“Endymion!” The prince turned his head in the direction of the call; he must have been gone for too long, sending his generals out to find him. “Endymion?” They called again, footsteps drawing near.
“Do you know how to get home?”
“Yes,” she nodded.
“Then go, quickly. Out the back.” He felt overwhelmingly possessive, wanting to keep this girl for himself and wanting to avoid the judgment of his generals. With strong hands on her shoulders, he guided her to turn around. Serenity took off towards the door, stopping to look back at him.
“Thank you,” she smiled sweetly, moonlight dancing through her platinum locks. He watched after her retreating form, and knew right then and there he would have to see her once more.
“Endymion?” Kunzite yelled, growing frustrated as he came through the stable door. “Were you just talking to someone?” He would have sworn he had heard another voice. He glanced in each of the stalls, finding no one.
“Just the horses,” Endymion replied. As he looked at Ryoma he realized why he had been so submissive towards the girl – he had reacted the same way.
Standing quietly outside the back entrance of the barn, Serenity pressed her ear against the wall. ‘Endymion…’ she etched his name into her mind, furrowing her brow at the unsettling sense of familiarity. Where had she heard it before? She pulled out his picture, angling to see it in the light; it was definitely him. She began to wonder what made him so unattainable to the woman that had sought her out. He had been kind, understanding, gentle… what had he done that had caused her to seek such a cruel kind of revenge? Knowing that she hardly had a choice, the girl set off towards home, all the while planning her next move.
|← Chapter Three|