Chapter 7: Flaming Arrow
Ruka was so excited to get to spend the day with Michiru and Haruka! She was almost skipping as she and Michiru walked down the castle hallway. A few minutes after they'd headed out Haruka came up behind them and wrapped her arms tightly around Michiru, kissing her cheek. Ruka thought this was one of the most beautiful gestures of love. She'd seen her Papa do it to her Mamma many times, though her Mamma was never surprised. Only Endo could manage to sneak up on their mother.
She looked at Haruka and grinned, "So what are we doing today?" She had so many things she wanted to do. She wanted to go hiking, go horseback riding, spar with Haruka, and she especially wanted to show her skill in archery.
Haruka grinned back, "Well, your grandmother says you're an exceptional archer, so let's start there. But I thought we'd let you decide the day from that point on. Princess' choice!" Ruka could feel herself in full skip now because she was so happy hearing Haruka.
Michiru looked between them and giggled, "So you're going to dote on yet another princess. You're hopeless!" But the smile she wore gave away that she was teasing. Ruka was glad. She really wanted Michiru to like her too.
"It's my job to protect the princesses of the silver millennium. Besides, how can I resist?" Haruka prodded back. This also made Ruka very happy. She loved the idea of being doted on by Haruka. Ruka enjoyed being doted on by her loved ones, even if she was a rebellious troublemaker to the rest of the world.
After a short trek the three of them reached a wooded area behind the Castle itself where many activities took place, ranging from hiking a trail laid out in the woods to horseback riding and archery. There was a medium sized storage building that held things like saddles, a variety of practice weapons, including kendo sticks and staffs, and equipment for things such as archery.
Haruka let Ruka pick out a bow and quiver of arrows as she set up the target, laughing at Ruka's delight as she looked over the many choices before her. Michiru stayed with Ruka and struck up some conversation, "You're such a joyous and energetic child Ruka. What do you like besides sports?"
Ruka thought on that for a moment as she was examining a long bow, quickly dismissing it, "I like music. I play a furuto. My mother says it's like a flute here. But I wish I could sing like her." A sadness started to show on her face, but at that moment she found what she was looking for, a crossbow. But it wasn't just any crossbow. It was her mother's. She'd described it to her once, painted silver and gold with roses wrapping around it.
When she turned around she saw that Haruka had returned and was eyeing the bow in her hand, "That was your mother's you know. She spent years working on her technique. Kiyoko was very gifted." It was like Haruka had turned inward temporarily, but she quickly brought herself back.
Ruka nodded, "My mother told me about this bow. She said that when we were able to visit Earth that I could have it." Haruka nodded and handed her the matching quiver, which was still filled with arrows.
With that they went outside and Ruka took up a neutral stance about 300 yards back from the target. She strung and aimed the bow flawlessly, fixing it to her anchor point at the corner of her mouth and let it fly. As it spiraled toward the target the tip lit up in flame and it landed dead center, Ruka was certain. The flame just flicked there, not catching or spreading. That was one of Ruka's favorite moves.
She heard Haruka and Michiru cheering for her and Haruka approached her with glee written all over her, "Your mother used to do that same trick. I see this training wasn't wasted! You're an excellent shot!" Ruka thanked her and they actually spent some time taking turns shooting.
Worrying that Michiru might be feeling left out, Ruka went over to her when Haruka was putting up the target. Ruka'd insisted on keeping the bow and quiver of arrows. Michiru was sitting very meekly on the ground. She'd been watching the two. Ruka put the bow and quiver down and dropped to her knees. Taking off her gloves, she pressed her hands against the earth and without a word a beautiful lily popped up from the ground. Ruka picked it carefully and handed it to Michiru. No words, just a smile.
Michiru sniffed it and grinned, "Why thank you." When Haruka joined them Michiru looked at her, "A pretty young princess just gave me a lily. She even grew it herself." Haruka just laughed and held her hands out to both of them.
They spent the rest of the day hiking. Ruka loved the landscape, in many ways it reminded her of home. Haruka told her the story of how bravely her mother had hiked through the thickened cursed forest that once existed on Estara. Ruka was perplexed by this story. Of course she'd heard of Hina and the way she almost destroyed their world. She'd heard that her mother used her powers to save and revive the world, but not many details were ever given. Finally she asked Haruka, "How did my mamma know that you had to make camp?"
Haruka looked at her amused, but it was Michiru who responded, "Your grandmother was watching over her. Your grandmother is an amazing being. You should be proud to be part of the legacy of the Silver Millennium. Never forget that." Ruka nodded fiercely. She was very proud of who she was.
After a moment Haruka looked at her and said, "Be proud of your mamma too. She is one of the bravest and kindest people I've ever known. No one knows the limits to her powers, not even her, but she never uses them carelessly or to dominate others. She has all of the best qualities of a warrior, but a gentle heart to balance it." The look on Haruka's face was a mixture of pride, exultation, and love. Ruka hoped that one day someone would speak of and wear that look because of her. The look on Michiru's face was similar, but not quite as bright.
Ruka responded to both of their words, "I'm proud to be both my mother's daughter and part of the silver millennium. But I don't know that I'll ever be as elegant as my mother." This was always a secret worry of hers.
Haruka leaned in very close to Ruka and grinned, "You will be your own kind of princess, which will be the best way to honor your mother. I'm sure she wouldn't want you to be anyone but yourself. Trust me." This made Ruka very happy and she nodded, a huge grin on her face. Finally they decided it was time to head back to the castle. Ruka felt like it had been the best day ever!