Title: The Empress and the Priestess (sequel to Seers)
The Empress represents the more accessible, more benign aspects of the female archetype. She is motherhood, love, gentleness. At the same time she signifies sexuality, emotion and the female as mistress... The High Priestess represented the mental side of the female archetype; her deep intuivie understanding. The Empress is pure emotion.
It was amazing how all high schools had the same smell, Rei thought, as she walked down the corridor. Her school was Catholic: the noticeboards had posters about missionary work and mass, there were crucifixes above each classroom and the chapel was hazy with incense and shame, but the corridors were identical, a mixture of polish and dust.
The art exhibition was in the assembly hall, which had the biggest windows and therefore the most light. Rei didn't have to search for Hotaru's series: it was aligned along the back wall. She saw her painting first of all: a study in muted reds, purples and lilacs, a single crescent moon shining above her, shadowing her double's face in mystery but leaving just a hint of pride and serenity in the expression. Rei nodded, pleased. Then she saw the picture next to hers and stopped for a moment.
Hotaru had painted Usagi as the Empress. Rei had been so sure that she would paint Usagi as the Moon (or the Fool), she hadn't even considered... But there she was, her hand resting on a ruffled cradle, dressed in white and pink, surrounded by eggs (symbols of fertility) and, of course, rabbits. Two hares flanked her throne, distinguished from the rabbits by their size and their silvery coats. The rabbits tumbled about in the foreground. A pomegranate tree flourished behind Usagi's head. Rei took a few steps forward and squinted. Yes, the pomegranate seeds were little crescent moons. There was a soft smile on Usagi's lips and a warmth in her eyes. Rei glanced back at her own portrait, cool and solitary. It was what she wanted. And yet...
"She's so good, isn't she?"
Rei jerked. She'd been so lost in reverie, she hadn't noticed Usagi coming up to her. Irritated with herself for being so obtuse and with Usagi for being so unusually quiet, Rei just nodded. Usagi took no notice and slipped a hand around Rei's elbow. "I thought she'd pick me for the Moon... but she said that I mothered everyone, so the Empress was more appropriate. What do you think?"
What did she think? That Hotaru saw too much. That Hotaru saw the truth and wasn't afraid to show it. "I think she's right," Rei said, praying her voice wouldn't crack. "You do mother everyone, even if it's not as obvious as Mako-chan."
Usagi nodded, then pointed with a smile. "Did you see the seeds?" There was glee in her voice. "And the rabbits? She's so clever! Ami-chan and Michiru-san were standing in front of it for ten minutes, looking worried because she'd put so many clues in, but it's not like anybody would guess. They'd be recovering from shock. You should have seen Papa's expression..." She giggled, a delicious, carefree sound.
"You look very content," Rei agreed, wondering if Hotaru had borrowed a baby photograph from ChibiUsa, but no, she would think that was cheating.
"Feeling broody, Rei-chan?"
Rei rolled her eyes. "Don't start."
"If you ever asked, I'd release you."
The statement was so unexpected that Rei thought for a moment she'd imagined it. "What?"
"Don't you mean 'pardon'?" Usagi corrected, a mischievous gleam in her eyes, for Rei was always telling her the same thing. Then the gleam faded. "If you ever wanted to be released from that vow you made... the vow of chastity... I would release you."
Rei shook her head, ambushed and bewildered. "How did you... never mind. It's not necessary. I appreciate the offer, but-"
"No, listen to me, Rei-chan." It was the tone of voice, the quiet command, that silenced Rei. This was a tone that she'd only heard from Usagi in moments of great peril, and now Usagi was using it in a school hall. "Don't just turn away. I'm serious. If ever someone comes along and you want to be with him, you want to marry him, I would be happy for you. I would support you every step of the way. Do you know that?"
Rei looked at the High Priestess again, then the Empress. "I'm happy as I am," she said, unable to respond flippantly or chastise Usagi, not when she was using that royal tone.
"For now," Usagi agreed, squeezing Rei's arm before taking her hand away. "For now."