Thirteen-year-old Tsukino Usagi opened her eyes. She had just had a delicious dream. Now she sat up and looked about her. Suddenly she noticed her alarm clock.
"11:30!" she cried, springing up from her bed. "How can it be so late?! Mama! Why didn't you wake me up?"
Silence was her only reply, and she raced to her closet and flung open the door.
"I need a dress..... a dress. Oh, I don't have anything to wear. These are all -"
"I'm home!" called a voice from downstairs, and Usagi heard the front door swing shut.
"Mama!" Usagi yelled, running down the stairs toward the door, her long blonde hair streaming behind her. Reaching the bottom of the steps she slipped, but her mother caught her before she could land on the floor.
"Where have you been? You didn't wake me up! I have nothing to wear!"
Usagi then collasped onto the floor and began to cry.
"Usagi-chan," her mother began, sitting down beside her sobbing daughter. Her blue hair fell in waves about her. "Look in here."
Tsukino Ikkuko held up a red paper shopping bag. Usagi stopped crying long enough to glance inside forlornly.
"What? What is this?"
Usagi's mother smiled.
"It's a Christmas dress, just for you. Go try it on."
Beaming, Usagi stood up quickly and hurried to her room, with the bag clutched tightly in her hand.
"How do I look?" Usagi asked her parents anxiously.
Her hair was in its usual odango style and her two long ponytails cascaded almost to her ankles. Her new dress was stylish and shimmery. It had a shiny black bodice with a skirt of berry red that ran halfway down to her knees. The sleeves of the dress were small and puffed, in matching red. Tiny golden stars bedecked her torso in a straight line from her neck to her waist. She wore midnight-black tights beneath her skirt and garnet-colored shoes. Usagi twirled around once in her new dress, somehow managing not to trip herself in the process.
Usagi was a bit clumsy, and often ended up on the ground crying at the top of her lungs. She was a crybaby. She seemed to start whimpering at anything. However, she was a bright and cheerful girl most of the time, with more enthusiasm for eating and sleeping than could be found in almost any other girl her age. Usagi's study habits left much to be desired, and her grades were quite poor, which is why her father had refused to buy her the crystal necklace she so wanted to wear to tonight's party. She imagined it would go perfectly with her new dress. Her only consolation was that she might receive it as a Christmas present.
"Oh, you look lovely," Tsukino Kenji complimented. He nodded at his daughter.
"I agree, " Ikkuko breathed. "but now you must hurry and finish getting ready for the party."
Ikkuko gave Usagi one last look and then dashed off to the kitchen to again check on the food on the table. There was so little time! The guests would be arriving in less than an hour.
"Oh, come in!" Ikkuko and Kenji greeted another of the party guests. "I'm so glad you could make it!"
Usagi was sitting in a chair in the kitchen, staring at the delicious-smelling cakes. She wondered if anyone would notice if she cut herself a thin slice and then shoved the rest of the cake together so the empty space would be gone.
"You had better not touch those desserts," someone reprimanded.
Usagi turned to look up.
"Shingo!" she yelled. "Go away! Don't be a pain."
Her younger brother made a face at her and warned her against eating anything.
"Mother and Father will be really mad if they see you've eaten before the guests have even seen and admired the food."
Usagi scowled. "They don't have to know," she said haughtily. She was just about to scoop herself a generous helping of chocolate pudding when she realized her brother was still watching her.
"Shingo, don't you dare tell on me!" Usagi demanded. "Promise?"
"I can do whatever I want," the young boy replied, and tried to leave the room, but Usagi caught him by a shirt sleeve. She would have then attempted to beat him up until he swore not to tell about her sneaking food, had she not been interrupted by her mother flying into the kitchen.
"Usagi-chan!" she called, sweeping up some platters to move into the other room. "Usagi-chan! Hurry! We are about to open the door to the family room!"
Usagi dropped her wriggling brother and grinned. Every year after all of the guests had arrived for the annual Christmas party, Tsukino Kenji would grandly open the door to the family room as everyone stood in anticipation, and the Christmas tree would be revealed. Each year their tree was even more beautiful than the last. The Tsukino family had become quite well known for their amazing tree decorations.
The tree trimming was always done by Kenji and Ikkuko, and it was done in secret. No one else was allowed to see the tree until Christmas Day.
Usagi and Shingo made their way through the party guests waiting before the door and squeezed up to the front. Usagi could hear her father making a little speech, but she didn't pay attention to what it was. She was too excited.
Someone pulled on Usagi's dress for attention. Usagi spun around in her cramped spot against the doorjamb.
"Naru-chan!" she exclaimed in disbelief. "How did you get here? Your parents were invited to our party?"
The girl laughed.
"Yes," she replied. "Merry Christmas, Usagi-chan."
"Merry Christmas," Usagi returned happily. "I can't wait to see our tree. Can you?"
Naru shook her head. Usagi noticed that her best friend was wearing a new Christmas dress too. Hers had a deep burgundy velvet top, with a green and wine plaid taffeta skirt. The dress went well with Naru's shoulder-length reddish orange hair, brushed back into a green ribbon near the top of her head.
"You look pretty," Usagi told Naru warmly.
Just then, the door was flung open and Usagi, having been leaning up against it, crashed through to land in a heap of hair, lace, ribbons, arms, and legs.
"Are you alright?" Naru asked in concern.
"I've felt better," Usagi said, standing up. Naru was glad to see that Usagi wasn't going to make a scene.
Usagi was too anxious to finally see the Christmas tree to think about crying. She and Naru stood before it in awe.
"Father," Usagi heralded Kenji after a moment, as he walked past her, "this is definitely the best tree we've ever had. It's the prettiest. And the biggest!"
"Thank you," he said. "I'm very happy that you like it. Why don't you open your present?"
Usagi's face fell. "You mean I only have one present?!"
"Of course not. I just meant for you to open the present from your mother and me."
Usagi kneeled and searched through all of the beautifully wrapped gifts under the great boughs of the magnificent tree for her special present. Finally she found it: a red and green striped box with her name on the tag.
Naru leaned closer to Usagi to see what it held. Usagi tore off the paper and lifted the lid.
"Oh, look, Naru-chan!" Usagi exclaimed. "It's a pair of slippers! Bunny slippers! You know that rabbits are my favorite animal. Oh, these are so cute!"
She immediately pulled off her dress shoes to try on her new footwear.
"Usagi-chan! You can't wear those now!"
"Oh." Usagi realized Naru was right. House slippers weren't the thing to wear at a fancy party. "Well," she replied, "I'll wear them every day and night after the party is over. I love Christmas, don't you?"
Naru nodded, and then proceded to unwrap her own gift.
"It's from me," Usagi put in happily. "I hope you like it!"
"Oh, thank you, Usagi-chan. Yes, I do enjoy candy."
"So do I!"
"Who is it that just walked in late?" Naru asked Usagi later that evening.
"What?! It's... it's my family's good friend, Daraserumaiya-san!"
Usagi leaped up from the couch and ran to the tall, thin, dark-haired man.
"Daraserumaiya-san!" she called. "I'm terribly glad you came. I haven't seen you in so long!"
"Usagi-chan," he greeted kindly. "Look how you've grown while I've been away. I will talk to you later, alright? I must go say hello to your parents and Shingo-chan."
"Yes!" Usagi replied cheerfully.
Naru walked up to her friend and then they both went off to the festive table laden with enticing desserts.
"Thank you so much!"
"You're extremely welcome," Daraserumaiya told Usagi as he watched her open his present to her.
"Oh! I love it! It's so cute! Oh, wow! Look, Naru-chan. Look, Mama!"
Usagi held up her gift for everyone to see. Eru Daraserumaiya always made his gifts with his own hands, so they were extra special.
"It's a...." Naru began uncertainly.
"A nutcracker," Daraserumaiya informed. "They are popular at Christmastime in many countries like England, America --"
"America?!" Usagi gasped. "Wow!"
"Yes, I've seen one of those before," Ikkuko commented as she approached. "However, I think this one is a bit unusual. This one is special."
"Why is that?" Usagi and Naru asked in unison.
"Well, most nutcrackers are dressed as soldiers."
"I once saw one that was dressed as a chef," Kenji interjected.
"So this is not normal?" Usagi questioned. "Most of them are soldiers? Well, I think I would like this one much better than a soldier. Soldiers. Hmph. I hate fighting. That's scary stuff."
"Well, since he isn't a soldier, what is he?" Naru wondered, looking at the doll curiously.
"Mmmm," Usagi faltered. "Well.... he is a mysterious man, that's what he is. He is just a man that wears a tuxedo and a cape and holds a rose in his hands. He isn't anyone really. He's just mine. I love him."
She hugged the strange nutcracker to her chest, and Eru Daraserumaiya smiled.
"I'll show you how he works," he offered.
Usagi was surprised. She had thought this was just a wooden doll. She was amazed that it could do something.
Daraserumaiya took the doll in one hand and produced a nut from his pocket. He pressed the cape of the little man, and its mouth opened. After placing the nut in its mouth, he pushed down firmly on the cape.
A cracking sound was heard.
"You - you broke him?" Usagi managed to say. She looked as if she were about to start crying at any second.
"No, Usagi-chan," Daraserumaiya replied. "Look."
Usagi peered at the nutcracker. In his mouth sat a perfectly cracked nutshell, with its small brown nut peeking out.
"Incredible!" Usagi cried. "All of our nutcrakers are little silver metal things. This is amazing!"
She took her doll back and hurried over to a table. She scooped up a handful of nuts and began trying out her nutcracker.
"Who is going to be eating all of those nuts?" Gurio Umino wondered aloud, appearing out of the crowd of party guests to stand beside Usagi.
"Umino!" Usagi said, as she cracked her fifth nut, "Where did you come from?"
"You know where I live, Usagi-chan," he answered, adjusting the glasses on his face. "But.... do you know where that kind of nut is grown? It is very interesting. You see --"
Naru pushed her way in between Usagi and Umino.
"Umino! We are not interested!" she exclaimed.
Umino would have started a short lecture about the nuts anyway, but just then....
"Wow! Let me try it!" Shingo said loudly, and reached for the nutcracker doll.
Usagi immediately held it up above his head so that he couldn't grab it away from her. She would have said that he certainly could not try it, but just then Ikkuko noticed the scene and asked Usagi to let her little brother use the nutcracker for a while. Usagi handed it over to him angrily. She was sure he would wreck it up somehow.
Shingo looked scournfully at the nuts Usagi had cracked.
"Those are pretty measly nuts, don't you think?" he said to his sister. "I'm gonna do.... this one!"
He held up the largest of all of the walnuts Usagi could see in the bowl.
He jammed it into the nutcracker's mouth. It barely fit. Then Shingo slammed down on the lever, and Usagi gasped as she heard a different cracking noise than that of the other times.
"Shingo!" she shrieked. "You broke him! You broke him!"
She yanked the doll from Shingo's hands and cradled it in her arms.
"Shingo is stupid! Look! The jaw is broken off!"
Usagi then started to cry. Everyone in the room turned to look at her. Everyone covered their ears.
"I'm really sorry," Shingo murmured. "Really. It was an accident."
Just then Daraserumaiya stepped forward. He gently took the nutcracker from Usagi and, whipping a clean white handkerchief from his pocket, swiftly bandaged up the jaw.
"Almost as good as new, right?" he asked Usagi, who then hesitantly nodded.
"Naru-chan, help me," Usagi pleaded. "I must think up a nice name for my new doll."
"Like what? Anyway, you should think of the name yourself, not have me do it for you."
Usagi made a couple of faces. Suddenly she looked at Naru joyously.
"I've got it! I'll name him Tuxedo Cape!"
Naru made a face herself. "Well...."
"No, that doesn't sound right," Usagi amended. "Tuxedo Rose? Tuxedo Nutcracker? Hmmm. Well, what about Tuxedo Doll?"
Naru shook her head in the negative.
"I'll just call you Tuxedo for now, then," Usagi told her nutcracker, and laid it into an old baby doll cradle. "But I promise, I'll think of something really good."
"Oh, I have to go now, Usagi-chan," Naru said. "I had a good time. Thank you! Goodbye!"
Daraserumaiya was the last guest to leave. As he took his coat and stepped toward the front door, he gave Usagi and Shingo a mysterious grin.
"Thank you again for the beautiful doll," Usagi told him. "You know what, Daraserumaiya-san? He is a mysterious man.... like you are."
"You are probably right," Daraserumaiya replied.
Usagi awoke from a dream. It had been a strange dream.... she couldn't remember it. She lay for a few moments underneath her blanket which was covered with bunnies and moons, but she couldn't fall back asleep.
Usagi slid out of her warm bed. It was cold, so she threw on a robe and her new rabbit slippers. She decided to go take one more look at the Christmas tree before Christmas was over. It wasn't yet midnight. Shivering, she tucked her hands inside her pink robe and quietly stepped down the stairs.
The family room was very dark, but the glowing lights of the Christmas tree gleamed enough for her to see where she was going. The tree was bright and shined in splendor. Usagi sighed in happiness. She had never seen anything more pretty.
Usagi went over to the corner of the room where her nutcracker doll was still laying in the miniature cradle. Very carefully, she picked up the damaged doll, and hugged him. His painted wood was hard and smooth.
Usagi yawned widely, and her eyelids grew heavy. She wondered what it would be like to go to sleep on the couch facing the tree. She could look at its beautiful colors until she drifted off into a dream. Maybe she would have a lovely dream that way.
Usagi laid down on the couch with her nutcracker, and she was soon asleep.
Usagi heard a noise. She woke up immediately. Surprised, she saw that the lights on the Christmas tree were flashing on and off. She sat up with a start, nearly knocking her precious nutcracker onto the floor.
She looked around, puzzled. What had happened to the tree lights? Suddenly Usagi noticed a shadow in one of the corners of the room. It was just the right shape for a person, but the person was too tall to be her father. Usagi froze in fear.
The person moved into the dim light.
"Daraserumaiya-san!" Usagi said under her breath. "What....?"
The man waved his arms in front of him, and flung some gold-colored sparkles into the air. Usagi was appalled. She could not imagine why he was still in her house, and why he would be dirtying the clean carpet with glitter.
"Daraserumaiya-san!" she called to him, standing up. "What are you doing?!"
He silently walked up to her and took the nutcracker from her. He held a screwdriver in his hand, and he quickly fixed the doll's broken jaw. He put the handkerchief back into the pocket from which it had come.
"Well, thank you, Daraserumaiya-san. But.... why are you here? You should be at home in bed." Usagi was whispering so her family wouldn't hear her and wake up.
"I am going away, Usagi-chan," he replied softly. "Far away. We will not see each other for a very long time."
Usagi was alarmed. "How far? How long?"
"It is uncertain when we will meet again. Be good. I am glad that you like the nutcracker. Goodbye."
Usagi blinked, thinking that there must be tears forming in her eyes. The thought of not seeing Daraserumaiya was unbearable. She hardly got to see him as it was -- only at family parties. To see him even less.... how could it be?
Usagi toyed with the idea of throwing a tantrum, but then decided against it. It probably wouldn't work with Daraserumaiya, and it would awaken her parents and brother. They'd be really upset, and then she'd get a punishment such as not being allowed to play any video games.
Usagi courageously fought her tears from spilling from her eyes and down her cheeks. She blinked some more, and then wiped her face on her sleeve.
Usagi gaped. Upon looking up, she saw that Daraserumaiya was gone!
She whirled around to see if he had moved behind her, but the room was empty.... or was it? Usagi peered into the semi-darkness. There was something on the floor. Or rather, a number of somethings. They were all scurrying around on the carpet.
Usagi bit back a shriek. They were a bunch of little rats! Or some other kind of rodent. Usagi was shocked. Her house had never had rats or mice in it before. Not that she disliked small mammals, but to have untame ones running wild in her house was different than keeping one as a pet in a cage.
Usagi gulped and subconsiously raised her hands to her face. Then she realized that her nutcracker was gone! She reasoned that Daraserumaiya must have taken it, but could not fathom why.
Usagi jumped nimbly (for someone with her amount of clumsiness) onto the sofa to avoid any mice crawling onto her feet and biting her through her slippers.
Suddenly, the Christmas tree, lights still flashing, began to grow. It got bigger and bigger; soon it grew larger than the room. The ceiling and walls of the room spread out until Usagi couldn't see them anymore. Then all of the presents beneath it became life-sized. Usagi watched as her brother's small soldiers grew as tall as grown men, and the candy on the tree metamorphosized into chocolates and candy canes half as big as herself.
"What's happening?" Usagi cried out abruptly. "What am I to do?"
Just then, Usagi's eyes fell on her nutcracker doll. It was sitting on the floor near the tree, only now it was growing too. In a moment he was a head taller than Usagi.
Usagi then watched in shock as the toys began to come alive. Even her new nutcracker! He took up a black cane from somewhere and hurried to the toy soldiers.
Usagi's eyes widened, and she couldn't speak. Right before her a war broke out! The soldiers started to fire their guns at the mice, who were at work attacking with claws and fangs. The nutcracker took command of the toy troops and they shot at the now human-sized mice.
Usagi was hoping the nutcracker and his army would win, but it didn't seem that they would. As the fight went on, Usagi saw that the mice were prevailing.
Usagi, frightened by this, finally found her voice.
"Tuxedo Kamen!" she called to the nutcracker, "Fight harder! You can do it!"
The nutcracker looked up through the mask covering his eyes in surprise, and blinked. Then he immediately turned back to the battle, ordering more ammunition and weapons be brought in, and urging the soldiers to be strong.
Usagi then realized that moonlight was now shining in the window, so she could see the fighting clearly. This puzzled her, as it has been deep darkness moments before, but she had no time to think about the phenomenon anymore.
She bit her lip as she saw the twelveth soldier fall. More and more were being beaten by the second.
Then Usagi noticed someone. It was a girl about her age, and she was standing in the midst of the war.
The girl had white hair in a style like Usagi's, only that her ponytails were tightly curled and only reached to her chin. She was dressed in the most unusual outfit: it had a white puffy bodice with black ribbons on it; white furry puffs on her ears, wrists, sleeves, and the tops of her boots; and white tights. She had a sailor-style collar, a gold beaded tiara, and.... mouse ears and a mouse tail.
The girl seemed to be the leader of the mice. She was calling out directions and blasting soldiers with pink lighting, shot out from the palm of one hand.
Usagi watched her intently, and realized that she was making her way through the chaos toward the nutcracker.
"I am Sailor Iron Mouse!" the girl declared, as she stepped up to the newly-named Tuxedo Kamen. "Give me your star seed!"
She then raised her arms up and her furry wrist ornaments disappeared to reveal a golden bracelet on each wrist. She aimed the two jeweled bands at Tuxedo Kamen.
Usagi knew deep inside her that the bracelets were much more powerful than the pink lightning. She racked her brain for something, anything, she could do to stop Sailor Iron Mouse from using them.
"Wait a moment!" Usagi yelled over the noise. Her many years of crying at the top of her lungs had finally been good for something, as Iron Mouse looked up for a second.
"Who are you?" she asked smugly.
Suddenly a thought popped into Usagi's head. She pulled off one of her bunny slippers, recklessly yelling back, "For love and justice, I am a beautiful soldier! In the name of.... the moon, I'll punish you!"
She then jumped off of the couch, aimed her slipper, and then sent it spinning toward the white-haired girl.
The girl's eyes got bigger, and then closed as she dropped to the floor with a thud. The slipper bounced off of her head and fell beside her.
Tuxedo Kamen looked up at Usagi with relief while the mice ceased their attack. They crowded around their leader, and then picked her up gently and carried her off.
"Is she dead?" Usagi asked, suddenly worried for Sailor Iron Mouse.
Tuxedo Kamen shook his head. "She is just knocked out for a short time. Thank you for coming to my rescue, Odango Atama."
Usagi's eyes then narrowed. "How dare you make fun of my hair?! After I just saved your life, too."
Tuxedo Kamen did not apologize. Instead, he bent to the floor and picked up a small item.
Usagi couldn't help asking what it was, although she did so as haughtily as possible. She did not want the nutcracker to think she had forgiven him.
"It's the tiara of Sailor Iron Mouse," Tuxedo Kamen replied.
In the meantime, the soldiers were leaving to take their wounded men to help.
Tuxedo Kamen took the star tiara to Usagi and placed it on her forehead. As they looked into each others' blue eyes, Usagi saw her nutcracker transform into a real human. He had thick black hair and and an earnest expression. His wooden clothes had turned into a regal black and red cape, a sharp coal-colored tuxedo, and smart boots. His rose was real. It was as red as a ruby, soft as a blanket of snow, and smelled sweeter than any she had ever smelled.
"Wow," she thought to herself. "He's really handsome.... and cute. He's so cool."
Aloud she said, "Have we met before? I seem to remember you from somewhere.... a long time ago."
Tuxedo Kamen was thinking a similar thought. "There's something about this girl. I seems that I've seen her before."
All he voiced, however, was, "I don't think so. Unless you count our meeting this evening, when you took me out of that wrapped box."
Tuxedo Kamen then reached for Usagi's hand, and he lead her out in the open air. Usagi's eyes were hearts by this time, and she could only stare up at him through them.
"The snowflakes are dancing for you," Tuxedo Kamen told Usagi, who then turned her gaze away from him to look about. It did appear that the snowflakes were dancing in the air as they fluttered serenley to the snowy path beneath their feet.
Usagi was glad that she hadn't forgotten to don her bunny slipper weapon before leaving the scene of the battle. She would have frozen barefoot.
"Where are we going?" she ventured dreamily.
Tuxedo Kamen pointed down the path, which curved a little ways ahead of them. "We are going to a special place. It is called the Kingdom of Sweets."
Usagi's face lit up with excitement. "I always thought that there was a land of candy somewhere!" she exclaimed. "I was right! I was right! Oh, wow! I can't wait! Will I get to eat the sweets? Are there cookies and candies and donuts?"
Tuxedo Kamen didn't reply, as they had just reached the kingdom. Enchanting melodies floated through the crisp winter air, and everything was indeed made out of sweets. Usagi was beside herself. She could never have found a place more at home with her heart than a kindom of candy.
Usagi ran over to a bending tree and grabbed a caramel apple off of it. She took a gigantic bite, and then another. In less than a minute the entire fruit had disappeared.
"You know, you can't just go stealing from other people's trees," Tuxedo Kamen told her. "That is private property."
Usagi ducked her head and hoped none of the people walking along the road had noticed her.
"Then does that mean I don't get to eat anything?" Usagi wailed, thinking that being in a land of delicious treats and not being allowed to sample them would be ultimate torture.
At precisely that moment a beautiful young woman stepped up to the girl and nutcracker-man.
She had pastel pink hair pulled into two matching odango on each side of her head. Her long hair was a mirror of Usagi's, except that her odango were shaped as pointed ovals.
She wore an exquisite dress of pale pink and candy apple red, and wore a gold tiara. She had feathered angel wings on her back. Usagi judged that she was about two or three years older than herself.
"I am here to bid you welcome back to the Kingdom of Sweets, Prince Endymion. And I also welcome you, Tsukino Usagi. I am the Sugarplum Fairy. Thank you for aiding us in the battle. Our soldiers have told us all about it. Please enjoy these, and I'll take you both to the castle where we are preparing a performance to celebrate our victory."
As she said this, the Sugarplum Fairy handed Usagi a platter of delectable chocolates. Usagi wasted no time in gobbling them up, but she did remember to save two for Tuxedo Kamen.
"Hey, wait a minute," she demanded. "Tuxedo Kamen, you're a prince? Really?"
Tuxedo Kamen only grinned.
"Oh, yes! That one is perfect!"
Usagi was sitting on a giant bed in a guest room at the castle. She was looking longingly at a dress fit for a princess.
The young servant brought it over to Usagi, and she stood up to try it on. After a minute she saw that it was a perfect fit. She knew it was the dress she wanted to wear to the performance.
"I really must thank you again for helping us," the servant told Usagi shyly. "We would be lost without our prince. I'm terribly glad that you saved him."
"Yes, thanks!" Usagi was cheerfully staring at her reflection in a tall mirror.
Her dress was white and long. It had a large transluscent bow on the back, and gold-colored embroidered decorations along the top. It was sleeveless and had a high waist. Usagi imagined that it looked just like moonlight.
"So is your war-thing over now?" Usagi asked. "Or will Iron Mouse come back?"
"Oh, Sailor Iron Mouse is not finished yet," the servant replied. "She is stronger than that. And she is only one of the four."
"Yes. There are three others who work for the evil Sailor Galaxia. They are the Sailors Aluminum Siren, Lead Crow, and Tin Nyanko. We still have to fight them to win peace for our kingdom, and for the Earth."
Usagi thought about this. Although it frightened her, she decided that she was not going to worry about it now. She wanted to enjoy herself this evening.
Usagi put on some dangle earrings and two pearl barrettes. She slipped her feet into some crystal high-heeled shoes.
"Okay, I'm ready! Let's go!"
Usagi was ushered to her seat for the show. It was a tall silver throne situated at the end of a large room. Next to her was a second silver throne, empty.
Along one wall were three long tables housing the tastiest-looking sweets Usagi had ever seen in her life. Compared to this display, the food from the Christmas party was nothing. Usagi was tempted to hop off of the throne and go try some of it, but she knew she was supposed to stay where she was.
"Hello again, Odango Atama."
Usagi glared upwards. "I am not Odango Atama! I'm Usagi!"
Prince Endymion sat down in the throne beside her. Now Usagi's nutcracker-man was dressed in warrior-type clothing. Usagi's eyes turned to hearts again, although she willed herself to continue to be angry about the nickname.
The Sugarplum Fairy approached holding a plate piled high with crystalized fruit. She set it upon a small table between the two thrones, and motioned that Usagi could eat them.
Then the Sugarplum Fairy stepped into the middle of the floor. The lights were dimmed, creating a warm dreamy effect. Soft music began to play, and the Fairy began a light, beautiful dance. She was the best dancer that Usagi had ever seen.
Usagi was enthralled. She had never been one to sit still to watch ballets, but this time she was captivated. Prince Endymion was also watching the graceful Sugarplum Fairy, transfixed.
Usagi stuffed her mouth with four candied fruits as she watched the dance, enchanted. When the music drew to a close, Usagi, the prince, and all of the others applauded with emotion.
The Fairy bowed and then stepped away from the dancing floor.
Next, the Chocolate dancers from Spain performed as Usagi ate some truffles. The two artists moved with the music, making it seem as if the music could not exist without the dance. They blended together as one.
One of the dancers had long forest-green hair which flowed about her as she moved. It spilled out of a small bun at the back of her head like a majestic waterfall. She wore a black- and rust-colored dress, with decorations that looked just like wrapped chocolate bon-bons. The other dancer was wearing a similar dress in the shade of light blue. The tutu complimented her blue hair and eyes.
Usagi sighed in pleasure. The dancing was so beautiful. She ate another bite of her seventh truffle, not noticing that her mouth was covered in brown chocolate. When the dance ended, the chocolates were whisked away and aromatic coffee was set before the prince and Usagi.
The next dance was starting. The Coffee dancers from Arabia glided over the floor noiselessly. The two artists were both over a head taller than Usagi, but not taller than Prince Endymion. They were dressed in Arabian costumes covered in filmy blue gauze and golden beadwork.
The taller dancer had tan-colored hair. It was a short boyish cut, but the dancer, although executing the lifts for the other girl, was definitely not a man. Her clothing was mostly navy-blue, with golden and yellow accents. She had a tight blue top that did not reach to her waist, exposing her stomach. Her pants were large and billowy, made of gauze through which Usagi could see her long legs. She wore a perfect round hoop earring in each ear.
Her partner was similarily slim and lithe, but in other respects, quite the opposite - she very feminine. Her shoulder-length aqua hair was thick and full; it swirled about her face in waves. She seemed refined and cultured, but posessed a certain strength.
Usagi looked over at Endymion. She didn't want to be missing the dance, but she felt drawn to him. There was something about him that Usagi liked. She wondered how she could ever have had a crush on someone else before him. She felt there was no one like him in the world.
Usagi turned to face forward when she heard the sound of clapping. The coffee dance had finished. Usagi joined in the applause, regretting that she had missed the end of it.
Now two new dancers approached the center on the room. One looked the age of Usagi, or maybe a little younger. The other was about the same size as the previous dancers. Usagi wasn't sure if these two would make a good team since they were not matched in height.
"Odango Atama, this is the dance from China. The Dance of Tea."
Usagi carefully picked up her tea cup and sipped from it without a glance at the prince. She would not tolerate him calling her "Odango Atama".
The shorter dancer began the movement first, and then the other girl joined in. Usagi decided that the younger girl was cute. She had straight black hair that brushed her shoulders. She was wearing a purple Chinese-styled outfit with brown trim. Usagi thought that purple was a strange color for Chinese clothing, but then reflected that she really knew very little about it. The taller girl was in red, and Usagi thought it was a shade better suited for the dance. She had purple trim to match the other dancer's clothes. Her hair was also black, with a reddish-purple sheen. It flowed down to almost her knees.
Endymion drank a little more of his tea as he watched. Just then, he heard a shattering nose.
Usagi began to wail. "I didn't mean to drop it! I'm sorry!"
Endymion saw her tea cup smashed on the floor. The two dancers, although confused for a moment, resumed their dancing.
Some servants came to clean up the mess, and Endmion comforted Usagi. Soon the incident was forgotten, and nothing more of particular note happened that evening.
The next dance was the Nougat from Russia, likewise performed by two dancers. One was a cheerful and exuberant blonde girl, and the other, a slightly tall brunette whose swiftly moving long legs added grace and charm to the dance. Her hair was bedecked with a green ponytail holder at the top of her head; her blonde partner wore a red bow.
After them was the delicate Marzipan Shepherdess, and then the gigantic Mother Ginger with her frolicking Polichinelles. These young striped candies emerged from her skirt and Usagi found their performance very sweet and cute.
Usagi thought back to the Sugarplum Fairy's dance. It was definitely her favorite. She had never seen anything so uplifting and moving before in her life. She hoped that the Fairy would be dancing again, but it was getting late. It didn't seem very likely.
Usagi couldn't get the Sugarplum Fairy out of her mind. She wasn't able to pay much attention to the Waltz of the Flowers, performed by the candy flowers.
As the waltz came to a close Usagi looked up at Endymion.
"Please, can the Sugarplum Fairy dance again?" she asked fervently. "Please let her! I want to see her again. Oh, please. You can.... you can even call me 'Odango' if you want, just please let me see her again."
Endymion gazed down into the shining face of the thirteen-year-old girl. He smiled.
"I would love to tell you that I can have her dance for you again, but she has already planned to do a final dance. I am not responsible for it. Look; she is already on the floor."
Usagi's face lit up upon seeing the Fairy, and she turned to smile at the prince.
"You know," Endymion whispered to her. "I think I've found a better nickname for you."
"What's that?" Usagi whispered back, suddenly not interested in the starting music.
"I like it very much."
The fairy began her dance. This time, she was accomapnied by a gallant Cavalier.
Usagi looked at the Cavalier curiously. He reminded her of someone.... or maybe she had seen him before. His wavey white hair.... his sapphire blue eyes..... Usagi didn't know what it was about him, but she liked him immediately. She couldn't imagine anyone else for the Sugarplum Fairy.
Together they performed the most beautiful, exquisite, and fluid dance.
For a moment, Usagi pictured herself as the Sugarplum Fairy, and Endymion as the Cavalier.
She felt that she was somehow close to the Fairy, although she didn't know her. Usagi decided that she could not explain her emotions at this point in time. There were too many of them.
When the dance ended, it was time for Usagi to return home. She and Endymion stepped into a sleigh. As she sat there beside him, she felt great peace. She waved to everyone in the magical kingdom as they departed.
There were tears in her eyes, but this time they were happy tears.
Usagi awoke. She was laying on the couch before the Christmas tree in her own family room. Her nutcracker doll lay in her arms.
"Was it all a dream then?" Usagi wondered in concern. "Was there not really a prince? Or a land of candy?"
Silently she got up and replaced the doll into its small bed. Then she climbed the stairs and walked to her parent's bedroom. No one was awake, as it was still early morning.
She carefully opened the door.
Ikkuko partially awoke and looked up from her blankets.
"Usagi-chan? What's wrong?"
"Mama? Did you know that Daraserumaiya-san has gone away for a long time?"
"What? What are you talking about?"
"Who is Daraserumaiya-san?"
"Oh.... he must be nobody. Someone in my dream."
Ikkuko nodded and rolled over to fall back asleep.
Usagi, returning to her room, curled up under the covers of her bed. She fell asleep in moments.
"Usagi-chan! Wake up! Do you know how late it is?"
Usagi's eyes popped open.
"Usagi-chan! Get up right now!"
Usagi focused her sleepy eyes on her mother, who was standing next to her bed.
"Mama?" Usagi shook the grogginess from her head. "Why? What time is it?"
"You've slept all day. It's past noon now."
Usagi slowly sat up.
"Mama, I had a very strange dream last night. It seems to me that it had some sort of signifigance.... like it was a vision of something important going to happen."
"Well, what was it about?"
"Um, that's a problem. I can't tell you."
"And why not?"
"I can't remember a single thing about the dream."
"Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon" characters, names, etc. © by Naoko Takeuchi, Kodansha, and Toei Animation
Story © 1998 by Stephanie M. Taylor (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Based on a ballet by Peter Tchaikovsky, "The Nutcracker"