Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon is the property of Takeuchi Naoko, Toei Animation, and Kodansha Comics.
The Price To Pay
Part III: The Payment
By Gita Toronjil-Lee
Before he could disappear, Zoisite heard a rustle and a twig snap behind him. He turned sharply, suddenly.
A slight grin spread across his lover's face as he held out his arms in a gesture of surrender. "Don't shoot!"
Zoisite was amused, but only slightly, his mouth merely forming a halfhearted smile. He knew that Kunzite had been trying to get his attention; the king of stealth and silence would never have accidentally made such obvious noise. Bobbing his head in a sort of mock-bow, he acknowledged the older man. "Kunzite-sama."
Not replying, the tall king stepped closer and placed his hands on Zoisite's narrow hips, drawing him near. He wrapped a long arm around his lover's waist and used the other to pull the coppery head against his chest, stroking the soft wavy hair as he so loved to do.
Muffled against gray wool, the young king choked out the other's name again.
"Shh… I know, I know," Kunzite soothed.
"Yes, I do. I was recently enlightened about your problem, just as you were."
Lifting widened, startled green eyes, he searched his lover's face for truth. "Was it Jadeite?" he asked finally.
Carefully, Kunzite replied, "No. Actually, it was Nephrite."
Zoisite blinked, trying to appear nonchalant about the news, though he raised his hand to his mouth and began chewing on the fingernail of his index finger. "Oh. What did he say?"
"He told me about what's going on." The deep voice broke, and Kunzite closed his eyes tightly. "I'm so sorry I put you through this. Everything's my fault."
He had never heard his ever-strong Kunzite-sama sound so sad and full of self-loathing. Just the tone of his lover's voice made him feel like crying. And oftentimes when Zoisite felt like crying, he did.
And so tears formed suddenly in the wide green eyes focused on Kunzite's face. "No, no, it's not." He had to stop his beloved from feeling like this; it made his own pain even greater. "Blame Beryl, if you must blame someone. Blame Metallia. Blame the Dark Kingdom, or the ginzuishou, or Tuxedo Kamen and the senshi, or me, especially me; blame anyone else if you must blame someone, but please," the tears broke free as Zoisite began to cry, "don't blame yourself. Not when all you did was to show me that you loved me. What you did was to give me the greatest gift I've ever received, the greatest gift you possibly could at the cost of everything you once cared about. I blame you for nothing and thank you from every part of myself."
He buried his face in Kunzite's jacket, unable to control the sudden onslaught of sobbing that had overtaken him, thankful for the comforting bulk there to hold him with gentle arms while he cried out some of the pent-up frustration that had been simmering in him, in desperate need of boiling over.
When he looked up through blurry eyes, he noticed that there were wet streaks on his lover's face, too, and Kunzite was making no move to wipe them away. "Oh, Zoisite," the larger whispered softly, extraordinarily overcome, and bent down. Their tears mingled on their lips as they kissed.
Upon parting, Zoisite sniffled and said, "I'm sorry about the melodrama. What did he tell you?"
"What?" Kunzite ran his fingers through his white hair, scratching his head meditatively. "Who?"
"You know. Nephrite."
"Ah. Well, he explained about the… the situation at hand, and what it stems from, and what it's doing to you. And he told me something else."
"Now you're being melodramatic, Kunzite-sama. What did he tell you?"
Smiling sadly, the white-haired king breathed in deeply the scent of his lover's hair and murmured, "he told me something we can try to stop it."
When Jadeite realized that he could see out of the eyes of his physical body (he could see nothing but the bluish crystalline blur around him, but that was the only sight his physical body had), he knew he was ready to get out of there.
Concentrating a moment to channel his essence, a blackish smoke whispered out of numerous small cracks in the supposedly impenetrable prison, coalescing into the form of a tall, slender blonde man. The man inhaled and exhaled through his recently re-formed lungs, smiling contentedly.
"I'm free, I have a mission to feel important about," he announced to the silent cave, his echoing coming back to his ears in a pleasing manner, "and I'm damn handsome. Things are good."
He raised a hand to his short hair, making sure that he was indeed damn handsome. Turning around like a model on the catwalk, he checked his reflection in the crystal that still held his body.
"Oh, shit," he said, his previously booming voice a shadow of its former self. "I'd better be imagining this. This had better be a dream caused by worrying about this in the crystal."
He reached out and brushed his fingers against the crack of his body's face.
It was real; it was Nephrite's sigil.
It was never supposed to have existed anywhere ever, ever again. Its presence there was very, very bad.
"How in hell can this be? Is the demon that strong, so that it can break the rules?" he hissed, disbelieving, through his teeth.
Good thing he'd just recharged his power. He had a sinking feeling that he was going to need it.
"Lay down, Zoisite."
Zoisite nervously giggled and wiped his eyes. "Kunzite-sama, this can't possibly be what Nephrite told you to do. It never helped the nightmares before."
"Shh… of course not. Lay down. Loosen your collar."
Now he complied, lying down on his back in a patch of grass and adjusting his clothing for comfort. Kunzite sank down beside him, cradling his lover's head on his lap and gently massaging Zoisite's temples and eyes.
"What are you doing?"
"Zoisite…" his voice was a soft, comforting murmur, "you can confront the demon in sleep. In your dreams. You know this. And I can help you. Nephrite told me how I can join you, and together I think we can stop it. But first I need you to sleep."
"You're trusting what he told you?" the already half-asleep young man tensed and panicked momentarily. Kunzite pushed him back down with a strong hand.
"We don't have any other solutions; I don't want to go on living like this. I want to be able to help you, and nothing he said to do could possibly hurt any of us -- we'll be in a dream-state, after all. Zoisite, please. Trust me."
"It's Nephrite I don't trust," Zoisite muttered, "If he wasn't lying to hurt us, he could have only been spouting drunken nonsense." But he sighed and tried to relax his muscles. The white-haired man frowned and sent a magical suggestion to the younger's mind.
"I'm sorry, but I need to get this hurried up. Rest, and remember that I love you," Kunzite whispered, and Zoisite nodded sleepily as he slipped into unconsciousness.
As soon as he was out, a tall, broad-shouldered, auburn-haired man appeared beside the pair.
"Are you ready?" Nephrite queried. Kunzite softly stroked Zoisite's hair one last time and agreed with a nod.
"I'll never quite understand what you see in him," the second king said, though he did notice how innocent and lovely his once-rival looked in slumber.
For a guy, of course. Not that he was into that.
"It shouldn't matter," Kunzite said quietly. Nephrite lowered his head in agreement, and his superior king continued, "are you certain this will work?"
Nephrite smiled, chuckled, then glanced up at the cloudy gray sky with a sudden nervous look. "Nothing's ever sure. You know that."
Leaning against the tree that they were under (and yes, it was a sakura tree; Zoisite had planted it shortly after they began living in the house, with much glee that such beautiful things could actually grow in his vicinity), the eldest of the Shitennou closed his silver-blue eyes and crossed his arms over his sleeping lover's chest, protecting his head and torso as best he could. He gathered his power about himself.
"All right," he said, without opening his eyes.
Taking a part of Kunzite's considerable power into himself, Nephrite's eyes glowed a blazing blue-white momentarily. He folded his hands and bent his elbows, looking up into the sky, thick waves of hair lifting as energy filled his body.
Stars, I hope I can do this, he thought.
Zoisite was alone. He did, however, have a physical body -- or as close to a physical body as one can have in a non-corporeal dream-state.
Seemingly endless fog and mist surrounded him. His feet stood on a hard, flat ground, which he could feel, but not see. He couldn't see more than a meter clearly in any direction -- or so he supposed -- the landscape was too featureless and bleak to really tell exactly how far he was looking.
A sudden gust of the mist also gave him the idea that he was naked, and, using his hands to explore the parts of his body he could not see, he confirmed this.
"What exactly was Kunzite-sama expecting to happen?" he asked the open air.
~"Nothing,"~ came a quiet voice, so soft that it could possibly have been passed off as imagination, ~"he just wanted you to get your defenses down. He and Nephrite are plotting against you, you know. They have since the beginning."~
Zoisite laughed aloud. "That is the biggest load of bullshit I've ever heard. You're getting sloppy -- there's no way I'd ever believe anything like that."
No answer. And so he smiled in a self-satisfied manner and tossed his hair, then recognized that he was in a situation of extreme danger. He shook his head and swallowed hard.
"Hello?" He vaguely heard a familiar voice calling. "Zoisite?"
A dark patch of mist appeared to his right.
It quickly took the shape of his lover. Zoisite breathed a sigh of relief.
When he finally solidified, he found Kunzite completely dressed in his Dark Kingdom uniform, armed with a sword and a golden shield. "Kunzite-sama?"
The tall king grinned. "You look good, but I don’t believe I taught you to fight nude." With a wave of his hand, Zoisite was clad in a fashion similar to his lover's. "Since Nephrite helped me join my essence to your mindwaves, I have a little more control over my surroundings than you do. Wait a moment."
Kunzite put down his weaponry and reached out, taking Zoisite's hands. A strange power coursed through to him, and before his eyes, the fog around them dissipated.
So this was how the final confrontation was to be.
It saw them, its target and the cause, the prettyboy and his white-haired paramour, now with it in the halfway realm and just bursting with power, foolishly waiting for a battle that they didn't know how to fight.
Strong, yes, they were very strong, but they could not possibly know how to defeat it.
It had a weakness, of course it did. Everything has its weakness, its Achilles' heel. But nothing alive -- or even Confined -- could possibly know the way to defeat it.
Oh, this would be fun. It could only imagine the honor it would receive for completely vanquishing these two at one blow. With them gone, it could easily capture the other escapees, and the pressure on it would be relieved.
Or at least it wouldn't have to endure punishment for its lack of success so far. It couldn't die, but sometimes an inability to die makes the punishment even worse and of a longer duration.
It knew this. The Master had punished it once, and once was enough. It refused to let any further hurt befall itself again -- at least, not from The Master over the matter of the Dark Kingdom rebels.
Only the foolish crossed The Master more than once, and it was not a fool.
Jadeite ran. He couldn't sense Zoisite anywhere, and he thought he would be able to locate his Once-Dead aura anywhere, that was how well he'd studied the other's aura.
He had materialized in the mansion when he couldn't immediately pinpoint his quarry. But the mansion was so damned big, and if Zoisite wasn't in the building, he still had the entire grounds to search.
The Confined blonde reflected to himself that he was currently not a very happy boy, and maybe a nice long sleep would have been nicer than this.
Then he slapped his face lightly with a gloved hand and took it back, giving the matter some rare rational thought, and sprinted even faster.
"Creature!" thundered the caped warrior. Stepping away from his companion and brandishing his sword, he stared into the nothingness that surrounded them -- the air was clear, but the landscape remained bare, showing nothing but a slate gray sky and a dust-brown, solidly hard, level ground. "Creature! I summon you into battle! I challenge you!"
Zoisite couldn't help but hide a smug grin. This was not Kunzite-sama his devoted, tender lover. In front of him stood the High King, the most powerful of the Shitennou. This was Kunzite-sama the feared and invincible, the one who made his allies and enemies tremble alike.
He realized suddenly that this Kunzite was making him tremble for a different reason. This realization was followed by further bits of self-awareness: that he was very grateful that he was dressed, that it didn't matter anyway, as they weren't in their physical bodies, and finally, that he should focus on the now, because the oh-so-sexy demigod whom he was admiring was talking to him. Belatedly tuning in to the auditory rather than the visual, he still caught the gist of the conversation his partner was having with him.
"-- not working. I have a suspicion that you are going to have to be the one who calls it out, since it apparently will not listen to me."
With a quick, almost imperceptible shake of the head, Zoisite sighed. "All right. Do you think we're ready?"
Looking momentarily thoughtful and slightly more vulnerable but none less gorgeous to his lover, Kunzite said, "As we'll ever be, I suppose. We can finish this, I know we can. And we've come this far, after all." He continued in a teacher's voice, "Don't forget all of the things you know, Zoisite, and don't lose your nerve."
Zoisite couldn't help himself. "Kiss for good luck?"
Kunzite smiled and obliged, unable to extend it into an embrace due to the circumstances and, to a greater degree, the armor and weaponry both possessed. "Good luck," he whispered, before drawing back and straightening up.
Without replying, he took a deep, heavy breath and grinned viciously. "What do I say?" the smallest king asked, putting strength and conviction into his tone..
"Whatever you think would suffice. I can't be your instructor or commander all the time, you know -- trust your gut."
"I can do that."
The pair split completely and put themselves into defensive positions, exchanging a glance. Zoisite then stared into the sky. He breathed in deeply, and began to yell.
"Okay, you goddamned motherfucking son-of-a-bitch death-demon! I'm sick and tired of you screwing with my head, with my body, with my life! What's done is done; I'm giving you a choice. Leave Kunzite-sama and me the hell alone, give us up, pack your bags, and leave us to our happy life together, or get your dead sorry self out here to fight us! We're challenging you on your honor and we're in your arena, so we're following your rules; now you need to follow them! Answer!"
"I think my was a bit more eloquent," Kunzite murmured aloud, "and I don't think I've ever heard you swear so much in one speech, Zoi, but good job."
Zoisite had time to consider laughing, but then the ground began to shake beneath their feet. As they watched, the gray sky surrounding them began to turn a sickly bile color, then gained more crimson pigment, becoming a yellow-orange.
Both kings tensed and raised their blades as a wind whipped around them, sending their hair and Kunzite's white-and-violet cape flying straight back. They braced themselves against the gale.
Suddenly, the wind and the quaking stopped, but the sky had become completely blood-red.
"Here goes," Zoisite muttered.
End chapter eight
On to Chapter Nine
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