Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon is the property of Takeuchi Naoko, Toei Entertainment, and Kodansha Comics
The Price To Pay
Part III: The Payment
By Gita Toronjil-Lee
The featureless flat ground about fifteen paces ahead of Zoisite and Kunzite was bubbling like molten lava.
It really didn't faze them. In their long past, they'd seen more horrific things working both for and against them.
"Overly theatrical, don't you think?" murmured the High King quietly.
"Yes… and I've seen better," returned his associate.
What rose from the steaming puddle was at first black, formless, and smoky, but it quickly underwent a metamorphosis into something else. It stayed black and somewhat indistinct, but its body was roughly humanoid, and it had glowing white, slanted eyes that burned with an unnatural fire.
Zoisite smiled, though his eyes never left the figure. "See, Kunzite-sama, I figured that it was nothing but an overglorified youma, and look! I was right."
"That you may be," Kunzite returned, "but stay on your guard."
The creature spoke.
~"I have a mission to carry out, fools."~
It had no visible mouth, but the sound echoed in both their ears and their minds nonetheless with a fearful resonance.
"Well, if that's your decision…" growled Zoisite from between clenched teeth.
"Then you made the wrong choice, because you're never going to realize your goal," his lover finished.
The creature snarled, and both kings felt that it was drawing in a vast amount of attack energy.
"You're not going to do that," warned Kunzite, and lunged forward in a first strike, his cloak swirling around him as he moved deftly around his opponent's body.
Zoisite, recognizing the opening, quickly switched his sword to his left hand and shield to his right, utilizing his ambidexterity, and lunged into the fray, slicing down at the creature's other side.
These attacks didn't seem to disturb it. It raised its hands and extended them into twin shadowy shields, which, rather than deflecting the blades, made them pass harmlessly through.
"Damn!" Zoisite swore, recovering as fast as he could regain his equilibrium. Kunzite said nothing, but easily swung his body back around into a fighting stance, holding his weapon at the ready.
He attacked again, in a full frontal charge, skillfully wielding his blade like it was an extension of his own limbs. It parried, this time its shield part of reality, its arm elongating into a black, ethereal but quite solid blade.
Stunned at the ferocity of this battle for a moment, Zoisite stared at the whirling white of Kunzite's hair and cape mingling with the midnight nothingness of the creature.
Black and white. Boring. He definitely needed to add some color to this battle.
He screamed and ran in from the side, fully intending to see if the creature had black entrails. However, without even turning its head or distracting its attention from Kunzite, it de-solidified its body, Zoisite's weapon passing through nothing more than smoke.
Swearing shrilly through his teeth, he threw a blind, backhanded jab with the hilt of his sword at the back of the creature's skull.
And then shrieked as he realizes his impulsive mistake.
Too late. Its head was again a murky emptiness, and the blunt object sailed past the darkness and into something real.
With a low yelp, Kunzite fell backward onto the hard ground, sprawling on his back, stunned. The creature ignored him to face its new attacker, but said attacker skirted around him to kneel beside the fallen form.
"Kunzite-sama! Kunzite-sama, wake up! I'm sorry!"
~"Look what you did not, little fool."~
Zoisite snarled at it in a very animal-like gesture. He put his sword on the ground beside Kunzite just as the creature raised its arms to become ropy tentacles that fired in his direction.
He deftly blocked them with his shield and lifted his own free arm.
"Damn you," he muttered. Then he shouted. "Zoi!"
The energy blast, decorated as usual with sakura, actually connected with the creature's form, sending it reeling back several steps.
~"Blasted magic,"~ Zoisite distinctly heard it groan. Blessing the momentary break, he stroked Kunzite's face and quietly urged him to open his eyes.
A soft groan met his pleas, and Kunzite raised a hand to the red welt on his forehead. He blinked a few times dazedly, then realization dawned in his eyes. He scrambled quickly to his feet.
"What happened?" he asked brusquely, not sounding a bit disoriented.
"You got knocked out," Zoisite hedged.
"No, no," snapped the man he loved, "I remember you hitting me. Don't worry about that, though I'm somewhat disappointed that you'd let yourself make a mistake like that. But where did the shadow-thing go?"
Zoisite wondered for a moment if Kunzite could hear how he gulped, because it sounded awfully loud in his ears. "I… I blasted it when I was protecting you, and the energy sent it back a ways. But then I turned to you, and now it's gone."
Kunzite made a low noise of frustration and anger. "You should have known better than that. Did it say anything?"
Blushing a bit in embarrassment, the shorter man replied, "Yeah. 'Blasted magic.'"
"Okay," the white-haired king exhaled heavily. And all you did was what, 'zoi'-ed it?"
"Yes. Kunzite-sama, I'm really sorry."
Flashing a quick, halfway-believable smile, Kunzite reached out to softly stroke Zoisite's hair, wrapping the tip of his ponytail briefly around this fingertips. "It's all right. Don't be upset; that will ruin your battle performance."
Zoisite's chin and lower lip trembled.
"And don't, of all things, start crying. Save it for later -- I'll let you make up to me however you like. But don't cry, my love; stay strong."
He quickly bent down and nuzzled Zoisite's bangs and caressed his back soothingly, then straightened, picked up his equipment, sheathed his sword, and hung his shield off his belt.
"Now let's find out where the hell the thing ran off to, okay?"
The smaller chewed on his lower lip and nodded thoughtfully. "Can we do this, Kunzite-sama?"
"We can do anything. Settle down; we're going hunting for a shadowy death-creature, now, and we'll need to be prepared for anything."
It had a body now, a very dissociated, barely-tangible body, but one nonetheless with the ability to fight.
And be injured. Little faggot bastard had shot it! It knew that the once-residents of the Dark Kingdom possessed magic, but it didn't know that their magic could hurt it.
Demonic power generally had no affect on its type, as both the heavens, the hells, and all other regions of the soul needed Death and Death's various associates and minions to do cleanup and distribution. After all, the Master liked to preach to its underlings that everyone needs a janitor, but very few are willing to clean up their refuse themselves.
By that concept, angelic power had a similar lack of influence on it.
So where did the target's power come from?
It hid, healing its wounds and putting its body together as best it could, waiting for its adversaries to find it.
"Damn it," the lord Kunzite roared, his deep voice shaking the landscape, "no more hiding! Hiding is cowardly, creature, and is unacceptable in the face of a challenge!"
His gaze swept over the featureless plain, raking over all with a terrible scrutiny. Nothing visible.
The red clouds that rolled across the sky streaked the area in multiple values of gray, but what was present to be shaded consisted on nothing but flatness, save the two men, with no apparent place to hide.
"What?" He turned impatiently to his partner, impatience burning in his cold eyes, and Zoisite recoiled. Kunzite's features softened. "Sorry. Battle tension -- you know how it gets to me sometimes, and this is especially nerve-wracking." He shook his head, clearing it.
Zoisite nodded, understanding. Kunzite didn't let anxiety get to him very often, but when it did, neither of them knew how to deal with it well, as it occurred too rarely to have any time to learn. Instead of any apology or consolation, he decided to just go on with what he had been going to say.
"Kunzite-sama, the creature is - appears to be - darkness more-or-less solidified into a man shape, and it has already shown the ability of metamorphosis -- could it not be hiding in a shadow?"
A frown. Of course… Then a smile. "You're quite wise sometimes, Zoisite," he said. Stamping a booted foot on the ground, the tall king glared around. "But how do we get it out?"
Smirking, "I hoped you'd ask that," Zoisite glanced at the clouds overhead. "We can flush it out. You helped me clear the mist, now I'll help you clear the sky."
He reached out to grasp his lover's fingers and squeezed his eyes shut, gathering his power. Kunzite did the same, their hands clasping tightly as energy traveled between them, intensifying.
White force shot out from them, and the clouds dissipated with a low growl of thunder.
"See," Zoisite panted, breathless, when he opened his eyes again, "easy. Now… where could he be?"
There were no shadows on the ground. A hazy sun, still shining a dull reddish light, illuminated all. Only a tiny portion of darkness remained in the field.
A place rather close to home.
Zoisite's shadow stretched up from behind him and tightly wrapped black appendages around his throat.
"Ku--" he gasped, clawing uselessly at his neck. His lover whirled to face him, and his swarthy face paled.
"Dirty fighting, demon," he declared, startled and angry. He couldn't attack it with a magical blast, as he'd have to go through Zoisite to do so, and he refused to do such a thing.
~"Not against the rules, mortal,"~ it hissed, ~"and he asked for it, forcing me out of hiding like this. Don't bother teleporting: I can sense where you go."~
It hissed, an inhuman grating sound.
Zoisite was choking; that much was clear. A number of ways to break such a hold came naturally to his mind and body, having been ingrained there since the early days of training as Kunzite's student. However, every time he attempted one, his attacker's body became vaporous, except for the pressure of the hands that held him, which squeezed harder.
~"Ever wonder what you dream of, boy? I tried to show you once, but that annoying Confined cohort of yours stepped in. But he can't help you now, and neither can your fool boyfriend."~
The pretty king's lips moved in a feeble, familiar shape as his flesh began to take on a purplish tinge. Kunzite was making a choking noise too, out of frustration and outright desperation, trying his hardest to come up with a solution. He wasn't used to this feeling of impotence, and he knew that he hadn't much time to resolve it.
No one was in Nephrite's mansion. He was very sure of that.
Jadeite growled as he ran, thinking far clearer than he had in a long time. No time for silly insanity now -- he was one of the Shitennou, and there were Shitennou-ly duties at hand.
He now ran through the strange evergreen forest that covered the hill, not bothering to shout, but instead searching with his senses and with the extrasensory portions of his mind.
Odd… he'd thought he could sense Zoisite's unique reincarnated energies anywhere.
Wait! Jadeite's feet skidded to a stop as he picked up something. He stumbled a bit over a tree root and some loose dirt, catching himself on a branch.
No… it wasn't Zoisite, he was pretty certain of that. But the aura he was picking up was somehow close in nature. It was…
"Nephrite? Oh, no," he whispered to himself and to the trees.
When he materialized in the area he'd sensed the emanations coming from, the Star King was nowhere in sight.
Kunzite and Zoisite lay against the base of a lone sakura tree, motionless.
Nervous blue-violet eyes widened. Dead?
No. Just very, very deeply unconscious. So deeply so, in fact, that he couldn't even sense their personal energies. And Jadeite considered doing that one of his areas of expertise.
Dammit. Only one thing he could think of to do.
He reached down to take Kunzite's shoulders, then Zoisite's (as much as he didn't like disturbing Kunzite's grip on the smaller king), and shook his once-coworkers violently in a desperate attempt to wake them from their impossibly deep slumber that he didn't understand.
And there was another thing he'd thought he knew so much about: long, deep sleeps. But here he was completely clueless.
Nephrite yawned and poured himself another glass as he strolled through his forest.
He'd done it, or at least thought with near certainty that he had been successful. It was up to them, now, and then the demon that had been trying so hard to torture him like Zoisite would be gone.
He smiled as he contemplated taking a drive. He missed his Ferrari -- the Dark Kingdom had never possessed any sort of vehicular locomotion or roadway, and his wheels were one human innovation that he appreciated.
Some animal on the grounds was roaring. Nephrite paused. Funny… he didn't think there were animals in his pseudo-pine forest, save maybe the odd bird, insect, or rodent. The creature making noise sounded as large as a bear.
A talking bear.
"Wake up, dammit!"
Hastening his pace, Nephrite headed in the direction where he'd left the Ice King and the sakura, already fearing the worst.
And indeed, a few steps further was Jadeite, trying to wake Kunzite.
"No!" the auburn-haired king heard himself shout. He dropped the glass and bottle that he'd been carrying, which landed on the earth with a slight tinkle but without a crack, and broke into a full-fledged sprint toward the other three kings.
Jadeite turned on the second king with a terrifying, terrified speed.
"No, Nephrite! Get away! I don't know what you've done to them, or how the hell you're here, but you'd better get back!"
"You don't understand, Jadeite. I'm trying to help them defeat the death-demon! You shouldn't be…"
A soft moan came from both unconscious kings simultaneously, answered by a sonorous murmuring growl/roar that shook the treetops.
"What now?" the blonde king whispered, staring at the sky, releasing the white-haired man's collar and letting his head fall back loosely.
"I don't know," Nephrite replied slowly, "but get ready."
There goes that drive.
You've got to do something, and quickly, Kunzite's mind told him.
Outsmart it. Don't let it trick you.
"Kunz-" he heard Zoisite choke out, his struggling becoming gradually weaker and more feeble. The person he loved with all of his being was hurting again in front of his very eyes, and he didn't think he could take it anymore.
Zoisite's fingers curled loosely, forming his hands into angles of roughly 120˚, and he forced his green eyes open to meet Kunzite's silver-blue, obviously trying to tell him something.
Mouthing a curse, the strongest of the Shitennou wondered for the briefest of moments just how stupid he could actually be, and called power to his hands.
He sent the spell flying as his hair and cape blew behind him. Yelling a battle cry of his own:
Kunzite directed his magic to do what it needed to do.
~"Missed!"~ laughed the creature. ~"Not that it matters, but it may have been amusing to see your love die by your own hand, you stealing bast-"~
And Kunzite's weapon, his magical energy boomerangs, hit the demon squarely in the back.
~"Aaauugghh!"~ it shrieked, releasing its captive and falling to its knees. The small king staggered forward a few steps and fell himself. Kunzite dove forward to catch him, making sure that he continued sustain the purple blades that faintly glowed from the creature's blackened form.
Zoisite coughed against Kunzite's shoulder. "Thank you, Kunzite-sama. I'm sorry," he said weakly, "I should have been expecting that attack."
Kunzite let out a relieved sigh. "But you knew how to save yourself, right?"
A soft chuckle. "I was afraid you wouldn't figure it out. The more fool me. I should have known better than to question your aptitude."
"You're not the fool. I haven't thought of that attack in ages, but you managed to come up with it in the matter of a few seconds. That's my good boy. Makes a sensei proud." Kunzite laughed as well at the sudden release of stress.
Then Zoisite's head shot up. "The creature!"
They turned to look, but their enemy was on no state to attack or escape. It was lying prone on the ground, still three-dimensional, the foreign objects embedded in its body apparently paining it horribly.
"You can't die, can you?" Kunzite asked menacingly.
~"I am…"~ it gasped, ~"beyond mortal limits. I am beyond you. You cannot do this…"~
"I can," the eldest king informed it. "And I can tell you what to do, as well. I want you, if you ever escape from where I'll send you, to tell your boss to leave us alone. Remember."
He raised his hands and shot a glowing blue beam from his palms, which wrapped and held the weakly struggling creature.
Zoisite saw what his lover was doing and followed suit.
~"You cannot!"~ it screamed repeatedly, until Zoisite's green magic firmly encased its head. Despite its lack of facial features, this shut it up.
Without any warning, the ground shook beneath their feet.
"Earthquake?" Zoisite asked, trying simultaneously to keep his footing and to hold his prisoner.
"I don't…" Kunzite began, worry apparent on his face, his words interrupted by the jarring of the surface beneath his feet, "…know, but… hold on…"
A voice came from all around them, from the sky, from the earth, from the very air which they were breathing.
A familiar voice -- one that they both knew, though Zoisite had heard it far more recently.
"Kunzite? Zoisite? Wake up, wake up! Come on- what did he do to you?"
End chapter nine