Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon is the property of Takeuchi Naoko, Toei Animations, and Kodansha Comics
The Price To Pay
Part II: The Cost
By Gita Toronjil-Lee
The mighty Lord Kunzite kicked and swore angrily at the still-hissing length of pipe, cursing stupid humans and their stupid mechanical constructs that were so damned resistant to magical influence. There wasn't anything that he knew of in the Dark Kingdom that his power couldn't at least slightly affect.
He kicked it again for good measure, but no matter how many times he demonstrated his anger to the inferior object, it refused to fix.
For some reason, he had the strange feeling that someone or something had tampered with it. That, or Nephrite had really screwed up his house somehow when he was the resident. Not that it mattered. Kunzite just had an unsettling intuition that the 'accident' had a ring of purpose to it.
"Aw, hell," he muttered under his breath, fully prepared to launch into another tirade.
He turned just as Zoisite came jogging around the corner, looking slightly breathless and a little more troubled. A smile creased the tall man's angry face, and he nodded at his beloved. "Over here, Zoisite."
His lover's apparent mood underwent a drastic change, his countenance brightening with a sunny grin. Running up to Kunzite, he grabbed him around the neck and kissed him just a bit longer than briefly. "Hi."
Rather than replying with a conventional "hello" or the like, Kunzite sighed. "I don't suppose you know anything about plumbing, or whatever the hell this blasted thing is connected to."
Zoisite chuckled, grateful for the living, sane company of the man he loved. "Did a number on it, did he?"
"Did what? Who?"
"Oh, never mind." Releasing his hold around the white-haired king, he peered into the exposed inner wall of the mansion at the busted piece of metal. "It's a big house; do we really need this part?"
As if in response, the part in question hissed angrily and at a very high frequency.
"Yes," said Kunzite.
"Damn that --"
The pretty king forced a little laugh. "I meant damn it." Kunzite frowned, and Zoisite's giggling faded. "Um, let me look at the pipe, okay?"
Bending over and sticking his head into the hole, he analyzed the situation. He craned his view to the left, smiled, and reached out an ungloved hand, turning the valve he saw there to stop the hissing. He removed and grinned triumphantly at the other, who snorted and glared at him.
"That wasn't there two minutes ago," the sometime Ice King complained in a voice that, if not for its inherent huskiness, would have been whiny. Actually, he was correct about that, which Zoisite rightly suspected but chose not to mention to his agitated lover.
"It's okay, Kunzite-sama. You're a mage-warrior, not a… a… whatever the word is. A pipe-fixer."
"Plumber. And don't patronize me."
"I'm being supportive, lover. Anyway, you don't have to be able to do everything."
"Next you're going to tell me, 'It's okay, honey, you're just tired.'"
"You are, aren't you?"
The larger man's silver brow furrowed, but he didn't say anything. Instead, he turned on his heel to walk back inside.
"Kunzite-sama?!" Jogging yet again, Zoisite caught up to Kunzite's large strides. "You're not angry, are you?"
Not stopping, but slowing down a bit, Kunzite shook his head and wrapped his right arm around Zoisite's waist, drawing him close to his side.
It decided that it would like very much to frown.
Given, it was highly unlikely that it could make its attack through the boyfriend, but oh, wouldn't it be nice if one would kill the other and then kill himself out of remorse?
Oh well. It hadn't reached the position that it held in the hierarchy of the dead through wishful thinking. It was in fact highly powerful, though occasionally prone to firs of irrationality and anger. Like when that obnoxious Confined king had…
Damnation. Suddenly remembering what that insane fool had told its target renewed its rage. Anything with even a minor tactician's ability would know that one of the best weapons is ignorance. Knowledge is power, so the lack thereof in one's enemy means that the enemy is weaker.
Damn, damn, damn it all. Now his target knew… not everything, and not entirely accurate, but enough to seriously cramp his plan. Damn again.
Hmm. It recognized that a change in plans may be necessary. That, or an extremely hard attack. Knowledge is power, yes, but as the only armor against a formidable attack, it is useless. This it knew well.
But it had to admit that it wasn't actually overflowing with ideas at the moment. It had its limits, after all, and they were bitch obstacles to overcome.
Oh, how it would like to frown angrily. It did have a voice with which to scream, but it didn't want to scream. Not yet.
Jadeite's persona glared nastily at Jadeite's person. Of all the ridiculous ways to die, freezing eternally with your mouth and eyes wide open had to be way up in the top ten.
At least his hair looked okay.
He figured that if he already wasn't a few stars short of a constellation, looking in at himself locked in a huge shard of an icy crystal prison from outside would probably send him there post-haste.
Stars and constellations. Nephrite's fetish. Hmph.
Smart move, he had to admit, to use an apparition of Zoisite's hated enemy whose death he had plotted and executed. A blow to the psyche, to the temperamental young man's pride, to show that he had not succeeded in eliminating his rival -- very useful in causing a hole in his mental defenses.
But the chair…
If the figure merely spoke to the boy, it would demonstrate that his mind was not strong enough to block out the psychic suggestion, but actually knocking over a chair, affecting the physical, real plane was unheard of. In fact, it was blatantly against the rules.
Something was wrong.
Something was up.
Jadeite was confused.
He slipped back through the cracks of the crystal that encased his body. He needed to refresh his power once in a while and connect a little to actuality before he became so disjointed and disconnected that he couldn't retain any sense of himself.
On the outside, looking in, Nephrite shook his head and reached out a hand, brushing it against the icy exterior of the crystal.
"Jadeite, Jadeite, always the fool," he said softly, almost sadly. "You don’t have a clue what you're doing."
Jadeite didn't say anything. He was deep within his own consciousness, restrengthening his spirit. Nephrite knew this and did not expect a response.
He traced a finger again over the prison, across where Jadeite's physical nose was, and flicked it.
The crystal cracked and shaped itself into a bizarre symbol that meant nothing in the Japanese language, but everything to anyone who knew the auburn-haired second most powerful of the Shitennou.
"Let's see what you make of my calling card, O Confined One," he told the frozen figure, "because the Stars say you need it." Then he vanished yet again away the dark, forgotten cavern that held the dreamers of the sleep eternal.
"Are you feeling well?"
Zoisite looked up at Kunzite, startled out of his reverie. "I'm fine."
"You really don't seem it."
He stopped dead in his tracks, hopping a little as Kunzite kept walking and dragging him along by the arm around his waist. Shaking the arm off, Zoisite raised his hands to his face and hair. "I look bad?"
"No. Just something in the way you've been acting. And maybe in your eyes." The taller of the two reached out with fast, skillful hands, grabbed Zoisite's away from him, and searched his face. "Tell me."
A half-smile, entirely false, twisted the younger man's face as he leaned forward and upward teasingly to kiss the tip of his lover's nose, but didn't fool him. "Kunzite-sama," he ended up beseeching of the stern countenance facing him, "you know I haven't been well. Must you remind me? I've been living a hell as it is."
He shook himself free. "Excuse me." Walking hurriedly away, he called over his shoulder as he disappeared, "I'm not mad, love; I just need to think about something."
Kunzite frowned, and his eyes glowed briefly as he searched for where Zoisite's teleport had taken him. Still on the grounds of the mansion. Good. Let him vent safely.
"Kunzite…" A whisper.
Instead of questioning the voice, the highest of the Shitennou cursed, frustrated. He'd been doing that often of late.
"Language, language," chastised the voice.
"Shut up, Nephrite."
A startled figure with long dark hair flickered into view. "How did- you- wha-"
"Eloquent as ever, I see," the white-haired king observed, his face a blank -- neither surprised nor expectant.
Nephrite glared angrily at his superior. "Damn you, Kunzite, you're supposed to be scared. Or, at the very least, confused and wary." He rose up into the air, levitating a few feet off the ground as he had not liked to do in his past life. "I’m dead, you know."
"So is Zoisite, and I'm not afraid of him. He always frightened me more than you ever did; why should things be different now?"
"You brought him back from the dead; you know why he's here. I'm an enigma."
Kunzite yawned; he hadn't gotten a good night's sleep for some time. This was not the reaction Nephrite had desired and anticipated. "Listen, Nephrite. I've known you've been around since you scared Zoisite the other day. Was it yesterday? Doesn't matter. I've been expecting a visit."
"There is no goddamned way you could possibly know that. I've been watching."
A silver-white eyebrow raised questioningly. "So you've died and become a voyeur? I don't know whether to blush or to punch you out."
"I didn't know you could blush."
"I don't think I can. So what choice does that leave me?"
"You never used to be a joker. How did you know?"
"A joker? No. If you must know, Nephrite, I was there when you and Zoisite would have your little fights over your jobs or whatever the hell else you'd bicker about, and I came to know the look in his eyes after you'd upset him. It matched the look he had yesterday."
"Hmph." Obviously annoyed at his lacking in the element of surprise, the second king arrogantly tossed his hair and turned his back on his elder. "Goodbye, then."
"Wait. I knew you were coming, but I don't know how you are -- well, not dead. You are a mystery, I will give you that."
"And this should content me?"
"Have you ever known me to concede anything to you before?"
"Okay." Nephrite landed, his booted feet making an audible thump on the ground and leaving a definite imprint on the grass. "You want to know what's going on? Some weird stuff, I assure you. Your little protégé got the information this morning from the other of our once-collaborative Dark Kingdom group that had the nerve to refer to its members as kings. So I'll tell you what your sakura knows. I owe you that much."
An uncharacteristically puzzled look passed over the face of the pale-haired warrior. "Nephrite… I encouraged your death, you know."
"Death is relative, as is your involvement in mine." A fleeting, charismatic grin. "Death right now is not pleased with you, my dear Kunzite-sama. Wasn't a wise move on your part, messing with a dangerous, highly volatile magical artifact, property of the sworn enemy of your cause, your Kingdom, your purpose, in order to reverse the irreversible state that is death. And especially doing this for the sake of your heart or your soul or whatever bullshit reason you coerced the Sailorsenshi into lending you the ginzuishou -- I know you didn't take it, because they're still around and using it, and I would assume your reason wasn't because you missed the sex . That wouldn't go over well with the love-and-justice crowd."
"Are you deranged? What are you going on about?"
Nephrite laughed. "Well said, Kunzite, well said. Deranged. Yes, I believe that being dead does free a person from the narrow confines of the thoughts and mindset of the living. Your sakura would be doing much the same if he didn't have you to keep him company. I simply feel much freer than I used to be, and so of course would appear strange to you. No, I'm not insane, not even as far gone as poor Confined Jadeite, but I'm not what I used to be. And that includes a tendency to ramble in long sentences. Apologies, apologies. Comes with having been dead, you know."
A pause. The two most powerful men to have served under Beryl and Metallia stared at each other, the elder with a thinly masked wonderment and curiosity, the other with a knowing half-smile that gradually widened itself into a full-fledged smirk.
"Plus, I did take the liberty of revisiting my wine cellar, which may be mildly influencing my loose tongue."
Kunzite ran a hand exasperatedly through his feathery white bangs. This was not the serious, arrogant, selfish, and much-hated second king that he remembered. Cautiously eyeing the still-smirking other man, and asked a tentative question that had been lurking in his ever-analytical mind.
"What about the girl? Your human girl?"
The grinning sapphire eyes watching him underwent a sudden narrowing and darkened slightly. The smile faded. "That's pretty nasty of you to bring up, my friend. We're not here to discuss my personal life." For possibly the first time, Nephrite averted his eyes from Kunzite's steely gaze. But the smile returned after a moment, and he looked up again, casually reaching up and wrapping an ungloved hand around a conveniently hanging tree branch. "We're here to talk about yours. It's quite a strange tale, beginning clear back in the Silver Millenium, and ending when a distraught Dark Kingdom King used the maboroshi no ginzuishou to bring his deceased lover back to him…"
"He loves me… he loves me not… he loves me… he loves me not…"
Childish, yes, and he knew it, but it was oddly soothing. He had told the truth before; he wasn't mad at Kunzite, not at all. He was afraid, though; very, very scared. And though he desperately wanted to remain permanently at his lover's side (because, after all, Kunzite-sama makes every thing better), he also just wanted to be alone to push all of the dangers out of his confused mind.
The Dark Kingdom was dangerous, too. He had survived there for a long time.
Until it killed him.
Not an uplifting thought.
The rose was almost out of petals. "He loves me… he loves me not…"
Closing his eyes briefly, Zoisite lifted what was left of the pink blossom to his face. "He loves me. I know it; he told me so and showed me so. No stupid damned overglorified youma -- if that's what it is -- is going to take that from me."
Pep-talks like that often made him feel better -- more than the vulnerable, pretty little sakura that too often stared back at him out of the mirror. And it helped this time too, a little. He could feel himself growing angrier and, in his anger, becoming a stronger, braver, more powerful man.
It wasn't much fun, he reflected, living with - as - two such different people. It never astonished him that he had so many enemies -- if he were someone else, he'd probably hate himself, too. He'd be damned jealous of such beauty in another, and he was almost positive that his personality would clash badly with a like individual. Kunzite-sama was, after all, confident, calm, calculating and cold -- four C's that were not a part of his makeup, unless coupled with the word "not".
No, he and the only person he'd ever loved were not alike.
"And that's a good thing," he decided aloud.
Standing up and shaking his head, he dropped the decimated flower and ran his slender hands tiredly over his face and uniform-garbed chest, preparing to teleport. He really needed to make up to Kunzite-sama. And probably talk to him, too.
End chapter seven
End Part Two: The Cost
On To Interlude Two
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