Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon is the property of Takeuchi Naoko, Toei Animation, and Kodansha Comics.
The Price To Pay
Part II: The Cost
By Gita Toronjil-Lee
The man in question bowed elegantly. "In the flesh. Well, not really. My body's still layin' chilly somewhere, but… whatever. Beryl really hadn't the slightest idea what she was doing. I'm Confined, sure, but being Confined is sort of fun."
Zoisite glared at his lighthearted tone and considered pinching himself, but stopped. He didn't find masochism all that entertaining. After all, why inflict self-injury when there were more important things at hand? For this, he settled on a mere statement that he phrased as a question. "I'm still asleep, aren't I."
"No. Not like you were a few moments ago."
"H… how did you…?" Zoisite leaned forward to look at his once-comrade closely -- especially at his eyes…
"Well, Zoi-kun, I was there."
"You saved me!" A few seconds of thought followed this revelation, Zoisite's face darkening in contemplation. "You saved me?"
"That was me," he said, grinning brightly. "I had to step in there -- that really wasn't right, what was happening to you. Truthfully, I was bored out of my mind, so I appointed myself your guardian. I can sympathize with you, poor boy; your murderer and mine were one and the same. I didn't really care much at the time, though -- I was too busy trying to hang onto my sanity. It was a losing fight, I know, but… what the hell. Anyway, when your poor Lord Kunzite used the ginzuishou to retrieve you, a little-bitty side effect occurred, and I slipped out, too."
Frowning, Zoisite leaned back into his pillow and rubbed his forehead. "Two things," he said finally. "One: I don't understand what in hell you're talking about. Two: I don't need your sympathy, Jadeite. I may need your help, or your knowledge, and I won't complain or argue this, but I don't want your pity."
"Oh, Zoi-chan," Jadeite chuckled, "you make me laugh. But you shouldn’t close me out because of trivialities of speech; that was the way of the Kingdom. And look what happened to it. I was there when it crumbled; it was only luck that the storage cavern that held me was unimportant and un-Metallia-influenced enough to not crumble; otherwise, well… I'm sure you can guess."
"Don't call me Zoi-chan, either."
"Got it, Zoisite-san. Now, I'll turn my head for a moment, you'll put some clothes on, and I'll tell my story. That busted pipe should keep Kunzite busy for at least a couple of hours. I did a pretty good job on it, if I do say so myself."
"Shh, shh, shh." The short-haired king raised a white gloved finger to his lips. "Get dressed. We'll go downstairs to the sitting room and there we'll have a chat. No, no, no," he said when Zoisite opened his mouth and drew in air to speak. "Don't say a thing. Just wait. It's not so hard to wait, once you get used to it. I know."
Zoisite let out the breath, mildly aggravated, and Jadeite smiled.
"So talk," the shorter man said, seating himself in a high-backed blue velveted chair, crossing his legs elegantly and folding his arms. His companion inspected the semilighted room.
"Mmph. Dusty. And the décor… tacky, tacky. But I suppose it beats the place I'm living right now."
"Okay, okay. Sit back, young king, and I'll tell you a story." He sat himself cross-legged on the floor, leaning back on his hands and staring up at his audience with an amused smile. "Once upon a time…"
Once upon a time there were four kings. These kings, each handsome and intelligent, especially the only one smart enough to visit his barber regularly, lived a long time ago during the Silver Millenium and somehow ended up working for the biggest bitch in the universe and her demon master.
The details of how exactly this came to pass are unknown to this humble storyteller, and in truth are not crucial to this tale; the fact remains that that is what happened.
These kings, known colloquially as the Shitennou, were gifted in many things, not the least of these magical skill -- again, whether these wild talents were inborn or resulted from their indoctrination into the Dark Kingdom is unknown. Another peculiar trait of these four, and of their bitch-queen as well, is their longevity, and that, dear listener, is the root of this story.
It was the goal of the demon and of the queen to conquer the illustrious dream-world known as the Moon Kingdom. Indeed, with the Shitennou and with their terrible legions, they would have been successful, had the Queen of the Moon not been in possession of a legendary source of power, compacted in a tiny gem known as the ginzuishou.
The moon queen was rather pacifistic, of a sort, and may not have used the jewel's power in this battle, had the dark queen not made one blunder. She took it upon herself to destroy the moon's princess, thus throwing the moon's queen into a grief powerful enough to provoke her to utilize her secret weapon.
Had these incidences not occurred, indeed the Kingdom of Darkness may have been successful. However, it was not, and became horribly wounded and sealed, along with all its living components, into its own dimension, where the Queen and the four Kings could plot their escape and subsequent vengeance.
Now, you were there at this time as one of the said Kings, as was I, so we know perhaps too well the way things went from there. Let's go inside another's head during this period, shall we?
I think I should mention here that this story is only what I've picked up, but I suppose this secondhand retelling is all you've got, so… smile and be happy. Smiling is fun, you know, especially after your mouth has remained frozen in horror for who-knows-how-long. So is talking… but I digress. Oh, how it's fun to digress, but you need to hear the story more than you need to hear me ramble.
Anyway, let's tell this part of the story theoretically, all right? Say you've got this job, and you've held this job for a long time. Shouldn't be difficult. And your failure rate is zero percent -- now there's where you need your imagination.
This job basically is to deal with the refuse of the universe. What I mean is, you need to take care of souls after they've vacated their various bodies, sending them to where you see fit. Each soul has a designated time to leave its body, and it keeps you busy, but the system works, and is efficient.
Then these four kings and their queen come along. They have lengthened their lifetimes at the very least tenfold, and it pretty much screws up your schedule.
You wait, and you wait, and you wait and you wait. These people do not die for a thousand years, and you're getting somewhat testy.
Then they start dropping like flies.
The first becomes Confined by his very own queen, the bitch. A terrible loss, of course, but you are happy because you figure that you won't have to worry about him anymore. The second gets assassinated by the third, and now you can deal with him. The third gets killed by the same person as the first, and you begin to feel better about everything. Here's what you think:
'All right, with the way things are going, pretty soon the fourth and the queen will kick their respective buckets, and I can do my job on them, and then all my waiting won't have been in vain. In fact, I'll probably get a lot of acclaim for nailing them.'
You're happy. Then something unexpected happens.
The fourth king was madly in love with the third, though you didn't know it. You knew they were sleeping together, of course, but you also knew the fourth king to be thoroughly unfeeling and cold, so you figured that the outpouring of grief coming from him after his lover's death could be nothing more than brief at the very most. You even dared to hope that in his short period of mourning he might make a fatal mistake somewhere or sometime. Wouldn't that be helpful!
But he doesn't.
Instead, he seeks out the ginzuishou, and uses it to take the third king away from you back to him. Plus, to make matters worse, the energy used to make this happened somehow cracked the Confinement of the first king to fall, who recognizes that something has happened, and so focuses his attempt on escape. Eventually he figures, o wise him, the trick of transferring his essence, his consciousness, if you will, outside of the crystal, to form a sort of pseudo-body, and thus, he gets away.
Now you're mad. Even the deaths of the queen and her demon don't ease your rage. So you think. And what conclusion do you reach?
"Well," said Zoisite thoughtfully when he realized that Jadeite was pausing for a reply, "I'd want to catch my escaped prisoners."
"I'd probably want to get the fourth king too."
"And? Come on, come on, just one little word; one that you are very acquainted with. Come on. What would you do personally if someone pissed you off like that? No… no… not what would you do, but what would you want?"
The ponytailed man scowled, thought contorting his delicate features. After a moment, his eyes showed that he'd hit on something. Looking up, face grave, he gave the correct answer. "Revenge."
"Bingo!" cheered Jadeite, "give the boy a prize!"
"Hmm? Oh, oh, I know, I know. Sorry, you have to score a few more points before you can win that teddy bear, m'dear, but hey, this is a genuine first-class keychain I have for you right now, made in a genuine sweatshop!"
"Um, I got a little off track there. What were you saying? "
"It's not that -- it's what you were saying. From your story, it sounds like Death Itself is angry at me, you, and Kunzite-sama."
"Hey-hey, you'll have that stuffed animal in no time!"
Zoisite frowned. "You're kidding, right?"
The blonde currently-Confined king smiled. "About the prize, yes. About your answer being right, I most unfortunately am not."
"You'll forgive me," Zoisite said, cynicism apparent in his voice, "if I have a bit of trouble believing that the devil is stalking me…"
"Not the devil. You misunderstand me."
"… and the fact that this information is coming from a man whom I believed to be dead or a reasonable facsimile thereof and who my rational mind is trying to convince me is a hallucination."
Jadeite cocked an eyebrow. "Tell me, Zoi-kun, how have you been sleeping lately? Any bad dreams?"
Zoisite froze and swallowed hard.
"No. No, I haven't." Well, that's true to some extent, he thought, if I have dreams, I don't remember them.
But Jadeite's next question killed that way out. Frowning slightly, he put forth another query. "Ever scream and cry in your sleep without knowing why?"
Shutting his eyes, Zoisite lowered his head and refused to reply. That was answer enough for his smirking vis-à-vis.
"You see, my resurrected friend, I know this because I know some of the rules your stalker must play by. I know the way he works."
"Death itself has to play by the rules?"
Jadeite shook his head and clucked his tongue at his once co-worker. "Oh, but you are a conceited one. Everything must play by the rules, and death is included in that, but mad as it may be, Death has many responsibilities, so it sent one of its happy helpers after you. A relatively important one, yes, but not the head honcho. And it has its rules as well."
Rule One: Death and its minions cannot enter the living plane or directly interfere with mortals.
This is the Big One. This is the reason why it didn't just kill you and your Kunzite-sama right away, or actually why it didn't kill all of us in the Kingdom once it realized that we were living more than a little beyond the average lifespan.
Rule Two: Okay, this is a confusing one. It's about you. If a person manages to transcend the Realm of the Dead into the Plane of the Living, Death still has a minor hold on them.
You are a textbook case with the night-torture thing. What it's trying to do is to drive you insane and force you to do something nuts, like suicide, or getting in an accident, or even maybe angering Kunzite enough that he offs you. Yeah, it's a long shot, I know, but your hunter wants all of his bets covered. Anyway, it can contact the Once-Dead like you only through their minds, and only when their mental defenses are sufficiently lowered.
Rule Three: The Confined. Like me. If, like me, one of the Confined succeeds in escape, we're still sort of dead, but not quite. Once-Dead like you can see and talk to me, Completely-Dead see me as one of the Living and generally ignore me, and the Living pretty much can't see or hear me, except maybe briefly as an apparition.
That's why I busted that pipe -- to get your Completely-Living lover out of the house so we could have this talk. Otherwise, he would have thought that you were talking to yourself and he'll believe you even crazier than he already suspects.
Jadeite stopped here.
"Um… I'm drawing a blank on the rest. Happens, I suppose, when your brain and your consciousness are in two different places. Don't think they were too important, though; nothing -- dare I say it? -- of a life or death importance. One, if I remember correctly, has to do with Death's ability to manipulate its victims, but I don’t think that matters."
But Zoisite was stuck on a previous point, one of a rather non-relevant nature. "Kunzite-sama doesn't think I'm crazy."
"Sure he does. I didn't say he didn't love you, though."
"You better not have." Suddenly, Zoisite's brow furrowed as the full weight of the message Jadeite had just imparted on him. "Jadeite… I'm screwed, aren't I."
The taller king shook his head, his blonde hair whipping into his eyes. "Don’t give up. Before the whole eternal sleep thing, I was as pessimistic as any in the Dark Kingdom, but now, strangely, I think I'm an optimist."
"I don't think your mindset has anything to do with my problems," Zoisite snapped. "Would you mind, oh wise and Confined one, telling me why the hell I saw Nephrite the other day? How the hell he said, 'hello, Zoisite,' and disappeared, knocking the chair over? What…"
"Appeared, said hi, and disappeared." He sighed, exasperated. Wasn't Jadeite listening?
"And tipped the chair over? Are you sure it wasn't the chair, or something? Are you sure?"
Jadeite's reaction made Zoisite infinitely more nervous -- the carefree psycho seemed genuinely afraid. Worriedly raising a hand to his mouth and chewing on his thumbnail, he nodded. "Yes. He did."
"Aww, shit," Jadeite declared. His head jerked up with a start. "Aww, shit again. Listen, don't freak, okay?" He looked down at himself and grimaced. "I have to go -- I am beginning to get in desperate need of a recharge. Tell Kunzite what I told you, if you want. Just… take things easy. You'll be okay for now, I think, and I'll talk to you again as soon as you can. You and I, we'll work something out -- ol' optimistic me says so. But, uh, good luck anyway. Be seeing you."
Smiling a sudden, quick smile, he waved and vanished, without the various special effects that he had used in life. Zoisite was unnervingly reminded of the way Nephrite had disappeared.
He was also unnervingly reminded of Jadeite's story, and of how unnervingly alone he was in the huge, empty mansion.
End chapter six
On to Chapter Seven
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