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
"Wake up, dammit!"
"Oh, no," muttered Kunzite. "Is that Jadeite?"
Silently, Zoisite nodded. He suddenly had the most horrible headache rampaging through his brain, which seemed to affect his eyes most of all. He tried to focus on the creature, but found that it looked like it was fading from the world, not becoming smoky, but becoming… well… gone…
Frightened, he turned his head to look at his lover, only to find the same thing happening to Kunzite. With a short, desperate scream, he raised his fingers to his eyes, rubbing them violently to try and repair his vision.
Kunzite saw Zoisite's distress, and knew that they were both feeling the same agony -- he too saw the pseudo-world and its figures disappearing around them, but had enough discipline to continue his attack unfalteringly.
Then, without warning, the creature vanished in a bright flash. The high king couldn't help raising his own hands to his face, mirroring his lover -- it was too damned bright.
When both opened their eyes, they were back in reality. And the creature was there, too.
The growl echoed again throughout the forest. Jadeite turned to Nephrite wildly.
"I'm sorry, Nephrite, but Zoisite told me he'd seen you and I assumed that you were somehow working for the death demon and after him because I know he killed you and then when I saw them there unconscious I just thought…" his babbling trailed off confusedly.
"Get a hold of yourself," the auburn-haired man snapped. "Realize your place as one of the Shitennou, dammit; it doesn't matter what you meant, only what you did. And what you did has been done, so it's too late for excuses."
Taking a deep breath, Jadeite lowered his head. "I know that. It's just… the whole Confined thing, you know, kind of plays with the logical thought, and…"
"It's all right. But," the star king looked up at the ominously rumbling sky, "keep your head, okay?"
Another groan met their ears, but this sound had a source: their white-haired unconscious superior king who lay against the tree nearby. Kunzite was stirring, his clasped fingers coming undone and moving from their protective position around Zoisite to cover his face.
Zoisite wailed a little at the same time, and wriggled. Then he too did the same thing with his hands, hiding his eyes and whimpering.
Lightning broke the sky suddenly, illuminating the forest, followed by a thunderclap that sounded remarkably like the growl they'd heard before.
There were no clouds in the sky. There was no storm.
But there was… something… coalescing out of the air, out of the multiple shadows cast by the trees.
Kunzite jerked awake suddenly, just as the shadow figure raised its head from its newly formed body. He gasped and struggled to sit up around Zoisite's prone form, which didn't remain prone for long -- the green eyes snapped open quickly after the hands covering them had been removed, and the shortest of the kings pulled his feet under him to crouch. His eyes widened as he saw the creature straightening itself and (presumably) facing the group.
Balancing himself against the tree, Kunzite stood up and assessed his surroundings. The death-demon thing. Damn. Jadeite -- so he was back. Nephrite. Zoisite immediately in front of him. What a reunion. What a bunch of misfits.
"Watch out," he warned, finding his voice. "That's what we were fighting."
He had such a headache. And it didn't take an empath to know that his lover did as well as Zoisite weakly pulled himself up using Kunzite's arm as support. The trip to the subconscious battlefield had left them both quite drained.
The creature, however, sounded just fine -- possibly even more powerful. It glided forward on smooth steps, bringing it face-to-blackness with the shortest-haired member of the group.
~"Oh, poor little Confined king,"~ it said, and ran a dark hand dripping with power over Jadeite's features, ~"you should have known better. Or had you forgotten?"~
"I didn't know," Jadeite said rigidly, grating it out through his teeth, refusing to move. The creature chuckled.
~"Not so cocky now, are we?"~ it asked, ~"Now that I'm in this plane, I can touch you, can't I?"~
It turned its face -- or more like the front of its featureless shadowy head -- toward the second king.
Nephrite looked at the inky blackness that threatened him with a surprisingly calm scrutiny. He frowned. Making a small gesture with his right hand, pulling the air, he formed his own creation from nothing, causing the atmosphere from his closed palm to glow.
His Star Sword glimmered in the narrow light that streamed through the trees, and the second king's frown turned into a smile as he faced the adversary and brandished the weapon threateningly.
"No mind games. I knew you could do this, and I came prepared just in case this happened. Believe it or not, the stars do know everything, and what they choose to let me know can be quite informative."
It growled at this.
"Nephrite…" The voice that addressed him was not unfamiliar but likewise unexpected.
"What, Zoisite?" He didn't break his gaze on the creature.
Zoisite shot his rival a sharp, angry look, then paused for a second and cut off what he had been intending to say, blushing a little at treating this man, the one he had once considered his mortal enemy, the one he had caused to die, as an ally, though they had worked for the same cause for endless years. "Weapons don't hurt it," he said, shaking his head slightly to rid himself of the humility he had unexpectedly felt.
The wielder of the sword continued his smile. "I know." He paused. "But… thanks."
A starlight flicker streaked its way up the blade, and Nephrite lunged forward at the dark form with a violent swipe. His opponent instantly retaliated with its dark shield. However, instead of his weapon passing through the creature harmlessly, like both Kunzite and Zoisite had expected to happen, the sword connected, avoiding the defense. The attack flashed like a comet and cut a gash in the creature's arm.
It jumped backward instantly across a wide distance, clutching its wound, which spilled white light rather than blood. It hissed.
The leader of the four knew that he needed to make the stand now.
"Dammit, Shitennou," Kunzite commanded, "we all may not have been on the best of terms for a very long time, but we are and have been trained as a team!"
His second picked up on this and displayed his star sword, auburn hair flying about his face. "We are dead no longer, but our revival should not include our…" he stopped in the middle of his speech to search for a word, "our animosities had to as well -- together we are unstoppable, and we need to utilize this!"
"Melodrama again. You'd think we were the Sailorsenshi," muttered Zoisite.
And Jadeite wondered, "How can Kunzite see me?"
The creature, upon whom three pairs of differently-shaded blue and one pair of green eyes were still fixed, was growing, expanding like an inflating balloon, the gray sunlight that filtered through the trees only enhancing its shadowy form rather than eliminating it.
"~Yes, yes Shitennou, you're all together now. You may think that's making you stronger, but really it is making things easier for me. Now I need to send you to where you belong…"~ it intoned, extending its hands to shake their world with unseen energy, its height putting its head on a level with the top of the forest.
Each king dived or rolled to one side out of sheer reflex, taking immediate cover in the dense greenery. The sun, high in the sky, created an excess of shadows in which to hide, but still strangely emphasized the creature's blackness.
Zoisite looked around him and realized that he could see none of his companions. He swallowed hard and tightened his hands into fists, wincing when he realized that at some point he'd either scraped or burned both his palms. Ignoring this, he called energy to himself, preparing to attack, and as he did so, noted that he could sense the others doing so as well.
The creature noticed this also. ~"Fools, each and every one of you,"~ it declared. ~"If you had all submitted as you should have years ago, you could have spared yourselves the agony that you have suffered in your long, miserable lives and that is assuredly going to continue here. And you think you are prolonging your existences now?"~
Its voice changed from annoyed to amused. ~"But really, boys, hiding in shadow? Come on. Look at me. It's not going to help. But if it will encourage you to come out, so be it."~
With that, the thunderclouds that had been threatening to form overhead finally did so. This was the opposite of what Kunzite and Zoisite had done earlier in the other plane, but basically yielded the same result: no sun shining on the forest meant the trees cast no shadow.
Soft voices were drifting to Zoisite's ears, but he was used to this particular ploy of the enemy. However, there was a difference in that these did not belong to the creature, but to others.
Beryl: "You have always failed me, Zoisite. And you think your foolish, foolish love for Kunzite went unnoticed by me? You know you will both be punished again for your disobedience!"
Kunzite: "Isn't it a shame that you wasted your life on me when you know full well that I never loved you?"
Nephrite and Tuxedo Kamen, in chorus: "I win after all, Sakura."
Gritting his teeth, he crouched lower in the foliage around him. "Not real," he muttered, "concentrate on a plan."
While he thought, it seemed he could hear even more distant sounds. A chorus of Beryls. What sounded like a youma speaking Jadeite's name, and what was definitely Nephrite's human girl. Several Tuxedo Kamens -- and one that sounded like the masked fool, but just a little more malicious.
And his voice, but not his own. It echoed especially loud in his ears in duplicate, though he knew the words were not meant for him.
Gloating: "Fool you, dying with the one you loved, but she didn't love you. Look at the mistakes you've made, you drunken overconfident idiot -- for someone who thinks he can see the future, you certainly lost out big."
And, far more painful, accusatory: "You let me die. I loved you and you let me die."
A telepathic plea shot desperately through his mind. Kunzite-sama. But not just to him; Zoisite recognized it as a message sent to each of the other Shitennou as well.
~Don't listen, any of you. I know it's painful, but be strong. I want you all to gather power, and when I give the signal, attack at it.~
~Is that wise?~ Nephrite asked.
~Do we have a choice?
This thing could drive us insane.
Easily. And I think we could
take it, honestly. You said yourself that we are strong.~
~All right. I wish I had time to consult the stars, though…~
~Nephrite?~ Jadeite's mental voice was tentative but demanding. ~Before we do anything, what are you doing here? Alive?~
Zoisite, still in his hiding place, nodded as well. Nephrite projected a feeling of grinning.
~Easy. Same way as the rest of you: the ginzuishou. You see, I -- er, the stars and I -- made the kurozuishou with the intention of using it to find that damned shiny gray rock. So because I used some of my personal energies in attuning the dark crystal to the silver, I was somehow sort of connected to it. My personal magics probably influenced why the kurozuishou kept showing me Naru-chan -- since there really was no ginzuishou at the time, and the kurozuishou knew nothing of the nijizuishou before Beryl reprogrammed it, it was attracted to the next greatest source of energy that I knew.~
~So?~ That was Kunzite-sama.
~So… I'm not exactly
certain of the mechanics, but from what the Stars have told me, it was
something akin to how the Sailorsenshi were revived after their battle with
Metallia-sama, only my revival came from when my leader used it, rather
than the Senshi leader. So, Kunzite,
you freed me from Beryl's power and from death. That's why I'm helping you.
Plus, I want to get rid of the blasted thing.~
~That's… interesting. Are you ready to go, then?~ Kunzite's mind held traces of anguish, and Zoisite could hear what sounded like his own voice faintly chastising his lover again.
And louder, Kunzite's voice meant for Zoisite's ears.
"I never loved you; I only lusted after your body and put up with the rest of you. You were the next best thing to a woman in the Dark Kingdom, after all."
He shook his head and straightened his ponytail. ~Kunzite-sama, I am quite ready now. These voices are highly irritating.~
Obviously concerned, Kunzite sent, ~They're not getting to you, are they?~
~Hell, no. I'm not that insecure. But, like I said, I'm ready.~
~"Come out!!"~ It was clearly annoyed, switching back to its own otherworldly way of speaking. ~"Don't make me look…"~
Blasts came from four points just a little off from being cardinal directions, focusing on the large black form that dominated the area, made somewhat difficult to see due to the clouds blocking the sun. but that didn't last long; it shrieked and the sky cleared slightly, sunlight pointing illuminating fingers through the mist.
Its hands shop up and formed a dark barrier entirely around it, shielding it from their attacks. ~"How many times must I tell you that you can't harm me?"~ it asked, its voice not at all muffled by the ward.
But it was hurting.
Damn it, how could they be putting up such a resistance? Powers or no, it was in the mortal plane, and its strength as an immortal being should make it very nearly a God. And its psychological manipulations had never failed to such an alarming degree before.
After all, it thought it knew the four perhaps more intimately than they knew themselves, as it had been watching them objectively for very nearly all their lives.
How could it not know they could do this?
The energy that they were directing towards it was actually affecting its thought-impenetrable barrier. The force was enough to almost… almost…
"I think we've almost gotten through the shield," Kunzite growled through tightly clenched teeth. Raisin his white-gloved right hand above his head and continuing to barrage the creature with energy from his left, he beckoned the others.
Jadeite looked up, shaking sweaty blonde curls out of his eyes. "You want us to move positions?"
"No! Don't give it an out, just intensify! We're very close to succeeding!"
Indeed, the streams of energy being wielded by the four men who each possessed a good deal of both power and experience had changed the color of the dome from complete blackness to a murky dark gray, and it had also gone from completely opaque, crackling with impregnable-seeming strength, to a translucent field, to deeply tinted glass.
Each of the Shitennou let himself think, if only for the briefest moment, that together they had the power to win.
It couldn't let them win.
~"You're only humans! Mortals!"~ it shrieked. It realized vaguely that it could see through its shield the infinitely-damned white-haired queer that seemed to have control over the operation -- which meant that they could see it, too. Its protection was definitely losing its efficiency.
But, dammit, it couldn't let them win!
All it could think of to do was… no.
That would hurt nearly as bad as a punishment from the Master.
But it couldn't let them win!!
And since it couldn't avoid that fact, it had to be willing to do what it had to do.
The barrier was even closer to being completely transparent. Kunzite noticed suddenly how clearly he could see the creature's form through the shadows, and had the odd feeling that, though it had no visible features, it was watching him.
It raised its arms to the sky and clenched its fingers into fists. Then, screaming a wordless, angry cry, it drew in power from the sun itself, gray light flowing into the dark body in a stream of pure concentrated energy.
The dome around it shattered, sending glass-like shards in an outward explosion. The kings were forced again to dive and protect themselves momentarily, breaking off their offensive.
~"You will…"~ the death creature panted, pained from all the violent, unchecked energy coursing through it, ~"never, never be able to survive this. And though I may not either, I have the ability to come back -- that's my job. And I will ensure that all of you will stay dead!
~"I hope, with all your power, Kunzite, that you will die last and in the most agony as you watch your lover and your comrades whom you brought back perish around you. Ha…"~
The air around them rippled with electricity and power, enough that even the most magically-ignorant human could sense it. To the Shitennou, it was very nearly suffocating.
"Kunzite-sama…" Zoisite whimpered, moving himself as close to his lover as he could, "… you feel it, don't you? It's bad…"
"Yes. Shh. Jadeite, Nephrite, come over here. Maybe if we consolidate our power, we could block-"
~"You can't…"~ it growled, and as the other two kings followed Kunzite's order anyway, it shrieked again in an ear-splitting anguish, and exploded.
A white light of extreme magical energy, with a magnified energy similar to that of the sun's surface, ripped itself from the creature's dark body, disintegrating the inky blackness with a pure bright nothingness.
Its shriek remained a few seconds after its body disappeared.
The blast knocked the Shitennou back, tugging at their hair and pressing each man's body with the force of several times any gravity that he'd ever experienced before.
The four lacked even the most basic ability that the creature once had: the power to scream.
It was too much to take, and within the span of a minute, all were unconscious.
Tsukino Usagi, fighter for love and justice, watched the storm parting from her bedroom window. She giggled.
"Look, Luna, the stars are coming out again!"
The sleeping black cat lifted her head from her curled position at the foot of the girl's bed and regarded her with sleepy black eyes.
"They do that, Usagi-chan. It's not all that unusual. Aren't you going to bed? It's late."
"Oh, all right."
She turned out the light and tucked herself into bed, and both were deep asleep when the maboroshi no ginzuishou sparkled from a self-generated light from its place in her brooch on her dresser.
End Chapter Ten