A Gift by Starlight

by Mina Martin


Chapter 4: I Think You’ll Understand (We’ll Go Hand in Hand)


They were gone. The splinter wounds, the blisters, the burn marks, all of it.

Naru’s hands had finally felt so itchy that as soon as she stepped off the bus, she went to the nearest trashcan and unwrapped her bandages. Maybe the fresh air could provide some relief. If not, she was about to enter a hospital anyway.

Her hands were completely healed. The dried-out fibers of the material had been scraping over her normal skin.

Naru wanted to believe it was just another superpower. That made sense, didn’t it? Super strength and super healing. It had nothing to do with something magically erasing evidence of everything that happened the night before. That was nonsense, it had to be; the effects were all, well, still affecting her life. She’d have to mend her orange pajamas, but the blood would probably never get out. She’d get to hear all about Sailor Moon’s latest escapades from the source herself from now on. And when she entered the right room in the hospital building up ahead, Nephrite would be alive and waiting for her.

Everything felt different. But everything would be all right once she could see him.

Naru focused on walking, and not running, around the outskirts of the utilitarian medical buildings until she found the same entrance as the night before. The door was a little stuck, but it eventually opened up to let her in. There was the same elevator, larger than normal, even for a hospital. And no up or down call buttons. Ugh.

The lobby area was empty. Naru waited a few minutes but no one came back to the desk. Peering over the beige counter as far as manners allowed, she also didn’t see any kind of remote button. Double-ugh! The stairs, then.

Naru stopped at each floor, exiting on each one and walking around the same washed-out corridors. She peered into hall closets, storage areas, tiny lunch spaces and nurse changing areas, operating theaters, and rooms with beds half made up and the monitors still beeping. The only locked doors had round windows up top, and if Naru jumped she could just make out what looked like rows of all kinds of medications. It was a very boring, but very empty labyrinth, and since nothing was familiar yet Naru kept moving. If only she’d paid attention to the floor number last night, or remembered the number of Nephrite’s recovery room. If only the employees had enough respect for their jobs and could have stayed at the desk to show her how to use the elevator!

There was something that felt too empty about the entire building. She hadn’t run into a single person so far, although the power was still on and machinery and electronics still hummed. If they had actually evacuated, for something like a scary disease or a bomb, surely the government would have sealed off the building and she wouldn’t have been able to get inside in the first place.

As she rounded corners and retraced hallways, Naru tried not to think of a thought she’d just thought up: that Nephrite’s room would also be empty when she got there. That she would never see him again, without even a body to say goodbye to. Gone with no explanation just like the wounds on her hands she’d earned saving him.

And then, as she walked by yet another doorway, no different than the rest –

There he was.

He didn’t notice her, not at first. His eyes were open and he was clearly awake. But more than that, Nephrite had a deep, almost over-exaggerated scowl on his face. Lost in thought and thoroughly aggravated; at what, she didn’t know. She never knew she could be so happy to see another person upset, because it meant they were alive. Naru stood very still and quiet, holding on to the moment of her relief and joy, and Nephrite’s lively irritation. Like two sides of a lucky coin.

He was really, truly alive, and so wonderfully human in her opinion, no matter what color his blood was.

She could have stood there for ages, watching the unguarded emotions play out on his face, until Nephrite suddenly saw her standing in the doorway. Those blue eyes made the same startled, unsure expression at her presence they had made the night before.

Naru had no idea what she was going to say, but the whole world was already vivid and wonderful for her once again.

* * * * * * * *

Earlier That Morning


Nephrite regained consciousness in slow, staggered stages. He wasn’t in terrible pain anymore, but there were strange gaps in his thoughts. He’d finish a thought only to realize he’d dozed off between the beginning of cogitation and the completion of it, with the sense of time passing only happening long after the fact.

By the time he could think clearly it was obvious he was in a human hospital. He was alive. He was alive! Somehow, the human doctors had managed to keep him alive despite his unique physiology and grave injuries.

He wasn’t a physician but surviving hundreds of years in the Dark Kingdom meant Nephrite had picked up some medical knowledge by necessity. Even if the energy drain had stopped when the branches came out, he’d been in a severely weakened state with a sizable hole in his chest. There would’ve been multiple complications, all feeding into each other, trying their best to kill him. But he was alive!

He’d laugh, if he could. Nephrite’s energy was nearly depleted, no more than that of an average human man who’d just been gored through and almost died. It took an enormous amount of strength and willpower to simply roll his left hand. He couldn’t move his right arm at all, though that was unsurprising. A watchful nurse came to his side to feed him sips of water by straw from a cup, and Nephrite managed to get across that he didn’t want a higher dose of painkillers. He needed to be as alert as possible – because he was trapped. Trapped by his own drained and damaged body, unable to walk out of a mere human hospital under his own power, no better than just Masato Sanjouin.

And he’d gladly pretend at being a simple rich playboy, if not for the fact that the Dark Kingdom still had agents on Earth, least of all Zoisite. That treacherous, histrionic, petty thief. Oh, he’d be celebrating right now with Kunzite, but soon he’d notice that three of his prized youma were gone. Then it was only a matter of time until Zoisite discovered ‘Sanjouin’ was still alive, weak and easy to assassinate for real this time. Nephrite had maybe days at most until he found himself in the exact same situation as before – in danger from the Dark Kingdom.

Naru would be in danger as well. A nearby monitor trilled an alarm at the too-sharp rise in his heartbeat and medical personnel came rushing in. Then he had to suffer further humiliation from humans poking and prodding at him, telling him to relax.

If only he could drain their energy! Nephrite had tried, the night before – but he was so weak that it was only possible if he were touching someone skin-to-skin. Worse, they were all garbed in medical gear from their fingertips to their necks, with even more covering their mouths. And there were just too many of them. His desperate attempts at trying to grab whoever’s face was closest hadn’t ended well for him, and the last thing he remembered was the indignity of being forcibly held down like an animal.

No. That was a lie. That hadn’t been his last thought at all. When he felt the oncoming rip current of unconsciousness, of what should have been his death, Nephrite had clutched to the memory of her.

The bright orange binding Naru had created from her own pajama top with her own two hands was gone, replaced with a standard version in sterile white gauze. He felt – he wasn’t sure what he felt at that. Panic? Sorrow? Over a used bandage, ridiculous. It must be lingering effects from the human drugs.

“I ask for power from the stars,” he rasped when they finally left him alone. A faint ripple of power passed over him, enough to take the place of the human, mind-clouding painkillers he had refused and speed along his healing. That was all. Nephrite’s stellar powers were greatest in the celestial focal point he’d created in the former chapel of his mansion base. And he could always call forth power under the bare night sky, like the time Zoisite’s youma lackey had attacked Naru thinking she had the silver crystal. But under so many layers of steel and concrete, Nephrite had reduced access. He didn’t even have the strength to conjure an illusion.

About an hour after waking up, a poised woman walked in the room, wearing a white coat over a sensible but expensive skirt suit. A small team trailed her. “Good morning Mr. Sanjouin, I’m Dr. Mizuno. You’ve regained consciousness earlier than we expected.”

He had to use what little energy he still retained to play at being Masato. He was incredibly grateful to Dr. Mizuno and her staff for their surgical skills. No, he didn’t see who attacked him. No, he didn’t remember meeting or being rescued by a few teenage girls – he was out for a walk alone. Yes, he was grateful for the privacy the hospital afforded him, and once he contacted his secretary he’d then provide appropriate – generous – compensation.

Nephrite was bemused at that last part, since they apparently assumed he was associated with the yakuza. His actual interaction with them only went as far as whatever subcontracting Sanjouin Enterprises did at the Tokyo branch with yakuza-run businesses, to keep the Japanese crime syndicate pacified and out of his hair. And at double the price what a normal businessman would pay; even with a proper Japanese alias and a complex language spell to ensure fluency, the thousand-year-old mage was just gaijin to them.

He spared a thought for poor, pathetic Jadeite, still trapped in Eternal Sleep. Even with his blond hair the other King was of obvious Asian descent. His ability to blend in with Japanese society, a new cover identity every week, had been a factor in all of his schemes on Earth. His failed schemes.

Little wonder Nephrite had succeeded where Jadeite hadn’t – he didn’t want to blend in. He was always meant to stand out in a crowd. Wasn’t that the purpose of a King? They were three out of four, now. It wasn’t impossible anymore to dream of a future of a singular rex regnant – even if he had to deal with a sorceress queen.

But there could still be trouble if anyone contacted Nephrite’s quasi-shell company to inform them of his ‘ill health’, for the same reason he couldn’t just call them to send a company car to transport Nephrite to his warded base. Not everyone who worked for him was human, brainwashed or otherwise. Loyal servants might have turned the moment Zoisite acquired his Dark Crystal. He brought his attention back to the doctor, who had to repeat her question.

“Mr. Sanjouin, are you on any sulpha drugs?”

He went for a charming yet hapless smile. “I’m sorry, I’m afraid I don’t know what those are.”

Dr. Mizuno gave him a brief rundown of a class of antimicrobials not commonly used in developed countries, the overdosing of which would cause bright green blood coloring. Perhaps a distinguished businessman such as himself would want to find a confidential way of treating a certain condition – epilepsy, hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS.

He couldn’t shrug, but he managed a lazy blink of both eyes. “Well, unless someone’s been secretly drugging me without me noticing, no to all of those.”

“Then you won’t mind if we conduct some further blood tests? It’s crucial that we avoid giving you anything that could induce an allergic or toxic reaction.”

The blood pressure machine blipped a spike, incongruent with Masato Sanjouin’s bland expression.

“We won’t do anything without your permission,” Dr. Mizuno reassured him. “But it would be best to begin testing to provide you with the absolute best in health care.”

Nephrite thought fast. “I’ve been stabbed a little too much for my tastes lately.” He motioned with his chin towards his right side where he’d been gored through. “Forgive me if I’m not so keen to undergo it again so soon, even if is done by your expert hands.”

He had no idea what their tests would find in his own nephrite-colored blood. All the Kings of the Dark Kingdom had their own physical anomalies - at least he’d inferred so over the last thousand years in their forced solitude together - but he was the only one with green blood. He’d never cared enough to research it before, something he regretted now.

He could be quarantined and put under strict surveillance. He could be handed over to some discreet branch of government for testing. And in the meantime, whether Nephrite’s torture was passive or purposeful, he wouldn’t get the chance to recover and renew his strength. He wouldn’t be able to defend himself against his enemies, mortal or otherwise, when they came for him.

“I must insist, Mr. Sanjouin—”

No,” he said. A little too curt, more himself than Sanjouin, too obvious for the medical staff not to notice.

“But ask me again tomorrow,” he followed up. Nephrite could at least stall by giving the illusion of possible obedience. Not exactly a lion trapping them in a falling elevator, but he’d take his victories where he could.

Dr. Mizuno finished their conversation by checking his bandages, a little surprised but pleased that he seemed to be healing well already.

The hours dragged on. He fell asleep in fits and starts, telling himself it was to help replenish his own energy but dreading being unconscious without a single ward or protection around him. It was hard to keep track of the people that came in his room because he was so tired; sometimes his observation of people only lasted a few seconds, and they seemed more like people from a dream than personnel actually there.

An overly cheerful assistant nurse, who tried again to compel him to offer up a vein for collection. A lone medical student with long green hair just to take notes on his condition. She didn’t even speak to him. A different assistant to change the dressings on his chest and back. Lunch was a single serving of miso broth through a wide straw.

And then there was – the incident.

“What do you mean, ‘change my catheter?’” Nephrite challenged the nurse. His mind raced – he knew kathíēmi, ancient Greek for ‘to descend,’ so maybe something to drain fluid from him. But the only thing plugged into his body was the IV drip, and that was putting saline and medication into his bloodstream. “What catheter?”

* * * * * * * *

An assistant nurse walking down the hall startled at the noise of a sudden howl like nothing she’d ever heard before from a human being, and then an impressive string of cursing in what sounded like Japanese, English, and something else.

GET OUT!” a man roared, hard enough to make the whiteboards on the walls rattle.

She scrambled to the nearest phone to call security, but a nurse ran out of the room ahead and waved her down. Carrying two – two? - catheters, she told the assistant, “YOU help that man from now on, I’m busy!”

Who would have thought such a handsome young man would have that much of a temper? Then again, the wealthy had their quirks. When the assistant brought in a bedpan for him, he grabbed it and threw it at her head. She was later told, by more experienced nurses, to be thankful it wasn’t used at the time.

* * * * * * * *

Humiliation was the most exciting thing to happen to Nephrite all day. They finally, finally seemed to respect his wishes since nobody bothered him again, not even to pass by his open doorway.

He would still erase all of their memories the first chance he got.

The experience of fatigue and boredom was a two-headed kind of suffering to Nephrite. He almost missed the kind of torture sessions Queen Beryl would dole out when she was truly angry. They never lasted long, meant to punish and not to kill, but they set every nerve ending on fire. The few times it happened to Nephrite he’d always been mobile enough to teleport back to his quarters when she finished, even if the pain lingered for days.

In his feeble state, trying and failing to think of an escape plan, it took Nephrite a while to notice a figure lingering at the door of his private room. The monitor noted when his heart skipped a beat, but it wasn’t a youma come to finish him off.

It was Naru.

* * * * * * * *

She looked down first. “I hope it’s all right that I came to visit you. I just wanted to make sure that you were okay.”

Nephrite considered it. The stupid hospital gown looked ridiculous on him, with strange and intimate gaps for medical access. At least he had a blanket that covered him up to his torso. He’d gone longer without bathing during certain stints in the Dark Kingdom, but he’d only gotten a superficial sponge bath since being admitted so who knew what he smelled like. Stars knew what his hair looked like. And then there was how weak he was – anyone could see he was physically and strategically beaten. Was such embarrassment worth her company?

“Sure,” he croaked, and then tried to clear his throat.

Up close Naru could see dark circles under his eyes, and his skin was a little grey. And his hair – best not to comment. He was still the most handsome man she’d ever seen. “I didn’t think to bring you anything. I’m sorry.”

“It’s all right.”

“How are you feeling?”

Nephrite downright snorted, feeling cynical. “Fantastic. I could go for a pick-up game of tennis right now.”

Naru smiled. “The real you is still very charming.”

“Now you’re the one lying.”

She wanted to touch his face, or maybe just his arm, but even though they’d been much closer before it suddenly seemed presumptuous. “I’m so glad you’re alive, Nephrite. I don’t know what I would have done if you—”

Naru had to stop. He was right there in front of her, alive and talking, but the very thought made her throat close up. He’d been so close to dying. It felt like the specter of some other reality, one where Nephrite was just a cold corpse because of her, hung right over this one and she couldn’t escape the dead weight of it.

Nephrite went to raise his left hand to her, but all he managed to do was to bang it on the rail of the hospital bed, jostling the peripheral IV line at the same time. He grimaced at the sting and his own weakness. How the mighty King of the Western Cardinal had fallen. Trying again only provided the same result, and he actually started to growl under his breath, but then Naru put her hand on his to still him. A warm, strong grip.

Before he even realized what he was doing, Nephrite had opened his palm to link hands properly with her. It was like a reflex.

He saw a flush spread across her pretty face, even though she didn’t let up her grasp. Such a large response to the smallest touch. Well. He certainly wasn’t unaware of the majestic effect he usually had on women. And some men. Nephrite had used his considerable looks and charms in both the human realm and the Dark Kingdom to achieve his goals. Making use of every possible resource he had was part of the reason he hadn’t just survived in the Dark Kingdom, but thrived there and then on Earth.

Still... Naru didn’t belong to that group anymore. That group of people, youma or human, who he had manipulated, tricked, brainwashed, or just brute forced into serving him over the centuries. Soldiers and spies, smiths and craftsmen. Healers and chandlers, clothiers and cordwainers. CEOs and stock traders.

But Nephrite didn’t know what Naru was, not anymore. What did he need her for now? What made some essential part of him need her? Nephrite shook his head to dispel his wild thoughts. It would come to him eventually.

Then her hand shifted and his eyes widened, betraying his surprise. “Naru, your hands!” Her skin was smooth and unbroken, not even bruised, and even the rope burns that had been around her wrists were gone. “How did you heal so quickly?”

Naru had gained some kind of healing capability while he’d been temporarily robbed of his own. The irony of it was completely unfair, even if it was good that she finally had some kind of relief against being monster bait.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t know anything, except I think something happened last night. I mean, to me. Obviously something happened last night to you.”

“Then you don’t know where your sudden strength came from either?” he asked.

Naru shook her head. “No. But I think I heard a voice, someone asking if I was ready to be strong. And then I was able to fight back and save you.”

“A voice? Did you recognize it?”

“No, although it was definitely a woman. Could it have been someone from – you know, where you work?”

But that was a dead end. What youma could or would whisper in a girl’s ear and then grant her special abilities? Well - actually, that was exactly what Nephrite’s youma did to their victims.

Now that he thought of it, and since he was physically touching her, if Nephrite concentrated he thought he could feel something. Not exactly his own spell craft, which forced a human faster than normal to their point of destiny and propped up their lifeforce for sacrifice. But something – no, the more he focused the less Nephrite could make out. He was fatigued enough that it might be something his tired mind was just making up. In any case, he could tell Naru wasn’t brainwashed or spiritually poisoned.

“I heard a voice as well,” he recalled. Offering information that seemed important or personal was usually a good way to establish trust between himself and someone Nephrite wanted loyal to him; he’d learned that long ago. He only remembered the technique after musing out loud to Naru. “But it sounded just like you, calling for help. It was barely a minute between hearing it and teleporting to your room, but you had already been taken.”

“You heard me?” Naru’s voice was a shaky whisper. “I did call out for you Nephrite, when those monsters first grabbed me. It seems stupid now; there’s no way you could have heard me. I guess I was doing it out of instinct. But then how did you hear me from so far away?”

“I don’t know, which means we shouldn’t assume it will happen again. I’ll secure another way for you to be able to contact me whenever you need.” He should still have a few communication crystals in storage somewhere – if nothing else, he would get her a mobile phone although they were nowhere near as small and discreet as a message crystal.

Nephrite flexed the hand holding Naru’s, and took a moment to close his eyes and rest back against the hospital bed. He drew in a deep breath, exhaling through his nose. Everything was still tiring, even just talking. At least for now they were both safe. The stars knew everything, but they rarely told everything. They had pointed Nephrite to an ordinary girl, and the strong connection between them. Why? Even for a practitioner of magic, it was a mystery to him.

“Nephrite... why did you save me?”

He opened his eyes and looked right past her to the opposite wall. This again. “I told you, I don’t know,” was his flat reply. “Everything I told you has been a lie, Naru. Stop asking me questions. You’ll never hear the truth.”

She wished they had chairs in this place, so she could sit beside him in his hospital bed. Nephrite was straightforward enough when they talked about fighting or magic. But when it came to his feelings he wasn’t just closed off, it was like he was in denial.

Maybe it was the setting. A hospital was such a cold, sterile place. Lacking in good human emotion, not so different from how it seemed to be lacking in other human beings in general. There was a wrongness to it that she was deliberately ignoring to focus on Nephrite. Their last talk had been so much more organic... open... romantic, even. At least until he’d been stabbed all the way through his entire torso.

Something had changed for her. Last night it didn’t matter that he couldn’t tell her the truth, because Naru already knew it. That had been enough for her. But then they sat together under a canopy of tree branches and stars, and they talked, and it was like meeting each other again for the first time, and then he almost died in her arms.

She wanted to hear it now. She wanted that comfort, that... strength of confirmation. It looked like she’d have to help Nephrite get there.

But, his safety came first. And even though Naru wasn’t religious – his soul, too.

“Are you going to leave your evil organization behind now?” she asked. Even before they tried to murder him, Naru had listened to his hints about what kind of a place this Dark Kingdom was, and what kind of people dwelled within it. “It’s obviously not safe.”

At his silence, she went on. “I know you’ve been involved with them for a long time, and been forced to do bad things, but maybe the time is right for you to leave it all behind. Can’t you just... not go back to this Dark Kingdom? They obviously don’t care about you. And I know you’re not evil, Nephrite. I see how good and kind and noble you really are.”

She tightened her grip on his hand for a second, remembering the razor-sharp thorns that had been meant for her burst through Nephrite instead with a spray of blood.

“And everyone else would see it too if you lived a normal life. I think you could do it if you tried; live a good life. Maybe even...” she took a quick, brave breath, “a life with me?”

“You’re just like those Sailor Soldiers,” he muttered. Good and kind; Nephrite didn’t think he’d even been so uncomfortable at praise directed at him. As if being good and kind was easy. Good and kind weren’t how he had survived for so long.

“But you—”

“I don’t know any other kind of life!” he snapped. As if he hadn’t ever brooded over why he couldn’t remember anything from his childhood, or even his adolescence, anything from before he served Queen Beryl. As if he hadn’t wondered about the mystery of his own mind once or twice every century while he’d been stuck in the Dark Kingdom, wasting decades on the smallest fragments on the memory of a memory. As if he hadn’t pushed his divination powers to their limits multiple times with nothing to show for it except passing out and injuring himself from magical exhaustion. As if it hadn’t aggravated him enough to earn a reputation for possessing a wild temper, because he’d never get an answer. As if knowing would have made a difference for him anyway, while he was stuck living in a shadowy hell.

He recoiled in a breath when he finally noticed Naru’s downcast face – he’d never been openly angry with her before. Not since he thought she was Sailor Moon, toying with him in a deserted shopping mall.

Nephrite tried to explain. “I can hardly remember my life before the Dark Kingdom, Naru.”

The distress behind Naru’s eyes drained away. “Nothing at all?” she whispered.

“Bits and pieces. In my dreams.”

“Of what?”

He’d never talked about it out loud before. “Just... green grass, brown soil, white horses. And a young man. A dark-haired young man.” He shook his head. “I don’t know. I don’t remember.”

There was a silence as they both became lost in their own thoughts. “I can’t pretend to understand what you’re going through,” Naru started, “and I know it must be difficult. But I also know that things have to change for you.”

Nephrite felt a headache building. “Naru—”

“So why don’t I help you with that?” she said.

His eyebrows furrowed. “What?”

“If I can show you a bit more of a normal life, a good life, do you think you could try to lead one?”

Nephrite just stared at her. How could he make this girl understand? There was no point. The Dark Kingdom was going to win. They were always going to escape from their sealed off banishment. They were always going to finish what they started a thousand years ago on the moon.

No, he realized – Naru probably would understand, eventually. And she’d fight for him anyway.

It made him want to fight for her in return. To do that, he needed to recover his strength. But that couldn’t happen in a human hospital, even with the doctors and their miraculous devices.

“If you really want to help me, there’s something else I have to do first.”

“What’s that?”

“I need to get out of here,” said Nephrite. At Naru’s confusion, he explained further. “My base – the dimensional space around the mansion – it’s the safest place for me right now. It’s warded, unlike this hospital, so no youma can get in. I think I might even have some healing spells written down somewhere... It’ll be easier to recover there.”

So, it would have been safer to go to his base last night after all. Naru shook her head to clear her regret and shame. It wasn’t helpful now. “What do you need me to do?”

“Call a cab; make sure it’s not under either of our names. Then—” Nephrite grimaced. He had to take a moment. “Then I’ll need your help getting downstairs. And probably getting into the taxi.”

His beautiful Ferrari had likely been towed by now, but even if it hadn’t, the focus for now was to remain incognito. A common taxi car was better than a bright red sports car. He’d tap or put a hand on the driver’s shoulder at the opportune moment, offering a random question or comment right at the junction between reality and his dark dimension. No such mechanism was needed for anyone leaving the space, and it meant Nephrite could be dropped off right at the doorstop without needing to walk up the entire path. If they could do that without detection from the Dark Kingdom, there was no reason to think Zoisite would make one of his surprise visits.

She nodded, and gave his hand a squeeze. “Okay. I’ll be right back.”

Nephrite felt himself make a little half-smile at Naru as she walked out of the room. A human, reassuring him. How quaint. But he had to admit, just to himself, that it was strangely effective.

He closed his eyes again. For the first time since waking up after surgery, it seemed like things might work out according to plan. Even if that plan was just to play it safe and out of sight, and return to his customary, Kingly health. Nephrite was ready to fall asleep after that entire conversation with Naru. What a strange acceptance - when was the last time he’d fallen asleep in someone else’s presence? Never, clearly, since he was still alive.

A pair of light, feminine footsteps stepped into his room and came to his side.

“How long until it gets here?” he asked, meaning the taxi. He kept his eyes closed, not wanting to take the effort of opening them.

That was a mistake.

A hand slammed into his trachea, pinning him to the bed by his neck.

The youma leered down at him. Josi was one of the interchangeable secretaries of Sanjouin Enterprises, slightly less forgettable than the others because she was one of his youma plants there. Her human form had fluffy, dirty-blond hair and she was dressed in a plain skirt and blouse, with loafers instead of heels. And on her face was a gleefully murderous expression. The human glamour faded around her eyes first, as they grew in size and dilated while Nephrite began choking to death under her unrelenting hold. His attempts to push her off with his one working arm, and both legs under the layers of a sheet and blanket, were the meager thrashes of wounded prey flailing against the inevitable.

“Hello, your highness. What’s the human phrase? Oh, yes–”

Beyond the small black dots suddenly crowding Nephrite’s vision, she smiled: an open maw with too many rows of cracked, serrated teeth.

“Long live the king.”

* * * * * * * *

to be continued...

* * * * * * * *


Author's Notes:

a) Some of the reviews for the last chapter mentioned all the new characters. But other than Chizuru, guess what – none of them are OCs! India Cohen was the slayer right before Buffy Summers.

And she was called in 1992, while she was living in Tokyo, Japan. Coincidence?!?

There are other coincidences too, like with the Heian era slayer and her friend, but I’m not going to spoil that just yet. Read Tales of the Slayer if you want a hint of what’s to come. :)

return to Index / go to Chapter 5

The Nephrite and Naru Treasury