by NaruMolly (aka Gwenne-chan, or Bard)


* * * * * * * *

This part of this fanfic, I would like to dedicate to my friend becki.

Naru sighed deeply, leaning back against the marble and gold column, and looking out at the dancers that swirled before her on the dance floor. Three years on the Moon, and she still felt out of place on the Moon Kingdom, despite having been accepted as one of Queen Serenity's honor guard for the young princess. The princess was just about her age, as were the other eight girls in the Guard, but for some reason, they all felt uncomfortable around her. Then again, of all of them, she was the only human.

The only one from Earth.

She sighed, looking over to her brother who danced to the rippling music of the strange bard that Naru could never remember not being at Earth's court. At least her elder brother was enjoying himself. She smiled slightly to herself, shaking her head and sighing, crossing her arms over the smooth silk bodice of her ball gown. Endymion had fallen in love with the Moon Princess at first sight, as if it were some kind of faerie story. "I thought that this was a dance, not a 'stand'."

Naru jumped, then turned and laughed, seeing one of Endymion's own honor guard standing behind her with a broad grin on his pleasant face--one of the commanders in the army of the earth. "Jadeite, I just don't--" she blushed and shrugged.

"Kaela's going through a lot to play some great music and you're not dancing. I'm going to have to have some words with Nephrite." Jadeite grinned.

Naru jumped at Jadeite, knocking him flat and bawling in his face. "Don't you dare tell him!" she shrieked, grabbing a pillow and smashing it into Jadeite's face.

"That looks like fun, Princess Naru, but is it really all that dignified?"

Naru jumped up face flaming. Jadeite remained on the floor, a huge grin on his face as he tucked his arms behind his head and pretended to whistle. She turned to see Zoisite, his long gold hair in a careful tail over the neat velvet of his tunic. Princess Ami, one of Selene's other honor guard members, as usual, was tucked under his arm. "I--uh--"

"Allow me," said Princess Rei, another of the honor guard, her raven hair up in an elaborate braid rather than her normal loose flow as she strolled over. She grabbed the pillow from where Naru had dropped it and flung it at Jadeite's face with a broad grin, sending a wink at Naru. "That’s how you have to deal with this moron."

Naru blinked, then lowered her eyes with a blush as the other two of Endymion's aides came over, each with one of the other guard members under their arms. The silver-haired Kunzite, frowned, leaving Princess Minako behind as he stepped forward to go tilt Naru's face up gently with his slender fingers. "What's wrong?" he murmured, silver eyes concerned.

Naru looked up at him, and more specifically at Kunzite's other companion--the one with Princess Makoto under his arm. "No--nothing," she turned and left the ballroom rapidly, Kunzite staring after her with concerned eyes.

* * * * * * * *

"What's wrong, Naru?"

Naru turned from staring off the balcony to see Princess Makoto and the others in the Moon Princess's honor guard approaching. Naru looked at Makoto for a moment, then turned back around, biting her lip and clenching her eyes against tears, though she pretended to be watching the candle-lit gardens below. "Nothing."

"Something’s wrong," said Princess Minako gently. "The Princess's Guard doesn't turn and run from friends for 'nothing.' "

Naru looked over her shoulder slightly, then shook her head, turning back around. "It's nothing, Minako. Just--just leave me alone."

Naru flinched when Makoto draped a companionable arm around her shoulders and Ami hugged her from the other side, the others moving to her back, hemming her in. "Naru, come on--tell us what's wrong! We're all friends here!"

Ami nodded. "Yes, besides--the guys have left us all to go talk with your brother." She smiled, leaning forward so Naru could see her face and wrinkled her nose playfully, "It’s no good being at a dance alone."

Minako glanced at Rei a moment. "Wait--that's it, isn't it. The dance." She bit her lip.

Naru felt a tear sliding down her cheek, but did nothing to stop it. "Yes--"

Makoto cocked her head. "There's plenty of people who'd love to dance with you, Naru! Hell--people love red-hair."

Naru stared at her hands. "I--don't want to dance with any of them--"

"Someone specific in mind?" guessed Rei.

Naru flinched and nodded, not replying. "Who?" asked Ami after a moment.

Naru was saved from saying anything by another voice breaking in. "Pardon, Highnesses." Kaela stepped out on the balcony, her long hair flowing loosely down her back. "May I join you? I am resting my hands and my voice while some other musicians play, and my friends seem to have vanished with Prince Endymion."

Minako nodded distractedly. "Sure, Kaela."

Kaela's fingers reached up to stroke the silver of her locket, drawing all of their eyes. "Is there something wrong?"

"Naru's lonely," said Makoto with a faint smile. "She's interested in someone."

Kaela's beautiful face split into a gentle smile. "Oh? And have you told this person, Naru?" she asked, comfortable with the young girl after so long in the court of Earth.

Naru tore her eyes from the locket and turned away, her eyes filling. "No. He--already has someone--"

"Who?" asked Makoto. "We'll beat her up."

Naru choked and sobbed, Selene and Ami enveloping her in their arms in concern. "Who's this person you're interested in?" asked Kaela gently, placing a silken handkerchief in the weeping girl’s hand, stroking her hair back softly from her face.

Naru looked out of the corner of her eye at Makoto. "Nephrite--"

* * * * * * * *

"We're going to do what?" asked Kunzite incredulously, staring at Zoisite.

The golden-haired man laughed, tossing his long hair over his shoulder and thumping the Prince of Earth over the head with the pillow. "Look--her Highness is depressed. She hasn't helped me do something crazy in over three weeks--I’m getting pretty worried about her. I figure this will cheer her up some."

Nephrite pushed his auburn hair back from his face and regarded his friend with wary blue eyes. "How can you be sure? She never seems comfortable around me any more."

Jadeite grinned. "Sure there's not a reason?"

Nephrite shot him a hard look. "What's that supposed to mean?"

Endymion raised an eyebrow, leaning against the wall. "Really, Jadeite--do you know something you’re not telling us? I mean--my sister just ran out of the room in tears."

"Oh come on; she's jumpy around you, Neph--she looks like you've just put a knife in her back when you and your friend Makoto are together." Jadeite spread his hands. "Who was teasing me about doing that around the Princess of Mars just the other day?"

Nephrite frowned. "That's insane, Jadeite! How could she possibly like--it’s--"

Endymion exchanged glances with Kunzite. "Are you saying my sister is in love with Nephrite?"

Jadeite grinned. "Well--I don't know for sure, but she's acting a lot like you were before Kaela talked you into speaking with Princess Selene."

Nephrite colored, "But that's--"

"So?" Kunzite said suddenly, smiling. "You were just telling Makoto, Minako, and I how much you were interested in her, were you not? You can hardly pass this opportunity to try and win her, if there’s even a slim chance that she does already love you." Kunzite met Endymion's startled look when the Prince turned to stare at him. "So what is the problem?"

Zoisite grinned. "I think we can make this work to your advantage--" he said with a wink. "--provided that you can all manage to remember your parts." He moved over to poke the blushing Nephrite in the ribs with a slender finger.

* * * * * * * *

"You're sure?" Naru asked for about the twentieth time.

"Come on, Naru! Me? Date?" Makoto giggled, her eyes warm. "Nah! Nephrite and I just go work out and stuff. You know--sort of like you and Zoi do--or you and Kunzite."

Kaela, in the lead of the royal procession paused, her face quirking into a slight, thoughtful smile as if she’d heard something that none of the others could. "I had better get back to the dance, Highnesses," she said, her eyes sparkling. She bowed, then strode off down the marble corridors, her long gown flowing out behind her.

"She's up to something," said Minako with a slight smile.

"She’s always up to something," Makoto pointed out with a smirk.

"Considering that Zoisite is one of her closest friends," said Ami with a fond smile, "I don't doubt it."

"Hey--wasn't it Naru’s idea to run Armsmaster Viridian's dirty underwear up the Palace flagpole last month," said Minako, grinning broadly, poking the smaller girl in the ribs.

"There was never any proof that I--" Naru blushed while Selene giggled. "Um--"

The Moon Princess hugged Naru warmly, then turned back in the way they were going, keeping her arm around the other girl's shoulders as they walked through the Palace hallways. "Well--I don't blame you. He's so--uh--"

Makoto grinned. "He's got rough edges, but he's a good trainer. And he really is a wonderful guy, if you crack through all the crabbiness."

"He's not all that bad," said Naru with a blush. "He's sort of like a grandfather when you're not on the training floor."

Selene shook her head, "I don't see how you all do it--that fighting stuff. I can hardly lift a sword, much less swing one."

Rei grinned. "That's why we do it, and you don't."


They all stopped, startled as a dark-clad figure dove from out of the hedge to one side, straight at the princess of Mars. Before the raven-haired girl could react, she was on her back, with the dark figure sitting on her chest, smacking her roughly with a pillow. "What in--" Makoto said, grabbing the figure's shoulder, her face dangerous.

"Incoming," said the figure, turning, a broad grin on his face.


"What--" asked Naru, startled, taking a step back, her hand instinctively on the hilt of the long knife at her waist, even in the fine gown.

Five more figures dove in, pillows swinging. Makoto was buried under two assailants, laughing the whole time. Naru stood by the Moon Princess, uncertain what to do. Then Kaela was there, flinging pillows at the Princess's honor guard, and diving into the fray herself. "Defend yourself, ladies!" she yelled, laughing and swatting Prince Endymion on the hindquarters with a pillow as she dove into stand by Naru and Selene as the other girls stood, grinning.

"Aren't those your friends?" asked Minako, ducking a wild swing from Zoisite which connected with Ami's head and the two of them tumbled to one side with a laugh.

Kaela tossed her hair, easily catching Jadeite on the back of the head with her pillow. "Yes, but then, I also serve Naru." Her darkest blue eyes sparkled with good humor as she winked playfully.

"Ah! The Princess!" Zoisite crowed, driving for the inner group.

Naru's eyes widened in surprise, weakly raising her own pillow--

--a heavy weight knocked her to the ground, out of the way while Selene laughed and dove after the golden-haired man her own pillow swinging rapidly.

Naru struggled a moment, and she turned around to stare--directly into Nephrite's face.

She forgot to breathe.

"Are you all right?" the auburn-haired man murmured, his arms curled under her, holding her off the smooth marble of the floor.

Naru stilled, eyes wide in surprise, but managed to draw in a breath. "I--"

"Nephrite! Help!!"

He looked up, not moving from his protective crouch over her to where Kunzite and Kaela fought back to back, the others apparently having agreed to team up on them. Nephrite turned his head back to Naru. "Shall we go help them?"

Naru paused, then smiled. "Sure."

* * * * * * * *

Zoisite rolled on the floor, laughing. "I can't believe it! Cut down in our prime!"

Ami swatted him with a pillow one more time, then burst into giggles. Jadeite clutched his chest melodramatically. "And by an old bard, a slip of a girl, and two of our trusted friends!"

"Traitors," Endymion teased with a grin, his arm around Selene's shoulders, his clothing and hair rumpled.

Kaela's face stilled suddenly, one hand stopping on Kunzite's shoulder as all the mirth vanished from her face in an instant, being replaced with an old, deep anguish. Looking troubled, she got up and bowed. "I--really should get back, Highnesses." She shook her head when Kunzite's brow creased in concern as he drew in his breath to speak. She turned and left down one of the side passages before anyone could say anything else.

* * * * * * * *

Naru smiled a bit sadly at Makoto and hugged the taller girl firmly. "I'll try to keep in touch, but--"

Makoto grinned down at her, though the smile did seem a bit forced. "Hey. Don't get yourself into trouble. At least not when we’re not there to be in it, too."

"I don't see why there should be such a problem with you both spending so much time here," Selene said, tears in her eyes. "Why should your people--"

Kunzite, his arms around Minako sighed. "We're a suspicious people, I suppose." he said with a sigh. "But perhaps Princess Naru and the four of us returning to Earth with Kaela will stay some of the complaints--and perhaps we can all come back again soon."

Endymion sighed unhappily. "I don't have to like it, though. But Father thinks--" he shrugged.

"The wedding's still on, isn't it?" asked Ami suddenly, looking away from Zoisite's emerald gaze.

Naru broke in before Endymion could speak. "It had better be," she smiled slightly, settling back against Nephrite's shoulder, "we've spent a small fortune on it all ready."

Rei burst out laughing. "Well--all right." She looked at the red-haired girl and smiled. "You be careful down there, all right? Jadeite's not exactly the safest person in the world to be around."

Kunzite smiled broadly, slapping palms with Nephrite. "That's what the two of us are for, remember? To prevent those two rascals from endangering the princess's life."

Jadeite stuck his tongue out, but his eyes were worried. "Well--they can't say anything about us coming back for visits, can they? Just not living here."

"Don't guess so."

* * * * * * * *


Queen Serenity looked up from her desk, just as startled as Endymion's father did as well, he having come with the transport to take his daughter back. "Kaela! You startled me," the Queen of the Moon said, smiling. Then the smile dropped from her face. "What is wrong?"

"Majesties--there will be an attack. You must prepare for it."

Endymion's father blinked, glancing over at Serenity. "Kaela? Are you certain? Our scouts have mentioned nothing of--"

"You don't understand. They're not here now, but they will be. They always are. Please! You must prepare--"

"I am not going to raise an army," said Earth's monarch, "and leave it standing on words with no proof, Kayla--not with the distrust that is already developing between our kingdoms. The people of the Moon--and even those of the Earth who are staunch supporters of the Moon will see it as a breach of the treaties."

"And I cannot do that either," Serenity said sadly, shaking her head, "And for the same reasons."

"Proof--" Kaela said bitterly. "Always it is proof." She raised hell-filled eyes to them both. "Proof always comes too late." She glanced over at the two cats, who were watching her intently, then looked away once more. "As you will. I will do what I can, but--"

"Kaela--I have known you all my life," Endymion's and Naru's father fought to find the words, "I don't see what's gotten into you! Why the sudden gloom sayings? You have seen the Earth through hundreds of wars--"

Kaela looked up sharply. "Not like this. Not this." She turned away, head bowed. "I--will try to prevent it myself--" she left the room swiftly.

Serenity looked over at her fellow monarch. "Perhaps there is something to her words." She sighed, rubbing her forehead. "Kaela is not one to get so upset without good cause. You saw her eyes--" Serenity broke of, frowning. "I really must remember to ask her why it is near impossible to remember anything about her appearance some day."

"I will keep a watch, my friend, for Kaela's mysterious attackers. Will you?"

She smiled back and nodded. "Of course." When he stood, she clasped his hand warmly. "Tell your wife 'Hello for me.' "

* * * * * * * *

"Where are they now?" asked Kunzite, arm around Naru's shoulders, Nephrite's arms around her waist, both of them trying to comfort the disturbed girl.

The scout panted, leaning on his thighs as he tried to regain his breath. "They destroyed Aeden, and are moving east--to the Capital."

Naru looked up worried. "If only Father had listened to Kaela a few months ago--"

"Well," said Jadeite grimly, "he didn't and here we are." He looked over at the musician who sat to one side, her beautiful face twisted into a pained, worried mask. "How did you know, Kaela?"

"I know. She always comes. Always."

"Who does?" queried Zoisite.

Kaela looked up. "Promise me something. Any woman who looks vaguely like me--who knows my name, though pronounces it strangely--run from her. Do not--"

"We can't promise to run, Kaela," Kunzite said softly. "What if she had Naru captive? Or you?"

Kaela flinched and nodded. "She could never hold me." She bowed her head finally, then spoke up again, her voice much softer, her hand gripped around the silver locket that she always wore. "I understand, though. You are right, Kunzite. I am sorry."

"What's wrong, Kaela? You've been--" Nephrite gestured helplessly.

She shook her head. "Nothing, Nephrite. Nothing. I am just--tired of--losing all that I care for." She stood quickly and left the Map Room.

Naru looked at the door she had left through as it closed. "She looks so--" she bit her lip, then sighed in a little exasperation. "I was going to say she looks horrible, but now I can’t remember for sure. How--how can you remember what she looks like, anyway? No one can."

"We can," said Zoisite with a shrug. "We always have been able to." He shook his head, pushing his long tail of hair back over his shoulders. "Don’t have any idea why we’re different."

"I don't like this," Jadeite said, rubbing at the back of his neck. "I just don't--I mean--Kaela's a damn incredible fighter with blades and all--and her magic is amazing--if she’s worried--"

"What choice do we have?" Kunzite said, frowning a bit unhappily. He rubbed a hand over his forehead wearily. "We each have to take our garrisons out to try to stop them before they reach here." He pointed to a place on the map. "If they break through past there--there’s virtually nowhere to stop them before they reach the walls of the capital."

Naru sat upright. "No!"

Nephrite kissed her cheek gently. "Naru, we have to. It's our duty." He paused, then grinned lopsidedly. "You can't kill us."

* * * * * * * *

An explosion of light that matched the pain on the back of his head. That was the last thing he could remember. His eyes flared open, suddenly, as he heard an anguished scream tearing through the silence--from a familiar voice.


Nephrite looked around hastily, but the elder man was not in sight, though the scream continued. "Oh shit. Oh--oh shit!"

Nephrite turned, wincing as his head throbbed in pain, centered around the back of his head. "Jadeite! Zoisite!"

The yellow-haired man looked over at Nephrite, eyes wide, gleaming in the dim light that was all that enabled them to see in the dark stone room. "Nephrite! It's that woman Kaela warned us about! She--"

Kunzite's scream cut off abruptly. Too abruptly. Zoisite slammed his fist into the wall, eyes filling, not even noticing the blood smeared across the delicate hand from the split knuckles. "Damn! It's about time they let him die," he turned away, burying his face in his hands, his long golden hair hanging dirty and untidy around his face. "They've been--doing that for hours!"

Nephrite's eyes widened and his heart ached for his friend. "Gods, Naru's going to be heart broken. Kunzite--he had really become close to her--"

Jadeite eyed him keenly. "And what about with you?"

Nephrite bowed his head. "I--"

A section of the wall swung inward, and a tall woman with red, yellow-rimmed eyes, and long red hair stepped in, her long gown splattered with blood. She looked about the cell with a cruel smile, seeming almost smug as though imagining each of their individual fates. Zoisite growled deep in his throat and launched himself at her--

--and slammed into some sort of invisible wall, crying out as a vicious arch of energy slammed him to the ground. "Very well--him next," said the woman, pointing to the downed man.

Two huge creatures wearing painted masks moved forward and dragged the unconscious man out.

And Jadeite and Nephrite were helpless to do anything.

* * * * * * * *

"It's too quiet," Jadeite said, lifting his head from his knees, face bleak. "Far too quiet."

Nephrite winced. "I guess--they have something different in mind for each of us." He looked down at his hands, closing his eyes in pain. "Whatever they did to Kunzite--I--guess they didn’t--"

"Or they took Zoi out of ear shot," Jadeite muttered miserably.

Nephrite looked at the other man sharply, but couldn't find anything to say that wasn’t a lie. Then the wall opened again.

Nephrite stood, his fists clenched, but was slammed back ruthlessly into the wall by one of the same, huge creatures that had come in before. Another two of the things drug an unresisting Jadeite out, the yellow-haired man’s eyes already void of life and hope. "No--" Nephrite choked, but was flung to the ground.

And then--he was alone in the darkness.

* * * * * * * *

Naru sobbed brokenly into her arms. Dead. All four of them--dead, their armies decimated. And the strange army was coming straight for them.

And from them, it would move to the Moon. Already its scouting forces engaged in bloody skirmishes on the distant surface.

Naru looked up at the night sky, peering at the silver disk that hung above her. "Be ready, Endymion. Oh please be ready. We can't keep them off--" she stood, face hardening. "But we're going to make them pay before we die. I’ll make them pay." She grabbed her sword from where it hung on the wall, and strode for the Map Room and the war council.

* * * * * * * *

Nephrite choked back a scream as the flames rose higher around him, searing already abused flesh. His head snapped back, cracking painfully into the stone post behind him, sending flashes of darkness across his vision as the movement jarred his already cracked skull. Some of the flames caught in his long, auburn hair, curling and blackening it, choking smoke curling up from it into his face. He got his eyes to focus on a small flame that began to make its way up a lock of his hair towards his face.

Perhaps it would be that which finally killed him--that would finally end his torment. "Enough."

The flames were suddenly gone, as was the searing heat, and Nephrite blinked in confusion, sagging against the tight bonds which cut into the flesh of his limbs. A slender-fingered hand grabbed his chin roughly, and he was forced to concentrate on keeping the pained groan from turning into a full scream of agony. Each delicate finger felt like a white-hot knife, driving into his skin, the grip like a vice. The red-eyed woman peered at him, a cruel smile on her face, Kunzite's and who knew who else's blood splattered all over her. "Didn’t like that? Care to try something else, perhaps?" She dropped his head, letting it fall back to his chest. "I will have you."

Nephrite managed to spit in her face. She hit him hard, though he still couldn’t escape into the oblivion of unconsciousness or death. "The others did as much, but they lost in the end. Oh, yes. They lost." The woman's eyes flared with cruel fire and a nasty smirk spread across her sensuous lips. "That is a splendid idea."

Nephrite was beyond caring, trying to concentrate his thoughts on letting the pain overwhelm him--to take him out of this woman's clutches. Then, something sent all thoughts of death from his mind. A soft, deep voice, cutting through the silence with a simple whisper, as though he had shouted. "Nephrite."

He managed to raise his head, eyes wide. "K-Kunzite--"

The elder man stood there, to one side of the woman. Kunzite shook his silver-haired head, with seeming sadness, a taut group of lines forming around his silver eyes as though he fought internally with something. He wore clean clothing--a strange, drab uniform, the collar flopping open to show a scar-riddled chest that was healing before his eyes. "Nephrite--"

Nephrite could just make out the forms of the other two in the background, though there was something odd about Zoisite--though he couldn't place what it was. But it didn’t matter. The auburn-haired man realized what had happened. Turning hate-filled eyes to the red-haired woman he snarled. "I will never join you."

"Oh," she sneered thoughtfully, drawing an obscenely gentle hand down Nephrite's cheek, "I think you will."

"Not while red blood pumps through my veins--and not even after it stills," Nephrite spat. "I'm not betraying Naru."

Beryl smiled thinly. "Red blood? Ah. I see."

Somehow--Kunzite had enough mind left to wince and turn away as Nephrite’s screaming began once more.

* * * * * * * *

Naru screamed out the command for a retreat. Ducking a rain of arrows, she turned and ducked behind the crumpled ruins of a column to avoid a blast of magical fire. The column had once held up a beautifully carved canopy of stone that hung over the thrones. And beneath the broken rubble--

She fought back tears. Her mother and father--and some of their guards and some children, crushed under the piles of broken stone. Nothing had survived that fiery blast. Even she, several hundred feet from the door when it had happened, was badly scorched. "Get to the civilians! Get them to the safe location!" she yelled, to the ragged remains of her troops. "We have to abandon the city!"

The officers nodded, and then dispersed into the smoke, all leading their remaining forces towards each of their assigned ones of the scattered hiding places of the non-combatants trapped within the city. Naru, along with her remaining ten men, ran for her apartments where several of the court's children had been hidden, near her escape passage.

They ran--

Straight into the largest part of the invading army.

Somehow, Naru made it through, though not without injury. None of her men made it though, the last giving his life to give her a push through the lines of enemies so she could make it to the children. Tears streamed down her face for each of her men that fell.

And for the familiar faces that raised swords against her.

Suddenly--the hallways before her were clear. Warily, she ran down the hall to her rooms. Bodies were scattered around the floor, but the walls seemed to be intact--as did the door. Biting her lip, she listened a moment, then kicked in the door. "Children--get ready to--"

Kunzite and Nephrite turned from the fireplace, the children huddled in a terrified group near the bed. The sword fell from Naru's numb fingers, hitting the floor with a soft ring, almost like breaking glass. "Neph--" Her eyes filled, and she took a step towards him, reaching out her hand--

It was only then that she noticed the stark uniform he wore. The uniform she had seen a thousand times today. "No--"

There was a visible struggle behind Nephrite's eyes, and he grimaced. "Naru--"

She looked to the children, tears filling her eyes. "Let--let them go--" she pleaded, letting her hand fall to her side as she bowed her head, too weary to fight any more.

Kunzite looked at her a moment, then reached over and pressed a stone on the fireplace that didn’t seem any different than the others. The back wall of the fireplace swung open, revealing a dark set of stairs leading down into the black silence. "Go," he told the children, his voice strained, as though he had to fight to get the single syllable out. When none moved, he grabbed the shoulder of one of the older ones, pressing one of the glass spheres that contained a light spell--one of the ones that was used to light the palace. "Go quickly. I--we can't hold her off much longer. Go, Motoki. Get the others to safety!"

The blonde boy gulped, but nodded, his small hand clutching at the glass sphere. He waved his free hand, and the other children filed into the passage, he taking up the rear. Kunzite closed it after him--and hit it with a blast of raw power that left Naru staring, melting the very bricks together. "So we will not be able to follow," Kunzite said flatly.

Naru could only stare blankly as Kunzite crossed to the door of the room and looked out into the hallway, his emotionless face showing only signs of wariness. Her eyes were drawn away from the silver-haired man when Nephrite's hand came to a gentle rest on her shoulder. His eyes were filled with self-loathing, a single tear tracking down his cheek. "Forgive me, Naru. I love you." He caught her as she crumpled, his dagger hilt crashing into her temple.

* * * * * * * *

Naru groaned and opened her eyes, her head pounding in pain. She raised a hand to her forehead, and encountered a painful, blood-caked lump on the temple. Grimacing, she pushed herself up and looked around, reaching for the sword at her waist.

No sword--it was by the door where she’d dropped it.

The door.


Kunzite standing by the door--Nephrite taking her into his arms, a tear on his face--

Utter silence in the city.

Naru moaned a negative, crawling to her sword where it lay, then staggering to her feet. Turning to her charred desk, she rummaged through a blasted drawer, pulling out the wand that had been given to her as a symbol of her position in the Moon Princess’s honor guard. She staggered into the hallway, then, looking around, desperate to see a sign of some other life--any sign, even a cockroach. But there was nothing--not even wind. All around her was utter desolation--the ceiling and most of one wall gone. And there were bodies everywhere. She was the only thing other that moved. Even the flies, and the normal carrion eaters that would have normally been drawn to the feast presented them were strangely absent.

Nephrite. And Kunzite. They had saved her. For this.

Tears streamed unheeded down Naru's cheeks as she stumbled through the rubble, numb. She had to get to her brother. He was the only thing she had left. She had to warn him.

Gathering the remainders of her energy, she raised her eyes to the moon.

* * * * * * * *

"Prince Endymion!"

He turned, jumping. One of the Moon Queen's cats skidded to a halt at his feet--Luna, the darker one of the pair. "Luna!" He looked around, making sure no one else could see him as he crouched down beside the small animal. "What is it?"

"Your sister! Your sister is here!"

"She's still alive?!" Endymion he asked urgently, as he leaned closer to the cat, whispering to make sure no one else could hear, pulling off his mask. His heart contracted painfully. "How!?"

Luna shook her head slightly. "She refuses to speak to anyone but you. She's--been badly hurt. Physically--she’s covered in burns, and has taken several nasty blows--including one to her head. She keeps crying about a betrayal." The cat paused, shaking her head. "I don't think she made it through completely sane. Whatever it was like down there--it--broke something within her."

Endymion closed his eyes in pain. "Where is she?"

"This way. Ami and Makoto are with her."

Endymion replaced his mask and followed the cat, his jaw clenched in sick worry. "Good. Ami's the best doctor here." He slipped from shadow to shadow behind the cat, eyes not really seeing the splendor around him. "If only Kunzite and--and Nephrite especially hadn't died. Or if Kaela hadn't vanished like that. Nephrite's death had--already hurt Naru. And the other three’s deaths did, too." He sighed, looking down. "Maybe more than it hurt me, for all that they were my friends, too." He didn't notice the cat's sudden, considering stare.

They came to a door in one of the back hallways--near where he could remember a pillow fight less than a year before. The hall was deserted now, though, save for where light shone through the crack under one of the doors. He pushed open the door, half-fearing what he would see.

His sister was bundled into a bed, sobbing brokenly into Makoto's shoulder, Ami sitting to one side, scraps of bloody cloth crumpled in her lap. His sister's head was wrapped in a bloody bandage, and Endymion's eyes could pick out the fading glow from one of Rei's burn salves on the skin that showed on her arms and hands, as well as on her face. Makoto looked up. "Oh! Prince Endymion!" Her face was bleak as she gently stroked the weeping girl’s hair.

Ami looked up sharply, then her eyes filled. "I'm glad you're here. We--can't seem to reach her."

Endymion crouched at the bedside, laying gentle hands on his sister's blanket covered knee. "Naru!" She raised her head from Makoto's shoulder, agonized blue eyes fixing on him. For a long moment, she didn't seem to recognize him. "Sis?" he said, gently, a cold pit in his stomach, biting his lip. All at once, Recognition flooded into her semi-sane eyes, and she crumpled into his arms, sobbing bitterly. He held her carefully, moving to sit with his back against the side of the bed, her cradled in his lap as he stroked her hair. "It's all right. You're safe here."

Naru pulled away slightly, voice rising in pitch with strain. "No! No! They'll come. They know the defenses!" The fear pushed away her anguish, at least temporarily.

"We can handle them," Makoto said gently. "You just rest, okay?"

"No!" She grabbed Endymion's shoulder. "No! They weren't dead! They got them! Endymion! You have to get out. You all have to hide!" Her face crumpled again and she began helplessly sobbing once more.

Endymion's eyes met Ami's over his sister's bowed head, questioning, though he had a feeling he didn’t want to know the answer. Ami looked away from her computer screen, lowering the device she’d used to scan Naru while she’d been raving, and gave a single, sad shake of her head. Endymion flinched and held his sister closer, wrapping his cloak around her. "Oh, Naru--" he half-groaned.

"It's gone, Endymion," Naru managed between sobs. "Everything. The city. Mother and Father--" Endymion bit back his own tears. "No--no more!"

"Easy, Naru. You don't have to fight anymore. We can handle it," Makoto said, her voice husky. "You can go help get the children to safety, or something."

"Children--" she choked and buried her face in Endymion's shoulder. "No safety. Not any more."

Endymion could only exchange helpless glances with Ami and Makoto as he gently rocked his sister’s battered form.

* * * * * * * *

Naru slipped carefully away from the pack of children that she had been secreted away with, her head aching, but not enough to hinder her. There were guards with them, but her presence or absence would make no difference to their survival--they had seemed a bit unnerved by her anyway. They were all doomed, and she knew it.

She slipped amongst the finely dressed crowd, standing out in her tattered and stained clothes more than she ever did. Her sword and the bloody bandages she wore drew many nervous glances, but she ignored them. Guards stared--but no one stopped her. Not even the fiercest opponents of the alliance with Earth would face the hell etched into her eyes--her face.

Through the tall glass windows of the main hall, she watched the dancers swirling across the polished stone floor to the music of some gaudily dressed man. She remembered a time, scarce months ago, when a harpist had sat there, playing the rippling music. She remembered when she had danced with someone she loved. When she could laugh.

Biting back tears, she turned and headed for the perimeter of the city.

At least someone had taken the fall of the Earth seriously. Naru noticed that there was at least twice the normal number of sentries, as well as a few thousand men standing at ready on the open space between the first of the city’s buildings and the inner wall and the outer. The milling men all parted to let her through, their eyes fixed on her with a mix of emotions: fear, distrust--and perhaps even a little pity.

Naru reached a tall man with his long, graying hair pulled into a tail. He stood near the stairs leading to the wall, directing the men around him with a practiced air of command. "Armsmaster Viridian!"

He spun, eyes wide. "Princess! What are you doing here?!" He swept the girl into a tight embrace. "We thought you dead!"

"I--got knocked out," Naru said, concentrating on forming the words, trying not to let on how much concentration it took to form the words.

Viridian pushed her back a moment, though he kept his hands on her shoulders, and looked at the bandage. "I taught you to duck."

Naru made no response to the joke, the non-reaction drawing an even more worried glance from the aging man. She just stared at the walls, face lined in pain and concentration. "I--came to help. I've seen what they can do."

"Does your brother know you are out at the Walls? He is King now--"

Naru paused. "He knows."

Strange--lying was easier than she thought.

Viridian looked suspicious at the pause, but sighed, putting his arm around her shoulders gently and leading her along. "Come then--I will take you to where some of your former classmates are. They at least don't believe all Earth-natives are out to kill us."

"We lost so much--how can they think that?" Naru asked dully.

Viridian placed a soft hand on her shoulder, fingering a bloodstained bandage on her arm. "They figure anyone worth trusting is already dead."

When she made no response, he sighed, hugging her gently, then left her in the company of a young, smiling man who's face split into a relieved, if worried grin at the sight of the Princess. "Take care of her, men."

Naru managed to smile back at her old training mates, but the smile didn't touch the turmoil in her eyes. She took a position on the wall, then turned and looked back at the distant revelries. "I'm sorry, Endymion."

She settled back to wait.

* * * * * * * *

The hairs on Naru's arms prickled. She shivered, looking up from the blade she had been sharpening to scan the misty horizon.

Something was wrong.

She straightened, sheathing her sword and moving to the edge of the wall, as others, too, sensed the trouble approaching. Unlike her comrades, though, she raised her eyes from the horizon to the sky.

There it was--a sickeningly familiar dark ripple in the air. "Everyone! Get off the wall! Into the ditches!" She actually shoved a few men off the walls, who were too startled by her sudden shout to move fast enough for her taste. "Get off the wall now!"

A swirling vortex of black energy slammed out, shattering the wall into fine rubble--the rubble dissolving into a fine powder--and exploding.

The blackness enveloped her, slamming her into silent nothingness.

* * * * * * * *

Nephrite watched the forces spread out before him, nodding his approval, though some distant part of him wanted to scream. His three comrades directed the forces through the shattered walls expertly, efficiently slaughtering their way through the Moon's defenses, heading ever inwards in a killing ring, cutting down soldiers and courtiers without discrimination.

He stepped through a pile of rubble that had been the first part of the wall to be destroyed--and stopped, cocking his head to a side in confusion.

An aging, battle hardened man, straightened from laying a cloak over a fallen form, staring at him in shock. A flicker of recognition passed between them, and the man’s mouth opened to form a question, even as his hand moved towards the hilt of his sword.

Then he reeled back as Nephrite sent a blast of energy, killing him instantly.

Half-curious, Nephrite wandered over to the body the man had been covering as his forces spread out past him. There were so many bodies laying strewn about like discarded toy soldiers--why was this one worth covering?

When he pulled back the stained and torn cloth, he saw that it was a young woman, dark blue eyes staring sightlessly at the sky above her. Shoulder-length red hair was spilled out behind her, soaking up some of the pool of dark blood that was spread beneath her. A bandage was half torn from her forehead, revealing an older wound--a deep gash around a dark bruise on one temple. Her tattered clothing was of Earth, not the Moon--strange that she would be here, on the wall. By one slack hand rested a broken sword; by the other, a strangely familiar wand, topped with a golden circle, quartered by a cross.

Nephrite couldn't understand why his vision blurred with tears, part of him feeling like it was dying. He had no idea why he knelt in the blood, gently closing those staring eyes with a soft hand. He had no clue why he turned, gently picking up the fallen man's cloak and settling it back over her, as though he were tucking her into bed, shifting her cold and broken body from the boneless sprawl into a more natural position--it looking as though she were just sleeping.

Why did tears fell freely from his eyes as he picked up a dark, crystal sliver from her shattered blade and pocketed it. A hollow fury built within him, but he had nowhere to direct it, feeding off the growing anguish within.

He turned the unexplained pain into power.

Directing it into the attack.

Destroying the Moon Kingdom.

* * * * * * * *

return to Index

The Nephrite and Naru Treasury