The Darkest Road
by Notre-Dame-des-Fleurs

Episode Thirteen: Lambs and Wolves

* * * * * * * *

I rolled the round stone around on the table thoughtfully. In fact, I’d been sitting here for almost half an hour, unable to make myself do what I had intended to. Oh, come on, I told myself with what should have been a stern but ended up a wistful tone. You decided to do this already before you left Venus, decided it that same evening, after… It’s the only option. Do it.

I stared at the smooth surface of the piece of rock in vacant fascination. that same evening, after I kneeled before him and kissed him and never let him go. Even now, I had to fight down the desire to search him out and continue that embrace.

Indeed, getting myself as far away from him as possible was rapidly becoming the only thing I could think to do in order to hinder myself from doing us both permanent damage. It was just my luck that Zoisite hadn’t remembered. Just my luck that I had come to my senses before doing anything irreparable. A few kisses were pardonable. If they were the last, they were pardonable.

And it was obvious that I was the only one who could possibly ensure that they truly were the final ones – nobody else was likely to stop me, regardless of what I might do to him. Even if they noticed, even if they honestly condemned it, they wouldn’t risk a struggle with me to rescue him. I was too valuable an ally, too dangerous an opponent. They would offer Zoisite easily to keep our arrangements going.

I couldn’t allow that. Consequently, I had to remove myself from the possibility to give in to temptation. Preferably before he figured out just what was wrong with me. There were few things in the world that struck me as worse than seeing the look in his eyes after finding my shameful secret out.

I had no idea how he would react, but since Zoisite was by no means stupid, if it continued on like this, I doubted that it would be long until I knew.

So, I would leave. Better a coward than a criminal. Since everything I wanted these days was perverted and wrong, my unwillingness to undertake the voyage might be a sign that it was actually the right thing to do. And in this state of mind, I had remembered Michiru-san’s invitation.

I wasn’t certain how serious she’d been, though, hence I thought I had better contact her beforehand and check. Exactly, so why don’t you do that, instead of sit here and think about it?

Right. I gathered the aforementioned stone in the palm of my hand, activating it with a brief touch of magic. “Neptune,” I told it, and after that it was only seconds before an image of a woman dressed in the sea planet’s colors formed on its surface.

The woman looked shocked for a moment, but managed to voice what I assumed to be the standard phrase, “Yes, honored speaker?”

“I would like to talk to Sailorneptune, if that’s possible,” I requested.

“Ju-just a moment. I’ll check.”

She was out of sight before I had time to utter any of the meaningless polite phrases that etiquette demanded from me. Just as well, probably.

A couple of minutes later, a new face appeared in the slab of stone. A familiar, pretty face framed by wavy blue-green hair that looked to have the same texture as Zoisite’s.

“Kunzite-san,” she greeted, an unreadable half-smile turning the corner of her mouth up.

“Michiru-san,” I nodded. If she had moved past the need for more formal honorifics, so had I. “I hope I’m not interrupting…?”

“No, certainly not. On the contrary.”

“I’m happy to hear it. The reason I called on you, well, we’re finished on Venus, and I was wondering if your invitation still stands.”

She favored me with a more genuine smile. “Absolutely. When might we expect you?”

“Tomorrow, if it pleases you?” I suggested.

“That sounds very nice. I look forward to meeting you again, Kunzite-san.”

I made some appropriate reply to the effect that the pleasure was all mine, after which we rapidly ended the conversation. Even after the stone had turned dark and quiet again, I remained sitting there at the table, staring once more at nothing, denying the reality around me. I’ve done it. Finally.

The thought left a taste of ashes in my mouth, a wild desire to throw the communication devise into the wall, see it crack and forget that I’d ever made arrangements to leave. A wild desire to run out of the room, find Zoisite and drown myself in him, and kiss him and touch him and tell him –

Get a grip on yourself. Tell him what, more exactly?

That I love him. That I need him to live.

I banished the thought in disgust. And here I imagined that the talking was the least dangerous part to focus on.

Frowning, I got off the chair and prepared to teleport. I’d requested to speak to either monarch, and they had obediently given me an appointment.

I rematerialized in a smaller audience chamber as per my instructions. It was a lavish, golden room in which, to my understanding, the royalty liked to welcome foreign ambassadors. Seemingly, that was just what they’d been doing before I arrived – the queen was still lounging in the not-quite-throne, and though the king had left his seat to pace restlessly, he still wore his formal purple cloak. I’d seen enough of him, during the years, to know that he felt like an idiot in it and only put it on during formal occasions.

“Relisiana-ojoo, Endymion-oo,” I greeted, lowering my shoulders a fraction of an inch.

The king froze behind his wife’s throne, his hand hugging her shoulder. The queen herself returned my nod with a very small one of her own.

“Kunzite-tennou,” Endymion intoned. “Let me congratulate you again on your successful handling of things on Venus.”

“You asked to see us,” the queen interrupted, sparing me the trouble of coming up with a suitable reply. “Is there any particular reason for it?”

“During my stay on the Moon, I met Queen Michiru briefly,” I informed curtly. “She invited me to Neptune. I intend to accept.”

It took her about five minutes of inquiring to find out that I planned on leaving tomorrow, didn’t now when I’d be back and that I had no intentions of telling her why I wanted to go.

* * * * * * * *

My knees sagged with relief when the last sparkles of his teleport decorations faded out into nothingness. Gods, why couldn’t he just use the door? Did he absolutely have to prove how unnervingly superior he was to any human mage, who had needed a few moments of hard concentration at least to exit through Shadow Space? Or was he truly so powerful that teleportation was practically a natural method of transport? Frightening thought. But then, the Shitennou made me uneasy at the best of times – and the best of times was when they were as far away from me as possible. The idea that any of them could reach me with a mere thought struck me as an extremely disturbing concept.

Grateful that the servants had been dismissed, I took the few steps needed to enable me to collapse into my chair, then reached out a hand to grab one of the wine glasses on the pedestal next to me. I’d barely touched it during the rendezvous with the Martian ambassador, so it was plenty left. Well, it was before I chugged most of it down in my first gulp, anyway.

My wife’s laugher danced through the air, comforting me as the liquor had not. Turning towards her with a smile, I let the glass slip out of my hand and shatter against the floor. I didn’t have the expensive habits of the Lunarian or Venusian royalty, so I thought I was entitled to waste a glass or two when I felt like it. After all, it was only fair that I stood for some of the wanton destruction that ate away so much of our decoration’s budget.

Reaching out to take hold of her hand, I admired Relisiana’s pretty features. Relaxed and contented as they were now, it was hard to imagine them showing off her infamous Martin temper that had forced me to redecorate so many rooms.

“I don’t understand how you can be so calm around them,” I sighed.

“One can only be brave when faced with what one fears,” she declared, solemn despite her smile. “And what more could one wish for than the opportunity to be brave?”

I wasn’t sure if it was only her or if all Martians were crazy. But this one, crazy or not, I loved. I’d never outright told her that, partly because I knew it would embarrass her, and partly because I didn’t want to hear her say that she didn’t feel the same for me. If she loved me at all, it was only because she thought it was her duty.

That was all right, though. I hadn’t felt anything for her at all when we first married. Given that we’d never met before the wedding, that was fairly natural. She’d been so young that I couldn’t believe it. She was youthfully beautiful now as well, still shy of thirty, whereas I was closer to forty. She’d given birth to my son – perhaps because of that, my only son – when she was hardly more than a child herself.

Not that her age had ever stopped her from being every inch a queen. We had such different ideas of what it meant to be a monarch. She was a lot more active than I’d ever been, but she was also so much brighter that perhaps it was natural – if I’d tried to stick my nose into government affairs as much as did she, I would’ve ruined the realm by now. In the few cases regarding which I actually had strong preferences about how the matter should be handled, it was done as my will dictated, but mostly I left the governing to those who were good at it.

“I suppose,” she said at length, after a few comfortable moments of silence, “that we ought to call in the next diplomat now.”

“Mmh,” I said, turning in the chair so that I could lean over her, my face hovering centimeters from hers, “ or we could pretend that Kunzite stayed a little longer and try to give Mamoru a sibling.”

True, I’d be happy to have another child. Oh yes, a little daughter with her eyes and her smile. Because my wife was not the only person for whom I harbored what I suspected was unrequited love. Mamoru looked up to me, I knew he did, but were we really close enough to describe what we had as love?

That, however, wasn’t actually the reason for my suggestion. I needed the reassurance, after having Kunzite’s presence bring another Tennou-related matter to my mind. I’m about to try to fulfil a part of the prophecy, in the royal Shrine of Ise. He’d looked so serene when he said it.

I hadn’t asked how or why, hadn’t even told anyone else about what Nephrite planned, but ever since he’d told me, I’d had this gnawing feeling in the gut of my stomach. If the Words of Choice were coming true, then we didn’t have much time left. Then Silver Millenium would end.

“Ne?” I prompted, then pressed my lips against hers before she could reply.

So maybe she didn’t love me, but at least she liked me, and at least she was young and beautiful and willing here in my arms. And at least that was enough to still my heartache.

* * * * * * * *

I was all but shaking with suppressed excitement when I stepped through the last torii of the Shrine of Ise. It had been two days since we returned from the Moon, two days during which I’d done nothing but feverishly dreamt of this moment.

I might have teleported straight here immediately after receiving the Star Seed, but for some weird reason, I hadn’t, instead choosing to prolong the waiting by accompanying the regular army. And even after setting foot on the Earth, I’d remained at the palace until I could notify Endymion about my plans. I didn’t completely understand it myself, but it was as if I wanted to drink the last bitter drops of loneliness before dispelling my heartache forever.

Or was it because after all this time of hopeless longing, I didn’t dare believe that this would work?

If it didn’t, I had no idea how I could go on – the prophecy had been my one source of hope during more than half my life. My only source of hope. In case that proved to be an illusion, I had nothing left to turn to, would be forced to accept that Naru could never exist in this world. That I’d spent almost a decade chasing a dream without substance. Surreal, that the time I’d actually spent with her was shorter than the time I’d been pining for her after her disappearance.

But none of that mattered now, and in a few minutes, hopefully it would cease to matter forever.

Entering the main building of the Shrine, I looked around curiously. The priestesses, having been informed of my coming beforehand, apparently couldn’t decide whether my presence in the halls of the Sun Goddess was blasphemy or a blessing, because the house was completely empty. It seemed they preferred to pretend ignorance of my person, so as not to have to react.

Shrugging, I made my way to the altar. There, among flowers and candles and whatnot, stood the one important thing. The Holy Grail, purest heart of the millenium. Maybe I ought to offer something? I wasn’t sure where the thought came from, but stopped to consider it regardless. I’d never been able to decide whether I should worship Amaterasu Omikami or not. As the noble woman who sacrificed so much to uphold the light, certainly – but as the selfish creature that would eventually destroy my world, absolutely not. And one could never be separated from the other. They were both her.

They were both parts of the person known to history as Amaterasu, though her name had originally been Beryl. She’d become the Queen of Heaven when she was five months pregnant, had ceased to be it when she was eight months gone. It was odd how Naru possessed not the slightest trace of magic, when her mother had been the Earth’s greatest sorceress. On the other hand, incest tended to weaken such things, and despite the theologies’ claims that Naru’s father was the same human man who’d sired Ninigi, father of the first Endymion, no contemporary sources doubted that her origin was the seed of Suzamo, beloved brother of Amaterasu and later known as the God of Thunder.

Or it might simply have been the will of Beryl, who’d wanted her daughter to have the dutiless life the she herself had must forsaken. It didn’t matter now. But, thinking of Beryl, it occurred to me to wonder why I’d never mentioned my visions of her fatal return to anyone. I’d had ample time to hand out warnings since I’d first seen it. Even if I hadn’t mentioned it to the humans, I could have at least gotten Kunzite’s opinion on it. Besides, even if they wouldn’t have believed me, the mortal community deserved some sort of notification as well. I shrugged. It’s written in the stars anyway. Becoming a fatalist had really been the only way to survive my life.

All of which didn’t explain why I was thinking of trivialities when I could be reviving Naru. I was just still so afraid that it wouldn’t work, that my soul would vanish here and now.

I plucked Diana’s Star Seed from Shadow Space with trembling hands, seeing clearly the tremendous energy and shine in the crystal. Surely it had to be enough. And I placed it in its intended place, in the hollow space on the Grail.

Wind ripped at my hair, the usual air-movement when strong energies shifted and thus created a micro-cosmos of high- and low pressure. Feverish, I watched the Holy Grail dissolve into sparkles of golden dust, until only a pure heart crystal of ordinary design floated in the air before me.

Naru’s soul gathered around it, guided by a whirlwind of what looked like multicolored butterflies. More golden sparkles shimmered into existence, until a transcendent image of Naru met my eye, the lines of her body painted by drafts of pulsating energy.

I might have cried as she smiled at me, but I had no wetness on my face to prove it. Maybe that was because the heat around her was strong enough to dissolve it, or perhaps it was because I never did cry. I don’t know.

I wanted to cry, however – that seemed to be the only appropriate physical response to first the great love and happiness, then equally consuming pain and misery that filled me.

Naru smiled at me sweetly, and then she disappeared. I mouthed an incredulous, enraged protest, but that did nothing to stop her gold-sparkle-shape from vanishing into nothingness. The pure heart crystal, with her soul as a pale energy haze around it, drifted through the air, away from my groping hands. Flew straight to a statue, one among many in the wall behind the altar – flew to it, paused in front of it for a moment, then entered its chest, making it glow for an instant or two with the light of life.

Then, before I could ascertain that it had really happened, the Grail and its crystal and all of its energy was gone, leaving me alone in the cold, empty room of the goddess. I was too stunned for any real reflection, any truly conscious thought, and I was grateful for it.

Carefully, purposefully, I stepped behind the altar and inspected the statue in which Naru had taken up residence.

I almost laughed when I’d taken in its appearance – it was a prefect double of the Naru who had visited my dreams. Presumably, it was intended to portray a very young Amaterasu.

My hand brushed her face, the stone so soft beneath my fingers that I could have tricked myself into believing that it was skin, had it not been so cold.

Now, at long length, rage began to fill me. What the fuck? I did it, I fulfilled the prophecy, so why the bloody hell doesn’t she live?

I turned away from the mockingly lifeless statue before I did something stupid, like blasting it and the entire shrine with it to the far side of the Walls. Then, with my back to maybe-Naru, my attention was caught by a defiant shimmering on the altar. It was weak, but the level of its brightness was beyond golden.

But the Grail vanished…!

Throwing up a rudimentary ward to shield my eyes, I bent down to examine it closer. Indeed, it wasn’t the Grail. It was the Star Seed that Artemis had entrusted me with for what seemed so long ago.

Well, indeed, I thought. It seemed that in my eagerness about Naru, I had forgotten other parts of the Words. The important thing, for the authors and the rest of the world, wasn’t Amaterasu’s daughter but Artemis’. The Star Seed that was sinking into the altar even as I watched it.

It would remain in there, receiving all the blessings and purifications that the world could offer, until, finally, in an unknown future it would be perfected. It would come forth again a mature Star Seed, ready to be used for the purpose explained in the Words of Choice.

I wasn’t sure if I believed in the myths of a slumbering Phoenix or the connected legends of the fated Sailorsenshi who would draw her power from the entire galaxy, but at least they restored some of my hope. If the Star Seed would rest and gather power for a while and only then awaken, it made sense that the same went for Naru. It did. It had to.

But the prophecy had still failed me, the entire damn concept had deceived me. The rage smoldered in me, and I suddenly realized that not only had I fisted my hands, but the magic was building up inside me as well. No good. Can’t lose control like this, or it’ll be Verena all over again.

The thought made me break into a cold sweat, but I still didn’t manage to unfist my hands until I’d spent several straining minutes emptying my mind and faking calm. Even after that, I knew that I had to destroy something.

The south-east wall shattered, and though I was by no means content, at least I’d gotten a little of the violence out of my system. I preferred not to think about how the priestesses would react to this, not so much because I feared retribution as because I was afraid that I might harm them. Oh, Nephrite-me-the-human never would, but Nefuraito-the-heavenly-Tennou considered humans too far beneath him to avoid stepping on them if they were in his way. By running a shrine that had denied my wish, they were opposing me.

No, goddammit! I thought, burying my face in my hands. I couldn’t control myself, though, and in a last desperate attempt I turned to the Naru-statue.

Naru! Help me!

She made no reply, and I wasn’t even sure that she’d heard me, but the sight of her had the effect of calming my fury. It bled of out me in an instant, leaving a cold, hollow emptiness.

I stared at the face of stone for what felt like a long time, contemplating whether I should kiss her. More than anything, this statue was a twisted after-reflection of my love, because she was nothing if not alive, yet it was still so lovely. All sweet innocence and gentle kindness.

I pressed my lips against hers briefly. At first, the general weirdness and slight perversion in kissing a carved piece of rock excited me. Then the sensation of lifeless stone wet my eyes.

* * * * * * * *

I perched on the tree branch with no small effort. It’s harder than it seems to sit on those things, especially when they’re narrow and so old that you fear they’re going to fall off under your weight. And the wind wasn’t helping, even though it wasn’t particularly strong.

I could have supported myself with magic, of course, but I wasn’t up for it. I felt bland and dingy and very mortal, unable and unworthy to use such divine powers, least for such a simple and human purpose. I could use my balance.

Carefully, I leaned backwards, resting against the trunk of the tree. Squirming uncomfortably, I discovered that the fabric of my uniform jacket was less than comfortable when pressed against my skin – it was warm outside, so I hadn’t bothered with a shirt, only thrown on the jacket without even bothering to close it in front. I really pitied the female population, who lacked the cultural freedom to walk around bare-chested.

Well, come to think of it, Zoisite never did that either, but then my youngest comrade preferred atashi before ore in reference to himself when speaking Nihong. He’d never really cared much for masculinity. Not that he thought of himself as a girl, but it just didn’t seem to make that much difference to him. He’d told me once that it was a fleeting limit between the two genders and that one could switch from time to time.

I smiled inwardly, recalling how a guard had once, unaware of his identity, addressed him as “ojou-san”. I’d anticipated an explosion, but after Zoisite figured out that he was the one being talked to, he merely answered, never even bothering to correct the matter.

Zoisite, yes. This was the very same tree that I had helped him climb that day…was it two years ago? Three? I couldn’t remember. Not that it mattered.

I reached up and plucked a handful of cherry blossoms, seeing once more how he put them in his hair and laughed. My heart ached at the memory, but I was pretty sure I was over him now. I had to be, or my heart would be in for a lot more than just a little ache. Zoisite was a flirt, but despite that and his friendship, there was no way I could ever be that important to him, even if Kunzite had never existed.

I’d still go with him the instant he offered me to, but that’s the kind of person Zoisite is. Everyone loves him, at least a little bit. He shone so brightly.

But, and that was important, though he would always be my first love, in more senses than one, I wasn’t actively longing for him anymore.

After all, how could I ever except anything more than to be grateful for what little he might feel for me? He was brilliant, and I was nothing. They were all shining.

The cold feeling of dread and self-hatred had never entirely left me since the return to Earth. I’d heard too much on Venus – heard how they’d acted and been and meant while I sat around at camp and kept a weak and pointless shield over Mamoru.

There I felt the burden ease a little. Mamoru. He was special, but not enough so to make me feel worthless and grey.

Still, it’s one thing if you don’t shine when you’re just anyone, but I’d been intended to blaze. I knew I never would. I wasn’t the heir of the Choice, I was the son of an emotionally unstable woman and the man who’d made her unstable.

She’d said I was like him. If nothing else, I was going to prove her wrong. Whatever it took, I would have this one victory.

Even though nobody else would ever care, about that or about me. I was fine with that now. I was.

* * * * * * * *

Given that I knew I should have gone somewhere else if I’d truly wanted complete solitude, I had no real cause to be annoyed over the few servants I passed in the Complex. Like I cared about being rational at this point. My mind was burning with a mixture of frustration, pain, rage, jealousy and disappointment, and though Nefuraito was asleep in the deep cellars of my mind again, I was mad enough in my own right. And so I frowned at the pages and cleaners and concentrated on refraining from doing anything worse.

If I’d been in any other part of the palace, the staff would probably have broken down crying at seeing such a dark scowl on my face, but these people were used to us. They’d watched us grow up, had seen us weep and laugh like any mortals. We might be dangerous, divine Tennou, but we were their dangerous, divine Tennou.

The people closer to the top on the food chain had had a different view of things, but the teachers and scientists were mostly gone from here now, dismissed now that their purpose had been accomplished. Or in some cases, I supposed, now that it was clear that their intention could not succeed. Some people had had a little too high hopes for us.

The remaining ones were the simple people, the ones that you never notice until they’re gone and you have to cook and clean and wash by yourself. If they hadn’t had a positive conception of the Shitennou to begin with, they wouldn’t have accepted employment here, and by now most of them had developed a certain timid fondness for us.

I didn’t have anything particular against them, didn’t mind their presence or their care, but I didn’t return those warm feelings. I don’t think any of us did. It was just too dangerous – just too many people who had sold us out or been forced to leave when one of us had taken to them. I still wasn’t sure what hurt the most, to suddenly realize one day that they weren’t there anymore, or to discover the falseness in their eyes and slowly put the pieces together. Even a child could do that, as untalented as these hillbillies were when it came to acting. There was a reason that they hadn’t originally been hired to spy on us.

After figuring that much out, it was a given that anyone who remained despite developing a relationship with any of us was simply a more gifted employee of the Kingdom Intelligence. Consequently, we’d all cut ourselves off from the adults on a fairly early stage. When I’d wanted company, companionship, I’d gone to Kunzite; when I wanted to feel smart or like an older brother, I’d gone to Jadeite; and when I’d wanted to be teasing and immature, I’d gone to Zoisite.

And of course, for me, there had always been Naru. My shining thing.

But now, I had only these quiet, bowing servants, and their mere presence, their false smiles and suck-up miens, drove me furious. Leave me the hell alone before I send you there!

A lie, the wish I expressed in that thought – I didn’t want to be alone at all, rather to the contrary. It was just that when I couldn’t have the only company I desired, loneliness was second best, because all these other people were nothing but a teasing reminder of what I didn’t have.

Hence it was with great relief that I escaped into what had used to our playroom, kicking the door shut behind me. Finally, I was rid off all these annoyances! Or so I thought.

“Nephrite?” a surprised tenor announced my presence.

To my considerable dismay, I discovered Zoisite perched on the windowsill.

“Zoisite?” I growled. “What are you doing here?”

Yes, I knew it was an inane and very cliché reply, but I wasn’t feeling too creative just then.

“Nothing much,” he replied. “It’s not as though I need a reason to be here. But.” He closed the book he’d been looking in. “I guess I can leave if you really want. I’m off anyway.”

He dipped his face to the side questioningly, and I wondered if he’d chosen the spot because he wanted good lighting for his reading or because he knew how the light reflected the golden tones in his hair. I’d never been entirely certain whether it was just lucky coincidence or if he really had a feeling for how and where to pose.

Probably the latter, I reflected as he slipped down on the floor and made his lazy way towards me/the door. He’d always acted the least bit suggestive. I didn’t think he was consciously aware of it, exactly, or at least he hadn’t used to be. Nowadays, he was doing a lot more of it, as if testing how far he could really go. It was just a question of time before he overdid it, and the consequences would be either some poor human fool getting blasted to pieces or Kunzite ending up with a very abused conscience. Ordinarily, one wouldn’t take a boy who had recently ascended to the mature age of thirteen seriously that way, but Zoisite wasn’t an ordinary case.

“Well?” he demanded, staring up at me from a very close proximity. Odd, that – we usually kept a sound distance. “You gonna let me pass or what?”

I don’t know why it happened. I’d like to blame it on the amount of magic that vibrated through both of us – the Tennou in me striving to awaken and thus weakening my discipline and judgment, his usual flirty loveliness that was usually just a funny quirk to me. In any case, for a moment, he just looked so much like Naru.

They were actually not that different anytime, even though I thought it an insult to Naru to even compare. But they were both small and slender and delicate, pale, with red tints in the hair and a green nuance in their eyes. Of course, Naru was sweeter and curvier, but they both held some kind of ridiculous innocence. Ridiculous in his case, anyway.

Then, just for a second, it was Naru’s face looking up at me with a slight frown – my vision of loveliness, amplified by both our powers. And I…well, what could you expect, in the circumstances? I cupped her face between my hands tenderly and proceeded to passionately kiss her.

For the first few seconds, I’d presume that he was too stunned to react, because his lips were pliant under mine. Then he tried to struggle out of my grip, but couldn’t manage. Finally reality came crushing down on me when he gave my tongue a vicious bite.

He tugged himself loose while I spat blood, disgusted by the thought that I’d just made out with a boy I disliked. Ironically, I still couldn’t deny that it had been better than my chaste kissing of the Naru-statue, because this time, at least my feelings had been real, aimed at her and not at a substitute.

Which didn’t really make me feel any better right now. It was just my luck that he hadn’t bitten my tongue clean off, and that was the least of my problems.

“You disgusting son of a bitch!” he exclaimed. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

Good question, actually. Pity that I wasn’t in the mood to appreciate it.

“Disgusting?” I sneered rhetorically, my speech somewhat slurred but still understandable. “I’m disgusting? And what exactly do you fancy that your precious Kunzite-sama wants to do with you?”

With his silent stare still fixed on me, I decided that I had to get away before I got permanently crazy.

* * * * * * * *

Figuring that at least I ought to say goodbye to him, I pinpointed Zoisite’s aura and initiated a teleport, deciding to speak to him before packing what few things I might want to bring. I’d probably be travelling light – after all, I could conjure mostly anything I needed, and the Neptunian palace library was rumored to be of high standing.

I ended up in one of the rooms in the Complex. Zoisite sat with his elbows on a low table, chin resting in his hands and gaze locked unseeingly on the empty doorway. Supposedly sensing the energies of my teleport, he turned towards me, abruptly blushing bright red and covering his mouth with one hand.


“Yes?” I sat down next to him on the tatami, forcibly stopping myself from reaching out and brushing a strand of hair out of his still-flushed face. “What’s going on?”

“Ano…eto…” His cheeks turned even redder, his gaze flicking back and forth between the floor and my face. “Nephrite doesn’t know you very well, does he? He doesn’t always know what he’s talking about, right?”

I felt my hands clench. “What… What exactly did he say to you?”

“He just…ano…he claimed that you wanted to…that you wanted to…” He bit his lip. “He implied that you were interested in a certain amount of physical contact with me.”

Are you? hung in the air.

“Nephrite probably had a little too much to drink,” I said carefully. “You know how he can say funny things then.”

“I see.”

I had to be growing desperate – surely the faint flicker of disappointment in his eyes had to be the product of my own overactive imagination.

It was a surprisingly calm and fast business after that, a few more words and a mutual smile, and then I was off. All thoughts of packing forgotten, I headed for Nephrite. I contemplated throwing him down on the floor and jumping on him, but managed to discard the idea. I did push him out of his chair, though. It wasn’t until he already hit the floor that I thought to check if the room was empty.

“How the hell could you tell him that?” It wasn’t a scream as loudness is concerned, but the general tone was right.

He shrugged, not bothering to get up. “I’m sorry. It was stupid.”

“Yes,” I agreed, no longer angry, for some reason. “It was. Would you try to get along with him, until I come back? And don’t drop any more hints, for both our sakes, all right?”

“Sure,” he sighed, and I nodded.

“Goodbye, then.”

* * * * * * * *

return to Index / go to Chapter 14

The Nephrite and Naru Treasury