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Naru was awake when Nephrite arrived back in the gray room. She was sitting up in bed with her knees pulled up and her arms wrapped around them, her right arm hanging lower than the left; the injury made it impossible for her to raise her right arm very far. She looked up at Nephrite and smiled sadly at him. "I'm glad you're back. I was getting lonely."
"I went to see your mother, and the Senshi. To tell them you're all right." Briefly, he outlined the conversations he'd had with them.
Naru gave him that same sad little smile again when he was done. "It's Usagi-chan. Sailor Moon, I mean. I finally found out – she told me, the other evening in the park. All along, it was my best friend."
Nephrite sat down beside her on the bed. "I'm glad you didn't find out any sooner. You would have told me, and I would have used that knowledge to help the Dark Kingdom."
"But now you won't?"
"No. I'm done with Beryl and the Dark Kingdom. Their goals are not my goals any more. And even if I went back, the only thing there for me now is execution as a traitor."
Naru let her right hand drop to the bed. Weakly, she gripped his hand. "What are you going to do now?"
"I want to find a way to help the Senshi without revealing myself. Maybe it's cowardly of me, but I don't want to die. And I want to prove to myself, and to you, that you're right – that there is something good somewhere inside me."
Naru gave his hand a weak squeeze. "You don't have to prove anything to me." They were silent for a moment. "My mom and Usagi – do you think they're all right?"
"They were very worried. But now that they know you're alive and safe, I think they'll be all right."
"Did you tell them..." Naru's voice faltered, then she took a deep breath and plunged ahead. "Did you tell them I'm stuck here? That I can never leave?"
"I told Usagi. I couldn't bring myself to tell your mother. I just said that I didn't know when it would be safe for you to come home. Someday she'll need to know, or she'll figure it out for herself, but for now, I thought it would be better this way."
Naru nodded. "I'm still getting used to the idea. Of being here, in this room, never able to leave, forever." She looked up at him. "Is that what would happen? If I never left this room, I would just live on here forever?"
Nephrite looked into her sad, innocent eyes. She trusted him; only the stars knew why. He started to think about the implications of his bringing her here, beyond it being a place where she could survive her injuries. Never able to leave, never changing – if this was a stasis dimension like the Dark Kingdom – all alone; surely, if he were living on Earth he would eventually grow old and die, but she never would, and she'd be left all alone here in this gray room. He supposed she could one day make the decision to leave and suffer death; a momentous decision to have to make. "Maybe it was selfish of me," he said. "I just didn't want you to die. I couldn't stand the thought of losing you. I didn't know what kind of place I was bringing you to; maybe it would have been better if I had just let you go."
"Don't say that!" Nephrite was surprised at the vehemence in Naru's voice. "If you hadn't brought me here, my mom would be planning my funeral right now! I wouldn't want her to have to go through that for anything! And Usagi – I can only imagine how I'd feel if Usagi died. Besides –" She tried to smile up at him, but her mouth was trembling too much for it to be convincing. "As long as you're here with me, I don't mind. And if the time comes when – when you can't come here any more and I'm all alone, then I know what to do. But for now, as long as we can be together, I don't care where we are."
"Naru-chan." He pulled her close to him, careful of her injured shoulder, and rested his face against her hair. "I don't know what I did to make you feel like this about me. I wish I deserved it. I'll try to deserve it."
"I told you, you don't have to prove anything to me, Nephrite-sama. I love you."
He sighed, holding her, feeling her warmth – she had seemed so cold, so lifeless, when he brought her here. He knew the next step he needed to take, the one that would firmly set his life in its new direction, but it was hard. Don't be a coward, he chided himself. If he could show himself vulnerable in front of the Senshi, then there was no reason why he couldn't fully reveal his heart to Naru. He took a deep breath. "I love you, Naru-chan. That's why I want to be worthy of you."
She was silent for a while, but he could feel her tears, one and then another and then another, dripping onto his silk shirt, dampening it. Finally she looked up at him and smiled, much more convincingly this time. "You already are. But I won't stop you from doing what you feel like you have to do. Just be careful, okay?"
"I will, I promise." He hugged her once more, then helped her lie down. "You need to rest some more. Have you had anything to eat?" He wondered if food could appear here, just like the other things they'd needed.
Naru nodded. "There was some fruit on the table earlier. I don't know how it got there, but I was hungry so I ate it. It seemed okay."
"Good." Nephrite left her to get some rest, and moved over to the bench that had formed itself when, exhausted, he'd needed a place to sit down. He had been planning to go back to his mansion, but was reconsidering. He had felt far too vulnerable when he had been on Earth talking to Mrs. Osaka and to the Senshi. This place was certainly safer than any place on Earth, including his mansion, which he'd never been able to Guard sufficiently to keep Zoisite out. And he didn't like leaving Naru alone here. She was facing her situation with considerable courage and acceptance, but she had looked so lonely when he arrived back from his errands outside. If he could do what he needed to do from here, and if the place continued to provide them with what they needed, it would be better all around if he stayed here.
And you don't like being away from her, a part of him told himself. After everything that's happened, after almost losing her, you want her with you all the time.
With that question decided, Nephrite sat back against the wall (noting absently that the stone seemed to shape itself around him for greater comfort) and took his kurozuishou out of the invisible pocket he carried it in. "I call on the power of the stars," he whispered, centering himself. He felt the familiar warmth in the center of his forehead, an indication that the stars were answering his request. Was it just his imagination, or had they responded more readily than before? He focused his powers through the enhancement of the kurozuishou. "Show me what's happening now. Show me what the Dark Kingdom's plans are." A beam shot out from the kurozuishou, and a vision played itself out in front of him....
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Kunzite and Zoisite stood before Beryl's throne. Beryl was smiling unpleasantly and, as usual, waving her hands over the crystal globe in front of her. With the enhancement of the kurozuishou, Nephrite could hear what they were saying. "When the Seven Great Youma, our mightiest warriors, are released from the Rainbow Crystals, the legendary Silver Crystal will shine," Beryl said.
"As I recall, the Seven Great Youma were imprisoned by our hated enemy," Kunzite said.
"Curses on our enemy!" Beryl hissed. "They sealed the Seven Great Youma into the seven fragments of the legendary Silver Crystal and sent them to Earth. Those seven fragments are called the Rainbow Crystals."
Nephrite cursed under his breath. That frantic search, all that trouble, all those threats, were over a crystal that didn't actually exist? Damn Beryl's greed and stupidity; or for that matter, his own. Neither of them had bothered to do any deeper investigation into the nature of the Silver Crystal that Metallia was demanding.
"What is it?" Naru asked. Nephrite realized she was watching from her bed. "Nothing," he said quickly. "I'll tell you later." He turned his attention back to what the Black Crystal was showing him.
"And what became of the Seven Great Youma?" Zoisite asked.
Kunzite answered him. "They were reincarnated as humans with no memory of their true nature."
"I see," Zoisite said. "If we remove the Rainbow Crystals from the bodies of the humans, we will gain the legendary Silver Crystal."
"And our mightiest warriors, the Seven Great Youma, will return to us as well," Beryl added.
As easily as that, Nephrite thought. We'll just see about that.
In the vision, an ornate golden hand-mirror emerged from Beryl's crystal ball and flew towards Zoisite. Zoisite caught the mirror and looked at it in consternation. "Queen Beryl-sama! This mirror – it was a gift –"
"I know," Beryl said. "But now it will be put to a much better use. I have modified it to show us where we can find the rainbow crystals."
"Y-yes, Queen Beryl-sama," Zoisite stammered. He held the mirror out in front of him, the glass side facing away from him. "Zoi!" he shouted. A swirl of black energy surged out of the mirror, then formed a background over which was imposed a picture of a young man wearing heavy, square glasses and a backwards baseball cap. "This man holds one of the Rainbow Crystals," Zoisite said.
Beryl's throne room faded from the vision, to be replaced by a park in the early evening. Zoisite and the young man stood several meters apart. The young man's knees were shaking as he held his hands up in an attitude of begging. "Don't kill me!" he cried.
"There's no need to run," Zoisite said calmly, too calmly. "You're one of us."
His victim was almost weeping from fear. "One of you?"
Zoisite didn't answer his question. "I will have the Rainbow Crystal." He held out the mirror. Waves of golden energy pulsed out of the mirror, and a black hole opened up in the young man's chest, revealing a large red crystal.
A girl in a brown and white school uniform, whom Nephrite didn't recognize, arrived on the scene just as the crystal flew out of the boy's chest and into Zoisite's hand. "This is it," Zoisite said, clutching his prize.
"Hold it!" cried out Sailor Moon's voice. The unknown girl reacted with surprise. "Sailor Moon!"
Zoisite laughed. "You're a little too late, Sailor Moon." He disappeared with the crystal, after ordering the young man to attack Sailor Moon. Nephrite watched as the boy turned into a huge red youma and attacked Sailor Moon with long arms that turned into a variety of strange weapons. The new girl tackled him, but Sailor Moon was captured. During the fight, a sign appeared on the new girl's forehead, revealing her identity as Sailor Jupiter. The new soldier defeated the youma, and Sailor Moon turned the monster back into the young man he had been before.
After the vision disappeared, Nephrite sat considering everything he had learned. Beryl and her generals were now looking for seven crystals, instead of the one Silver Crystal. Zoisite had a tool which would allow him to identify the humans who held the crystals inside them. The Sailor Senshi apparently had no idea of the new plan, no clue about the Rainbow Crystals, and no way to find them before Zoisite did. And the Dark Kingdom was already in possession of one of the crystals.
Nephrite knew what to do now, although, despite his earlier resolution to stay with Naru as much as possible, it would mean that he'd have to spend some time in his workroom in his mansion. He pocketed the Black Crystal again, and walked over to Naru. She still looked so pale, and her eyes were closed. Sometime between her question to him during the divination and now, she must have fallen asleep. Hesitant to disturb her rest, he gently brushed her hair away from her face, then leaned down and kissed her cheek. Her skin was so smooth; he just wanted to stay there, feeling her warmth, the softness of her hair...
He shook himself. Before he could think about becoming even more involved with Naru, he first had something to prove to her, and to himself. "I'll be back soon," he whispered, just in case she could hear him.
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return to Index / go to Chapter 11
The Nephrite and Naru Treasury