by Moon Momma

Chapter 7

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The doorbell of the Osaka apartment rang. Mrs. Osaka opened it eagerly, hoping it was the police with her wayward daughter in tow. Instead, Kimura Jiro stood there. "Why, Dr. Kimura!" she exclaimed, then dabbed at her eyes and nose with the sodden tissue she held. "What brings you here?" She had to admit she was glad to see him, even if he didn't have Naru with him. Just to have someone to talk to.

"I heard the news about the attack on the schoolyard, and Naru's disappearance with Sanjouin Masato. Is there anything I can do for you?"

"Besides finding my daughter and putting that man in jail? I don't think so. And the police are no help. They keep telling me that since Naru has been voluntarily associating with that man, they can't call it a kidnapping, at least not yet. She's only fourteen years old, for heaven's sake!" She dabbed at her eyes again, and moved aside to let him into the apartment. "I'm sorry. Won't you please sit down? Can I get you something to drink?"

Kimura Jiro took a seat in an armchair. "Please, no, you don't need to do anything for me. I want to help you. I feel partly responsible for this, Mrs. Osaka. You see, I allowed Mr. Sanjouin and your daughter to have time alone together while he was in the hospital. I know it was wrong of me to permit this, especially without asking your permission, and I'm terribly sorry."

Mrs. Osaka had sat down on the sofa. "Oh, no, Dr. kimura. This isn't your fault. They would have found a way to be together with or without your help. At least you knew it was happening. That's why I didn't try to forbid Naru to see him until just yesterday, because I knew that if I did they would just go behind my back." She threw away the tissue and pulled another one from the box.

"What happened yesterday?"

"Naru's doctor, the doctor I've been taking her to since she was born, advised me to be strict with her. So I tried, and this is what happened!" Midori burst into tears again.

Dr. Kimura went to sit beside her. "Now, it isn't your fault."

"My daughter's run away with that man! It's awful, it's a mother's worst nightmare..."

"No, Mrs. Osaka. What I see in the emergency room, those cases are a mother's worst nightmare. The car accidents, the drug overdoses, the rapes and suicide attempts... All too often, those kids don't make it. Naru is alive, and where there's life, things can always get better."

"But she's with that--that--playboy!" Mrs. Osaka sobbed.

Dr. Kimura took her hands in both of his. "Mrs. Osaka, I'm not trying to defend Sanjouin Masato. But I honestly believe that he would never harm Naru, nor would he allow anyone or anything else to harm her. As I understand it, he received the injuries that sent him to my emergency room while protecting her from some unscrupulous rivals of his. When he regained consciousness, he refused to allow me to continue treating him until he had assured himself that Naru was alive and well. I'm convinced that Naru's life is perfectly safe with Sanjouin Masato. I'll repeat, as long as Naru's alive, she can always recover from whatever mistakes she may make, and things can always get better."

"You're right, of course, but still..."

Dr. Kimura put an arm around Mrs. Osaka's shoulders and let her cry for a few more minutes. Then he said, "You shouldn't be alone this evening. Would you like to go to dinner with me? Or shall we order something in?"

"Thank you," Mrs. Osaka said shakily as she patted at her eyes and cheeks with her tissue. "I think I'd like to order in."

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Later that evening, Dusty the cleaning-youma reported to Nephrite that the Senshi were gathered at the Hikawa Shrine, discussing that day's youma attack at the school. Dusty had been prepared to create a disturbance to attract the Senshi, but, fortunately for Dusty, that wasn't necessary. Nephrite was glad of this; he would have hated to lose Dusty to the Moon Tiara.

He was wearing a Dark Kingdom uniform for the first time since the night Zoisite tried to kill him. It felt stiff, uncomfortable, wrong, but it was necessary to their ruse. "Ready?" he asked Naru. Though she looked pale and frightened, she nodded. Her school uniform had been magically cleaned and mended by Dusty, and her scrapes were beginning to heal after a touch of power from him.

He put his arms around her, and she held onto him. "You're sure about this? Because once we appear in front of the Senshi, there's no going back."

"I'm sure, Nephrite." She pulled his face down to hers for a kiss. "I love you. Let's go."

"I love you too, Naru." Then he teleported them in a swirl of red and white energy.

* * * * * * * *

They appeared in the courtyard of the Hikawa Shrine, near the door to Rei's living quarters. They kept their arms around each other as Nephrite roared, "Sailor Moon!"

The girls who were the Sailor Senshi came running out of the building, and stopped short when they saw Naru and Nephrite. "Nephrite!" Usagi's voice was dark with anger. "Naru-chan, are you all right?"

"Sailor Moon," Nephrite said harshly, "I offered you a deal, and you turned it down. I've got a better offer from the Dark Kingdom, so that's where we're going. And now I've got something extra for Queen Beryl--I can tell her who all of you are!"

The other three Senshi gasped, looking at each other as they realized that they had revealed their identities by appearing in front of him without transforming first. Usagi, however, seemed to angry to notice the mistake. "What are you doing with Naru-chan? Leave her alone!"

"Usagi," Naru said, trying to keep her sorrow and fear out of her voice, "I told you not to make me choose. I've chosen. I'm going to the Dark Kingdom with Nephrite. My place is with him."

"We'll meet again, Sailor Brats," Nephrite said. The energy swirl of his teleport formed. Just before they teleported Naru heard Usagi cry out, "Naru-chan, no, don't go!"

* * * * * * * *

They arrived in a dark stone passageway. Naru clung to Nephrite while she looked around at her surroundings... her new home. What have I done? she wondered. The darkness was not pitch-black; the passageway was dimly lit by eerie, wavering orange-purplish light that seemed to come from within the walls. She heard faint sounds of dripping water, footsteps echoing through distant reaches of the same passageway, a faraway scream made by something not quite human followed by an echo of maniacal laughter. The air was cold, and smelled of a combination of sulphur and molten metal. A sense of malevolence hung heavily in the air. "Nephrite," she whispered.

He held her close for a moment. "It'll be all right, Naru-chan." He also kept his voice low. "I won't let anything happen to you. Come now. I'm sure Queen Beryl already knows of our arrival. Let me do the talking, and trust me."

He led her through a maze of passageways until they stepped through a doorway into a vast hall. The near half of the hall was ringed with a throng of creatures, grayish and indistinct in the shadows. Naru saw a number of faces that looked reasonably human, but the great majority were distorted from the human model to a lesser or greater degree. The masses parted to let Naru and Nephrite through, while unintelligible murmurings and hissings flowed amongst the gathered creatures.

Nephrite led Naru to the center of the hall. They stopped in front of a broad, high dais. On a throne atop the dais sat a woman who must have been Queen Beryl. Naru was too terrified to take in many details about the Queen's appearance, only her lush hourglass figure, her long, wild red hair, the smoky glass ball around which her long-taloned hands constantly gestured. She seemed to ignore the pair standing before her.

Nephrite bowed deeply, placing his right fist over his heart. "Queen Beryl-sama," he said.

A high-pitched giggle came from off to the right. Nephrite and Naru both looked up to see Zoisite floating amidst a flurry of cherry blossoms. "Well, well," Zoisite said, "so you've come back, Nephrite, crawling like the loser you are, with your schoolgirl lover at your side. Isn't this funny."

Naru's anger on seeing him pushed aside her fear, and she drew breath to yell at the tawny-haired General. Nephrite squeezed her arm. "Easy," he whispered.

"Well, Nephrite?" the Queen said. "Did you grow tired of playing traitor?"

"While I was 'playing traitor,' my Queen, I was actually gaining the confidence of the Sailor Senshi." The lie slid off his tongue more convincingly, it seemed to Naru, than any truth he had ever spoken. For once she was glad he was an expert and well-practiced liar. "Despite certain attempts to discredit me, I might add. I am in a position to deliver a great deal of inside information on the Sailor Senshis' methods, on one condition."

"You dare put a condition on your service?" The Queen's voice grated along Naru's already-taut nerves.

"My condition," Nephrite said, ignoring the Queen's question, "is that you forbid Zoisite to make any further murder attempts against me or the girl."

After a moment, Queen Beryl said, "Very well. As long as your service is acceptable, I will not permit Zoisite to kill you or the girl. Speaking of the girl, is she not a close friend of Sailor Moon?"

How could she possibly know? Naru wondered as Nephrite pulled her behind him. "I brought the girl here for my use, not for yours," he said. He seemed so cold, so careless, that Naru had to remind herself that he didn't mean it the way it sounded.

"How am I to know she isn't a spy?"

"She and Sailor Moon had a falling-out. She is loyal to me."

The Queen seemed to consider. "Very well. You may keep her, on one condition. She is never to leave the Dark Kingdom. Not for any reason at all." Her long fingers continued to gesture around the crystal ball, then suddenly pointed towards Naru. A dark net wove itself around Naru, then disappeared into her skin. Naru shuddered; it felt as though something dreadfully cold and filthy had invaded her. The Queen smiled. "There. She cannot leave. If she tries, she will die."

Naru choked back a sob. Again, Nephrite gave her arm a gentle squeeze. "Hush," he whispered.

"Just to be safe, though, you are to keep her confined to your chambers, unless I summon her," the Queen added.

"Yes, my Queen. I must warn you, though, she would not make a good servant. She is weak and silly, has no notable talents, and is too stupid to make even a half-decent youma. I have found only one good use for her, and I doubt it is one that would interest you, Queen Beryl."

His harsh, horrible words cut her to the heart, though she knew he was only trying to protect her from the Queen. She leaned her head against his back. What have I done? she wondered again.

"I shall be watching you and the girl closely, Nephrite. You are dismissed."

"Thank you, my Queen." Nephrite bowed deeply, saluting again. Then he shook Naru's arm. "Bow to the Queen, girl," he ordered.

Naru managed a quick curtsey, then Nephrite dragged her through a different doorway than the one they had entered at. He pulled her along more dimly-lit, echoing passageways, moving so quickly that she had to run to keep up with his long stride. She fought back tears, not wanting to shame herself. She had to be strong and brave for Nephrite.

He finally stopped walking and placed his hand on the wall to their right. The stone seemed to dissolve, leaving a doorway. He led Naru through the opening, then the wall re-formed itself over the hole. The cavernous room they had entered was more or less round, and lit by the same wavering orange-purple light that permeated the entire Dark Kingdom. At the center of the large chamber was a tall, squarish column with an elaborate throne carved out of one side. Shelves and nooks were cut into the rock of the walls. At the far side of the room was a bed carved of the same rock, piled with furs and blankets. No wonder Nephrite had furnished his mansion so luxuriously; this place was even harsher and bleaker than Naru had imagined. And it was her home now.

Her survey of the room had taken only a few seconds while Nephrite inspected the wall where the doorway had opened. Then he led her to the stone bed and sat down with her. A thin, hard cotton-filled mattress lay beneath the blankets. He propped his elbows on his knees and buried his head in his hands. He was shaking; only now did Naru realize just how much strain he had been under during the whole meeting with Queen Beryl. "I'll never be free of this place," he said into his hands. All the arrogance was gone from his voice, leaving behind exhaustion, discouragement, and fear.

Naru put a hand on his shoulder. "It'll be all right. At least we're together."

"I'm sorry I said those things. I had to. I will not let her turn you into one of her slaves."

Naru leaned over and brushed aside his hair so she could kiss his cheek. He seized her in an embrace that took her breath away. "Please don't hate me, Naru-chan. You're the only thing in my life that's good."

"I could never hate you, Nephrite-sama." She pressed her lips to his.

The kiss seemed to snap something inside of him. He returned the kiss ravenously as his hands fumbled with her ribbon. His need swept over her, and her own need flamed up in response. She let him lay her down amongst the furs and blankets, and together they sought comfort in each other.

* * * * * * * *

He lay on his side, his back to her. Naru thought he might be asleep until he said, "I'm sorry, Naru-chan."

"Don't be. You warned me, and I made my choice."

"You deserve better. Not... this."

Through the veil of his hair falling across his back, she could see the five thick, knotted scars where the thorns had pierced through his body. She brushed them with her fingertips, and then with her lips. "I think--even though I'm not a Senshi like Usagi-chan, I think I wasn't meant to live a normal life. As long as we're together, it doesn't matter what happens, everything will be okay." She scooted a bit closer to him; he felt so warm all along the length of her body.

He let out a long sigh, then sat up and reached down to the floor for his clothes. When he was dressed in trousers and long-sleeved undershirt, he pulled the blankets snugly up to Naru's chin and kissed her. "You get some sleep. I need to think about some things."

Naru watched him walk across the room and sit down on his throne. She remembered the day, not so long ago, when she had bragged to Usagi about her "adult love" for Sanjouin Masato. At the time, she hadn't realized the full implications of what that meant. And now... She still didn't know if she was really ready for this. But she had made her choice, with her eyes open, and she had no regrets. Or not many, anyway. She didn't want Nephrite to feel bad about what had happened; it wasn't like he had raped her or lied to her and seduced her. He had told her what might happen, and she had known what she was getting into when she made up her mind to come to the Dark Kingdom with him.

And his need for comfort, and her need to comfort him, had been so overwhelming, it wouldn't have made any difference whether she had been forewarned or not.

In any case, even if she wanted to go back to living the same life she had had before she met him, it was no longer an option. As long as we're together, Naru repeated to herself. We can get through anything, as long as we're together.

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return to Index / go to Chapter 8

The Nephrite and Naru Treasury