by Moon Momma
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Nephrite didn't know how long he slept, recovering from his injuries. He knew that Beryl called him nearly constantly, but he just couldn't respond. Dusty came and went, bringing food... Damn, he was supposed to think about something, something to do with the food, but he couldn't remember what and anyway he couldn't think at all. He was too weak and feverish. But Naru was persistent in her efforts to get him to eat and drink a little, supporting him in her arms, coaxing him along in a sweet, soft voice. Sometimes she would set gentle hands on him, strengthening him with her own life-energy. Slowly, he recovered from what should have been a fatal injury.
When he was finally able to get out of bed, he decided he could no longer ignore Beryl's summons. He dressed with great difficulty--with the damage done by the thorns and the ice crystal he would probably never have full use of his right shoulder again--and teleported to the throne room.
What he saw there shocked him. Standing next to Beryl's throne, hands resting on the hilt of his bared broadsword, was Mamoru. He was dressed in the ancient manner: high boots, armor, cape. There was a cold, cruel look on the young man's face that Nephrite could not remember ever seeing there before, not even when he and Tuxedo Mask had faced each other as enemies.
Kunzite also stood atop the dais on Beryl's other side. Nephrite could almost hear the tension crackling between the two men. "Ah, Nephrite," Beryl purred. "I am so glad to see you on your feet again. Please, join us up here."
Nephrite climbed the dozen wide, high steps to Beryl's throne. He didn't like that self-satisfied look on Beryl's face. Mamoru and Kunzite both watched him closely; he didn't trust them, any more than he trusted Beryl. "Nephrite, perhaps you can help us," Beryl said when he reached the last step below the platform where her throne stood. "Kunzite and Prince Endymion cannot seem to agree on what our strategy should be to take the Silver Crystal from the Sailor Senshi. Kunzite believes we can trick Sailor Moon into revealing her true identity, which would then allow us to take the crystal when she is in her vulnerable human form. The Prince, on the other hand, says we should lure Sailor Moon here." Beryl looked at the young prince with heavy-lidded eyes and a sensuous smile. Nephrite felt a twist of nausea as he realized what Beryl's real interest in the young man must be. "Give us your opinion, Nephrite. You were always the deep thinker," Beryl said, still smiling. Kunzite glared down at his rival General.
At least it appeared that Beryl and Kunzite didn't know that he already knew Sailor Moon's true identity, and Mamoru must have forgotten that he knew. Nephrite spoke slowly, making a show of carefully considering his answer. "Either of those ideas might work if it were only Sailor Moon we were dealing with. But she is not isolated. She and the other Sailor Senshi are closely bound to one another. They will protect her from falling into either of those traps. As I have said before, the only way to defeat Sailor Moon is to disrupt the unity between her and the other Senshi."
"How should we go about doing this, Nephrite?" Beryl asked.
"It will be difficult, my Queen. Any attempts from outside to tear Sailor Moon away from the others would immediately raise their suspicions, drawing them closer together. Our best hope is to wait for internal tensions among the Senshi to push them apart. I know that at least one of the Senshi is contemptuous of Moon's leadership abilities, and covets the leadership position for herself. Perhaps a very small, inconspicuous push could bring that rivalry to the forefront and tear apart the bonds between the Senshi. Only then can you put either Kunzite's or Endymion's ideas into action."
Queen Beryl was silent for a while. "What you say makes sense, Nephrite. I believe I will send Endymion to provide that push."
"Queen Beryl-sama...!" Kunzite protested.
"Kunzite, I should think that you would have learned not to question me. Are you that eager to join Zoisite?"
Kunzite bowed a little. "Your pardon, my Queen." Pain filled his eyes, though Nephrite wasn't sure either Beryl or Endymion would know it for what it was.
Beryl ignored the apology. "Endymion, my pet, you may take some time to plan how you will stir up trouble between Sailor Moon and her Senshi. The job must be done right the first time, for once. Nephrite, you are dismissed."
Nephrite bowed, his right fist over his heart, then turned to walk down the steps. He was halfway down when Beryl said, "Oh, Nephrite, by the way, something rather unexpected has happened, which I am curious about."
Nephrite turned and looked at the Queen. He didn't like it when Beryl was curious. "Yes, Queen Beryl-sama?"
Beryl fixed the oily gaze of her orange eyes on him. "The girl has conceived, Nephrite."
Shock hit him like an icy avalanche. But it was only the one time--It shouldn't have happened here... He fought to remain impassive.
"Would you care to explain how that might have happened?" the Queen asked.
Nephrite glanced involuntarily at Endymion. "I... hardly think my Queen needs an explanation of the process of reproduction."
"That isn't what I meant, you fool. You know as well as I do that the influence of Metallia prevents any such life-changes among those living here. Have you taken the girl outside, after all?"
"No, my Queen. Even if I wished to disobey you, the spell you set on her would have prevented it."
"Hmm." The Queen's fingers moved ceaselessly above the surface of her crystal. "Perhaps, Nephrite," she said after moment, "you have come across the secret of successfully creating new life forms within the Dark Kingdom. As you know, our previous attempts at this have mostly been failures, to a lesser or greater degree. I am anxious to see what sort of youma you and the girl can breed for me. You may go now, Nephrite."
Nephrite bowed, then teleported back to his chambers. Naru was shaking out the furs and blankets on the bed, airing them out after his illness. He pulled her against him and pressed a hand to her abdomen. There it was, a spark of life-energy, very faint, but definitely there and definitely not entirely Naru. "Damn!"
Naru twisted in his grasp to face him. "Nephrite, what's wrong?"
He was cursing himself. The stasis, the influence of Metallia that kept everything in a lifeless, changeless state, was broken here. That was what he had been meaning to investigate. Food had spoiled, and now... "You're pregnant," he said, then cursed himself again for speaking so bluntly.
Her eyes widened, and her hand went to her abdomen. "I'm what? But how can you--I had no idea."
"Believe me, you are."
"But--I thought--" She blushed. "I missed, you know, my cycle, but I thought that was because of the stasis. And when I got sick, I thought that was just the food being spoiled--"
He tried to speak more gently. "The most important thing right now is that Beryl knows. She told me. It should be impossible here. But the stasis no longer exists in this room. Somehow, we've broken free of Metallia's influence. I'm afraid that Beryl will figure out what happened and that I'm no longer loyal to her."
Naru was deathly pale. "What will she do to us?"
"I don't know. Maybe nothing. She's eager to see what kind of youma we can produce."
Naru kept one hand protectively over her abdomen. The other covered her mouth in horror. "She wants to make my baby into a monster? Or maybe it's already a monster!"
Nephrite held her close. "I doubt it's already a youma. Remember, this room is no longer part of the Dark Kingdom. That's why it was possible at all for this to happen. But I don't want to think about what Beryl might do to the child, later on."
"Nephrite, we can't let her turn our baby into a monster!"
He stroked her hair. "We won't, I promise." But it was yet another promise he wasn't sure he would be able to keep.
Exhausted from being up for so long for the first time since he was injured, he started to walk to his sleeping mat. But Naru grabbed his sleeve. "Come back to your bed, Nephrite. That's where you should be." He looked at her. "At--at least while you're still getting better," she added.
"It doesn't make any difference now. What's done is done. Besides, I want you with me."
A small part of his mind continued to argue that this was not a good idea, but he let Naru lead him to the bed and lie down with him. He sighed in relief as he settled his aching, weary body into the soft pile of furs. What a blind fool he had been, he thought. It wasn't just the food being subject to spoiling; the whole atmosphere in his rooms had changed when he brought Naru here. Somehow, she had brought life into this place, and driven away Metallia's power from his rooms, from himself. He should have known, he should have done whatever he had to to keep himself away from her, shouldn't have given in to his desires, even just that one time. "Naru, I'm so sorry," he whispered.
She touched his face. "It's all right, Nephrite. I made my choice. I want this baby. Just, please don't let her turn it into a monster."
Nephrite sighed. Lying here, wallowing in self-recriminations, wasn't doing anyone any good. It was time to take control of matters himself. "I've got to go outside for a while. Stay right here, don't leave this room, and try not to worry." He kissed her, then teleported to his mansion.
* * * * * * * *
It was a little before midnight in Tokyo. He put on his biker clothes, then wheeled his Harley outside and climbed on. Though he knew it was stupid to do so, he left his helmet off and reveled in the sensation of the wind in his face, blowing through his hair. The late autumn air was bracing and fragrant with the spicy scent of fallen leaves mixed with car exhaust, so unlike the dull, constant chill of the Dark Kingdom. I'll get you out of there, Naru, he silently promised as he sped through the city. You'll breathe freely, feel heat and cold, see light and dark, really live again. I know why you followed me there, and I am more grateful than I can say, but that isn't the life you were meant for. I'll get you and our baby out of that place.
He reached the Tsukinos' house and parked the motorcycle at the curb. Concentrating on Usagi's wide-eyed, pretty, innocent face, he teleported into her room. She lay asleep on her back, snoring, her arms and pigtails splayed out. With a swift motion, Nephrite clapped a hand over her mouth and shook her awake. Or tried to. She mumbled something against his hand and tried to roll over. He shook her again and again, then finally growled sharply into her ear, "Sailor Moon, wake up!"
Her eyes flew open and she tried to sit up. Nephrite kept his hand firmly across her mouth and made her look at him. Her eyes widened when she recognized him. Without uncovering her mouth he said, "There's an emergency. Call the Senshi for a meeting immediately. I'll meet you at the park where Zoisite attacked me. Ten minutes." Then he teleported back outside to his bike.
* * * * * * * *
The crater made by the explosion had been filled in, leaving a patch of bare, clodded earth. He found the tree where they had sat together, where she had bound his wound and made him laugh. It wasn't here where he had fallen in love with her; that had already happened, he wasn't sure when. But this was where he had begun to make sense of what he was feeling, where he had realized how vital her smile, her voice, her presence had become to him.
The Sailor Senshi appeared right on time. Sailor Mars eyed him. "Biker Nephrite. That's a good one."
"Sanjouin Masato has to lay low for a while, and I'm not here as a Dark Kingdom General."
"So what do you want, Nephrite?" Sailor Moon asked.
"I offered you my help once. You refused. I'm offering it to you again, no strings attached. Can you be ready to attack Beryl soon?"
"Attack Beryl? Directly? I..." Moon trailed off, looking scared. "I hadn't thought about..."
"So what were you girls planning to do? Just go on ruining her schemes until she gets bored and quits?"
"Well," Mercury said, "we were trying to figure out a way to go in and rescue Mamoru."
"Don't worry about Mamoru. He's fine. Beryl's got him brainwashed, but once she's destroyed, her hold on him will be broken. By the way, don't trust him, don't trust Tuxedo Mask."
"We already know that," Moon said in a small, unhappy voice.
"So what's the big rush?" Jupiter said, her arms folded across her chest.
This wasn't going to be pretty. "It's because of Naru-chan. I've got to get her out of there, but I can't until the Dark Kingdom and Beryl are destroyed, along with Metallia."
"Is something wrong with Naru-chan?" Moon asked.
Nephrite took a deep, pain-snagged breath, hoping it wouldn't be his last. "She's pregnant."
There were a few seconds of shocked silence, then Sailor Moon clenched her fists. "You creep!" she screamed. "You disgusting, lying, heartless, manipulating--" She pulled back a fist to swing at him.
Nephrite grabbed her arm before her fist made contact with his face. "There's no time for this. Naru's in danger, and so is the baby."
"How could you?" Sailor Moon yelled.
"Listen to me. It shouldn't have happened in the Dark Kingdom. Metallia's power makes it impossible. Queen Beryl knows about Naru. She's interested in seeing if Naru and I can breed youma for her. She thinks we've discovered some kind of magical secret for creating life under Metallia's influence. But once she figures out that Naru was able to conceive because Metallia has no hold over us, she may just go ahead and kill us. Personally, I don't care for either possibility. So you see," he concluded, tears suddenly burning his eyes, "You've got to let me help you finish this soon. I have to get Naru-chan out of there."
"Why should we believe a word you say?" Mars asked.
"I believe him," Mercury answered. "I told you what I saw in the Starlight Tower. His blood ran red, and he bowed to Prince Endymion." She faced Nephrite. "You're the one who left Usagi that note about the cat with the Rainbow Crystal, and set up Umino as a decoy at the wrestling match, aren't you?" She smiled a little. "Umino's quite a hero now, you know. He's got girls following him everywhere he goes."
Nephrite angrily pushed tears away from his eyes. "I've been giving you as much help as I can. When Usagi refused to give me the Senshi's protection against the Dark Kingdom, my only option was to go back. I've been doing what I can for you."
"Why did you have to take Naru-chan with you?" Moon asked. "Why couldn't you have left her alone?"
"I tried, Usagi. My first plan was to erase myself from her mind and memories. I could have done it so thoroughly that no one, not even the other Generals, would have connected her with me. That's the only way she would have been safe. She refused to allow me to do it."
"You should have done it anyway," Jupiter said.
"Like Beryl did with Mamoru." He looked at all five Sailor Senshi. Right now they all looked like scared, stupid little girls. "Like she did with me. After the destruction of the Moon Kingdom, when I refused to kill Naru during the battle." Now they looked puzzled. "You still don't remember everything, do you? You will, soon enough." He sighed, and pushed his bangs out of his eyes. "Maybe I'm weak, but I couldn't do to Naru what Beryl did to me. I couldn't."
"That's still no excuse for... for... getting her in trouble," Moon said.
"I'm not trying to excuse myself. And I'm not here to debate my morals, or lack thereof. I..." He floundered helplessly for words. "It was only one time, but I know it was wrong, I shouldn't have done it. But she's the only good thing I've had in my life in a thousand years..." Pull yourself together, he scolded himself. You've got work to do. "So are you going to let me help you beat Beryl or not? You all have to be in agreement."
The five girls looked at each other. "Just a minute," Moon said to Nephrite, and the Senshi huddled together. The discussion sounded more like an argument at times, but finally they all nodded their heads and faced Nephrite again. "All right, Nephrite," Moon said. "We're ready to get this over with. For Naru's sake, and for Mamoru's sake, and because we're getting tired of the whole thing. If you've got any bright ideas about how to do this, we'd like to hear them."
Nephrite quickly outlined the plan he had proposed to Beryl to exploit Rei's rivalry with Usagi. Mars actually had the decency to look ashamed. "I'm sorry, Sailor Moon. I didn't realize I was putting us in danger by being so critical of you."
"It's ok, Sailor Mars. It sounds like Nephrite's figured out a way to turn that into a good thing. Right, Nephrite?"
He smiled a little at Sailor Moon. "Right, Moon. Now, when Mamoru comes around to give your rivalry that little push, let him think he's succeeded. I'm sure you all can put on a good act of not getting along." All five of them looked rather sheepish. "Just make sure it's only an act. You're going to have to be more unified than ever to pull this off." He outlined the rest of his plan and gave them the information they would need to invade the Dark Kingdom, and made them each repeat his instructions twice. "Do not try to contact me, and I will not be talking to you again. I'll watch, and be ready to give you as much help as I can when the time comes."
They all nodded, looking scared. Nephrite wondered if he was making a mistake by asking them to hurry things along. No; they were strong enough, even though they might not realize it, and at least now they had a plan. "Don't forget what I've told you." They nodded again. He knelt on one knee in front of them then, and saluted them with his right fist over his heart. "May the stars smile on you, Princess Serenity, Princesses." They stared at him, dumbfounded, as he walked to his bike, got on, and rode off into the night.
* * * * * * * *
Naru waited for Nephrite in their room, feeling stunned and scared. She believed him, that she was going to have a baby, but she had to know for herself. She went into that place deep inside herself, where she had known how to give her energy to Nephrite, went just a little deeper, and found the tiny spark of new life nestled within her body. It was there, it was real, and Queen Beryl wanted to turn it into a monster. She wrapped her arms protectively across her middle, shielding her baby from everything that would threaten it. "I won't let anything happen to you," she vowed. "I'll protect you, and take good care of you."
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return to Index / go to Chapter 13
The Nephrite and Naru Treasury