Book 1 Chapter 3
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That night, Nephrite sat on the hood of the truck he had driven, leaning against the windshield. He held his picture of Naru in his hand, but he wasn't looking at it. His attention was directed towards the stars. This sky was different from the one Naru would see in Tokyo; he was much farther south. But the stars, and their power, were there whether they were visible or not. "The stars know everything," he intoned under his breath, centering himself. The warm spot appeared on the center of his forehead; the connection with the stars was complete. "How is she?" Nephrite whispered. Is she well? Is she safe? Does she ever think of me?
The answer came, soft and chiming, into his mind. The Guard spell he had set on her was holding, and no one from the Dark Kingdom had troubled her any further. She thought of him often. Though her friend Usagi tried to convince her that he had only been pretending to love her for his own purposes, Naru's faith in him was unshaken.
Nephrite took a deep breath and relaxed more deeply into the trance. He hadn't communed with the stars like this in - not in all the time he could remember, though somehow he knew there had been times before Beryl when he had sat like this, talking to the stars as though they were his closest friends. As a Lord of the Dark Kingdom he had commanded them, but rarely had he sensed that they were eager to grant him what he asked. And never had he felt this sense of... comfort. Companionship. Almost of love.
"Show her to me," he whispered. The stars obliged, giving him a vision against the night sky. Naru slept, curled up on her side, as he had seen her the night he went to her room. Something showed from beneath her cheek, white against the pink pillowcase. His gloves.
"Mind if I join you?"
The vision dissolved, and Nephrite looked to his side to see Monique. Wordlessly, he scooted over to make room for her on the hood. The tall woman climbed up and leaned against the windshield, her arm brushing his. "Quite a day," she said. "You were great."
Nephrite shrugged. "Just doing what had to be done."
"I was wondering about something, though. You killed people, and it doesn't seem to bother you."
"I hadn't thought about it."
"This isn't the first time you've been in the middle of a war, is it?" It was more of a statement than a question. "You're used to killing."
Nephrite thought back to the battle for the Moon Kingdom. Blood, screams, the dreadful howling and purplish light that came from the vast cloud of Metallia's power, a distant ache in his shoulder as he worked his sword, hacking his way through the defenders, then the civilians... The sense of anger and satisfaction that filled him as he killed, that drove him to continue killing, taking revenge... for what? Something from the forgotten time.
"I don't like to think about it," he said.
"Then don't," Monique replied.
They sat in silence for a few minutes, then Monique shifted to face him and put a hand on his chest. "I think we're both feeling unsettled by what happened. I think if we make love, it will help us both."
Nephrite looked at Naru's picture in his hand, though it was too dark to really see her face. "No."
"Just this one time, and she'll never have to know."
"No, she won't." Nephrite thought about this. "But I'll know. And so will they." He glanced upwards.
"The stars. They see everything, you know."
Monique laughed her throaty, sexy laugh. "You really are crazy. All right, if you don't want to..." She started to slide down from the truck.
Nephrite interrupted her. "Monique."
"Yes?" There was a shade of eagerness in her voice, and in her face when she looked back at him.
"Please don't ask me again. I value our friendship."
"Oh." She sighed, and her shoulders slumped. "Well, I'll go bother Erik or someone. Goodnight, Max."
Nephrite waved at her as she walked away. "Goodnight." He looked back up at the stars, recalling the vision of Naru. "Send her a message for me. Tell her - tell her I love her, and I'm trying to be worthy of her, and I'll be back as soon as I can."
The stars willingly agreed. The message was as good as sent.
* * * * * * * *
Naru stirred, gasped, then came fully awake. She thought she had heard someone calling her. "Nephrite-sama?" she murmured, looking around, then realized that she was alone in the room. No one had been calling her. But still, she didn't feel alone.
She got up, holding Nephrite's gloves, and went to the window. Parting the curtains, she saw that it was nearly dawn. It was so hard to see the stars in the city sky, and especially when the night was beginning to lighten, but now it seemed as though she could almost see thousands and thousands of stars shining through the veil of the city lights and the faint dawn. The stars seemed to move, weaving with their movement a sensation that wrapped around Naru. She was loved, she was cherished, the one who loved her was well and would return to her as soon as he could. Naru held the gloves, still warm from being slept on, to her cheek. "Nephrite-sama," she whispered again.
The stars faded, leaving her with a last caress, Beautiful child...
* * * * * * * *
Roadblocks were no longer a problem for the relief workers. After Nephrite, with Monique riding shotgun, blasted and sped his way through a few more blockades, the various fighting factions began to show some respect. The soldiers would still watch carefully, guns at the ready, as the trucks drove past to the refugee camps or the depots where food and other supplies were being flown in, but they made no attempt to stop the relief work.
Gradually the unrest shifted southward and westward. The refugees that Nephrite and Monique had helped gradually, timidly, began making their way back to their homes, but in the places where the fighting had spread were new refugee camps and new groups of enemies. The lesson had to be taught all over again.
Gary decided to put Nephrite in charge of training the other drivers in his intimidation technique. The success of the relief efforts couldn't rest on one person; if something happened to Nephrite, someone else had to be able to take his place. Nephrite couldn't teach the others how to fire blasts of star power out of their hands, but he could teach them the lesson he had learned driving a Ferrari sixty miles an hour through the congested, anarchic streets of Tokyo: show no fear, and the other drivers will be forced to stay out of your way. The technique worked just as well when applied to armed men as to automobile drivers. Show no fear, Nephrite taught the other volunteers, and keep your AK-47 handy at the window. Erik worked out a technique for steering with one knee while firing the rifle.
Monique was having an affair with Erik. He was tall, blond, blue-eyed, square-jawed. "He looks like a perfect Nazi," Monique said to Nephrite once when they were on a run to a supply depot, "but he isn't, of course, or else what would he be doing here?" She seemed content with her blond lover, and Nephrite was able to relax a little more in her company.
"What are any of us doing here?" Nephrite asked.
"I'm here to get out of the society marriage my parents were pushing me into. What a bore that would have been. And you?"
"I'm avoiding some unscrupulous business rivals. They were starting to bother Naru, so I figured if I wasn't around her, they would leave her alone. And I'm rather hoping they don't catch up with me and kill me."
"It seems none of us, except possibly Gary, are here out of the goodness of our hearts, then. We all have ulterior motives."
"But does that make the good we do any less good?" Nephrite asked. "Hungry people are getting fed, regardless of our motives."
Monique laughed a little. "You're a thinker, aren't you?"
"I've been thinking a lot about the difference between good and evil. It's something I'd never thought much about before."
"But now you are, for Naru."
"Right." Nephrite slowed the truck a little; they were approaching a stretch of road where some trees were still standing. Snipers could be hiding amongst them. Most roads were treeless, the trees cut down by one warring side or another in order to prevent their enemies from hiding snipers. Nephrite didn't spot any suspicious motion, so he sped up the truck and roared past the stand of trees. Safely through, he and Monique both let out the breath they'd been holding.
"Anyway," Monique said, "I have to think that if Erik were as evil as he looks, he'd be selling weapons to all three sides."
"I believe there are four different sides now."
"Three, four, five sides, what does it matter if they end up killing everyone in the country?"
She had a point. "Humans," Nephrite muttered under his breath.
"Excuse me?" Monique asked.
Nephrite grinned at her. "Nothing. Just talking to myself."
"You're crazy, Max."
* * * * * * * *
One day, Nephrite was feverish from one of the many bugs that plagued the region. It wasn't dangerous, but he wasn't up to driving. Gary took over the run he was going to make to a refugee camp, his lover Ana riding shotgun. The truck drove over a landmine.
In shock after hearing the news from a soldier on the side that was presently more sympathetic towards the relief workers, Nephrite, Monique, Erik, and the others gathered in the main tent. The entire operation had been Gary's; he had conceived it, started it, organized it, run it. With his death, no one seemed to know what to do. There was even talk of pulling out.
"We can't pull out," Nephrite said. Every joint in his body ached, and there was a heaviness in his head that made it nearly impossible to think. Gary was dead. Nephrite was supposed to have made that run, but he couldn't so Gary made it instead, and now Gary and Ana were dead. Why had it happened that way? "This war isn't going to end anytime soon, and there are still people who need our help." Nephrite listened to himself, not sure he believed he could actually be saying this.
"But there's only ten of us now," someone pointed out. "They'll eventually kill us all off."
"We need to get some help," Monique said. "Get some of the legitimate agencies to come back."
"They won't," Erik told her. "It's too dangerous."
"I have an idea," Nephrite said. "I'll have to be gone for a day or so, but I think I can manage something."
"What?" Erik asked.
"I'd rather not say, since I'm not sure it will work." Going up against the Sailor Senshi had taken quite a toll on his confidence, Nephrite realized. No, his cockiness. He had always been far too over-confident.
"You do what you think best," Monique said. "Just not until you're better, though."
Nephrite nodded acquiescence.
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Three days later, he started out in the dawn driving one of the trucks. Several miles away from the relief camp, he made a large pocket of negative space and hid the truck in it, then teleported the rest of the way to the nearest city where communications facilities still existed. There, he found a hotel room with a telephone so he could conduct his business in privacy. He phoned his banker in Tokyo and instructed him to contact up to half a dozen of the world's major relief agencies and offer them each a two million U.S. dollar donation on condition that they send workers into this war-torn region.
"But, Sanjouin-san," the banker stammered, "that's twelve million dollars."
"I've got that much, haven't I? And some to spare?"
"And plenty to spare. But -"
"It's my money, isn't it?" Nephrite asked impatiently.
"Yes, sir. But -"
"Then do as I ask." Nephrite hung up, cutting off the man's continued protests. He knew the banker would follow his instructions; Nephrite's business was extremely valuable to that bank, and they wouldn't want him to take his assets elsewhere.
He sat on the rickety bed, and looked at the phone. He calculated the time difference; Naru would certainly be home now. Her phone number was burned into his memory, from the evening he had called her and asked her to meet him in the park. The evening he had lied to her, trying to get the Silver Crystal from her. The evening she had risked her life to save his.
His hand hovered over the phone; he pulled it back several times. Calling her might make things worse, might remind him too sharply of how much he missed her. But finally he couldn't help himself. He picked up the handset and spoke to the operator, then waited, his stomach clenching, while the call was put through.
Warmth shot through Nephrite at the sound of Naru's sweet voice. "Naru-chan?"
She gasped. "Nephrite-sama! Where are you? Are you home?"
"No, my love." Disappointing her like this was one of the hardest things he'd ever done. He shouldn't have called...
"Oh." Her voice shook, but she went on anyway. "Where are you? What are you doing?"
"I'm in Africa, having a very interesting adventure, and doing some very important work. I'll tell you all about it when I come home."
"When will that be?"
"I wish I knew. Soon, I hope. How are the Senshi doing against the Dark Kingdom?"
"I don't know, really. They've been pretending to be fighting with each other, to try to fool the Dark Kingdom and find out how to get in. My mother and I helped, we pretended that there was a robber in the store so the Senshi could come rescue us and have a fight. It was funny, but Usagi -" She paused. "I mean -"
"It's okay. I overheard her telling you, in the park that day, that she's Sailor Moon."
"Oh. Okay. Anyway, Usagi is very upset about the pretend-fighting. I guess it doesn't feel so pretend to her."
Nephrite chuckled at the story. He wanted Naru to keep talking, he wanted to hold on to the sound of her voice, he wanted to close his eyes and imagine he was with her. "Naru-chan, have you got a piece of paper and a pencil?"
"Yes, right here by the phone, of course."
"Write this down very carefully. It's the location of the entry point into the Dark Kingdom. It will be dangerous for the Senshi to go directly in that way, but there really isn't any other way that's any safer. If they use any other gate, they could get trapped in it." He recited the longitude and latitude of the place on the Arctic icecap where the gate to the Dark Kingdom could be found, and made Naru repeat the numbers back to him twice. "Good girl. Give that directly to Usagi. And please don't tell her, or anyone else, where I am. Okay?"
"Just a minute, Mama!" she called, her voice slightly muffled. "Okay, Nephrite-sama."
"I'll come home as soon as I can, Naru-chan. I miss you. I love you very much."
Her voice was softer. "I know. The stars told me. I love you too, Nephrite-sama, and I miss you so much."
Nephrite didn't want to hang up. "Remember that I love you, and I'm trying hard to be good enough for you."
"You don't have to. I love you anyway." Her voice became muffled again. "Coming, Mama!"
"You'd better go. I'll come home as soon as I can."
"Please be careful."
"I will. Goodbye."
When the connection was broken, Nephrite sat, staring at the handset, which he still held in his hand. He was glad he had called her, though there was an unfamiliar ache inside him. He missed her. "Naru-chan," he whispered, then gently set the handset back on the phone. He thought about what he had done, giving her the coordinates to the Dark Kingdom gate. It was his final, definitive act of treason. If he was captured by Beryl, he would surely be executed for that if not for anything else he had done. He hoped he wasn't sending the Sailor Senshi to their deaths, but the only way they were going to defeat Beryl was to face her directly.
Still weak from his illness, he lay down to sleep and regain some strength for the trip back to the relief camp. He awoke some time later, trembling, breathing hard, covered with sweat, from vivid dreams of soft arms, warm skin, deep kisses, bodies moving together. "Naru-chan," he groaned. The dream had been so realistic; where had it come from? He fully intended to have an intimate relationship with Naru when she was old enough, and he had certainly enjoyed kissing her that night that he stood watch over her in her room, but never before had his thoughts of her been so... carnal. The sharp ache of desire slowly ebbed as he lay still, forcing himself to breathe deeply and slowly. He had vowed to wait at least until she was eighteen, but the three years between now and then seemed like an eternity.
He briefly debated whether it would be better to just stay away from her until then. No, he would rather be with her, no matter how difficult it might be to resist the temptation to go too fast with her.
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Two nights later, it was Nephrite's turn to keep guard overnight against the raiding parties that had been trying to attack the camp lately. He was sitting on his vantage point on the hood of a truck, watching the flat, moonlit landscape spread out before him. Suddenly his vision swam, then the whole world rocked around him. He felt as though pieces of himself were being pulled out of his body and his mind. "What's happening?" he demanded of the stars.
The stars showed him Sailor Moon - no, it was Princess Serenity, of the Moon Kingdom, who had died so long ago. She and Sailor Moon were the same person, Nephrite realized. The Princess was surrounded and supported by shadowy figures, the spirits of the other Sailor Senshi. They must have died invading the Dark Kingdom. Nephrite wondered at the sudden stinging in his eyes; why should he mourn his former enemies? No, not enemies. Little girls Naru-chan's age, who were fighting a battle that he couldn't fight. With the aid of her Senshi, the Princess held out her Crescent Moon wand as the blinding power emanating from it engulfed Beryl - but not Beryl. Something even larger than Beryl. Something made of both Beryl and the power behind her, Metallia. The power of the Silver Crystal surrounded the evil Queen. After a final, dreadful scream, the being dissolved into ashes and was gone.
It was over; Serenity had won. The Dark Kingdom was defeated, Beryl and Metallia were destroyed.
Nephrite watched as Princess Serenity collapsed. She was so terribly pale and still that she couldn't possibly still be alive. But he didn't have a chance to think about that any further. Suddenly, he felt dizzy, light-headed, confused. Everything went dark around him as he slid from the hood of the truck to land in an unconscious heap on the ground.
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Lyra's Children Index / go to Book 1 Chapter 4
The Nephrite and Naru Treasury