Book 1 Interlude
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Two months later, Nephrite was able to return to Tokyo. There, he spent another two months convalescing at his mansion. Naru had finished high school and was waiting for her classes at Juuban University to begin. She was spending the break caring for Nephrite. They had the luxury of whole days together, to talk and plan and just enjoy being with each other. She helped Nephrite run his business, and, in consultation with Usagi, who had begun an internship with an interior designer, began turning his rather spartan quarters into a home suitable for the family they would be one day.
The night before Nephrite left to go to the Dark Kingdom, he and Naru ate delivery sushi at his house, then sat curled up on the big new sofa Naru had bought. Nephrite looked at how this main room of his house, the room where he had consulted the stars and done his other work, had been transformed. He had to admit that Usagi seemed to know what she was doing. With Naru's help, of course. The room was warm, comfortable, beautiful. Like Naru, he thought, looking down at the top of her head where it rested against his chest.
"When does your flight leave?" Naru asked yet again.
"Nine-thirty in the morning." Nephrite had considered teleporting between Tokyo and the D point in the Arctic, as he had done so many times while he was with the Dark Kingdom. But he was still weak from his injuries, so he had decided to fly to Anchorage, Alaska, which would get him considerably closer to where he needed to go.
"I'll pick you up at 7:30, then." Naru had a car now.
"No, you don't need to. I know it's hard on you when we say goodbye at the airport."
"I want to be there. And you won't be gone so long this time, will you?"
"If I figure out how to finish off Metallia, I'm going to go ahead and do it. That might take a while. Otherwise, no, it might not be more than a few days, a week or so... I can't say."
She turned and raised herself over him, her soft, wavy red hair falling around their faces. "I'll wait as long as it takes, Nephrite. I'll wait for you forever."
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To Anchorage, then teleporting in stages to the D point... Nephrite stood in the frigid Arctic air, and found the gate to the Dark Kingdom. He had been afraid it might not exist any more. If it didn't, he still could have found a way in, but finding a way out would not have been guaranteed. He steeled himself, wondering what he would find, wondering why he was afraid of what he would find, then willed himself through the gate.
Inside the Dark Kingdom, it was darker now than it had been before. The wavering orangish-purple light, the manifestation of Metallia's power, that had emanated from the cold, slimy stone walls and provided the only light in the Kingdom, was gone. Also gone was the ever-present sense of malevolence. Nephrite made a globe of starlight for himself and found his way through the maze of passages to his old chambers.
The tunnels were nearly blocked in some places by piles of rubble, and everything was coated with dust and cobwebs. Nephrite found himself sneezing a lot, and thought he must look a fright, with dust and spiderwebs and who knew what smeared all over his face and in his hair. He still walked stiffly; his broken ankles, knees, and pelvis weren't all the way back to normal yet, and climbing over the piles of rocks was a slow and painful endeavor.
He was sweating by the time he reached his chambers and undid the illusion spell that concealed the door. The room contained fallen rock and dust, but little else. By the time he deserted from Beryl's service, he had moved most of his few possessions to his home on Earth. For convenience, he had told himself at the time, but now, looking back, he wondered if perhaps, in the back of his mind, he had been intending to take up permanent residence on Earth all along. It was much more comfortable there, and while he didn't care to wallow in luxury, he did like a few material comforts. And he could see the stars when he was on Earth.
His stone-carved throne still stood, against a huge pillar that grew out of the rock of the cavern floor and ceiling. Nephrite went to it, remembering how he had sat there, the night he left the Dark Kingdom for Naru. He had been trying to figure out why his Black Crystal was reacting to Naru, and kept getting distracted by memories of her saying that she loved him. Not distractions, he now knew. Answers.
A corner of one of the arms of the throne had been broken off, revealing a hollow within the arm. Nephrite looked more closely. The top of the arm proved to be a lid covering the hollow space. Nephrite pushed the lid aside, sending it crashing to the floor. Something in the dark space glimmered in the light of his starglobe. Nephrite reached in and pulled out a silver chain, long enough to go over his head. On the chain was a gold rendition of his magical crest, set with a milky-green stone at the top. There were also two gold rings, one wider and broader, the other smaller and narrower. They looked like a pair of wedding bands, one a man's ring and the other a woman's. Twined around the two rings, holding them together, was a lock of hair. Studying it closer, Nephrite realized it was actually two separate locks. One was bright red and wavy, the other was a darker red, a match for his own auburn hair. His hair, hair like Naru's, two wedding rings... He opened his mind, asking the rings and locks of hair to tell him their story.
Pain suddenly exploded inside him, forcing him to double over, gasping. Grief and rage washed over him, flooded him, filled him. He fell to his knees, biting his lips against the screams that fought to tear their way out of his body, clasping the rings in both his hands against his heart.
And he remembered.
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Lyra's Children Index / go to Book 2 Chapter 1
The Nephrite and Naru Treasury