Book 2 Chapter 8
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The beheading of the Moon Queen's maidservant caused a brief but serious strain in relations between the Moon Kingdom and the Earth. Queen Selene protested Naru's execution without any sort of trial or even without the Queen being notified beforehand. Arrendel responded by threatening to break off the engagement between Endymion and Serenity.
Finally, both rulers' advisors reminded them of the need for the two Kingdoms to remain unified in the face of their common enemy, Beryl. Selene dropped her protests, though she assured the grieving Serenity that she hadn't forgotten the little red-haired handmaid. Arrendel, for his part, allowed the engagement to continue, much to Endymion and Serenity's relief, and sent an official condolence to Queen Selene for the loss of her maidservant, though he never offered any sort of apology.
Selene, after hearing from her daughter of Nephrite and Naru's secret marriage and Naru's pregnancy at the time of her death, sent a private message of sympathy to Nephrite. She didn't tell him that Naru's soul slept within the Silver Crystal; this particular power was one of the deepest and most sacred secrets of the crystal. But she tried to convey to him Naru's enduring love, and her belief that one day the two of them would be reunited.
Nephrite barely glanced at the note when it was brought to him. It was only empty words. It meant nothing.
Throughout the week or so while the small diplomatic uproar was going on, Nephrite went through the motions of carrying out his duties. He felt nothing except the lonely, cold, desolate howling inside his heart. He never spoke, and he spent every minute of his off-duty time secluded in his rooms. Beryl had given him her instructions, and now he was only waiting for the right time to carry them out.
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Though the sight of Nephrite caused Zoisite to feel that uncomfortable twist in his gut, the younger Guardian sought him out at every opportunity, asking pointed questions, criticizing his performance of his duties, hoping that Nephrite would say something, lash out, blame and accuse, so that Zoisite could finally accuse him in return. It was Nephrite's fault. He was the one responsible for what had happened. All Zoisite thought about was making Nephrite see that it was his fault, not Zoisite's. Nephrite was the one who should be feeling guilty, not Zoisite. If only he could convince Nephrite of that, Zoisite thought, then maybe he would stop seeing the girl's terrified eyes staring at him in the dark when he tried to sleep at night.
But Nephrite never took the bait. He never said anything at all, which only made Zoisite resent him all the more.
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Ten days after Naru's death, Nephrite emerged from his seclusion and invited the other three Guardians to dine with him in his rooms. Though the meal was delicious, it was an awkward, silent occasion. Nephrite didn't speak at all, and he drank less than the other men had expected him to. He was still working on his first goblet of wine while the servingman was pouring refills for the others.
When the plates were cleared away, Nephrite finally spoke. His voice was low and flat. "We've been together for eighteen years." He paused. "Eighteen years of giving everything to the King and his son and the Realm. We've been through a lot together." He raised his glass a little. "To friendship."
The others raised their glasses and echoed the toast, then drank. With the salute to friendship, the atmosphere in the room had lightened a bit, and Jadeite turned to say something to Nephrite. Suddenly he gasped in pain and doubled over. Looking up, he noticed Zoisite also hunched up, his arms wrapped around his middle. Kunzite suddenly leaned forward onto the table, snapping the stem of the crystal goblet he held. Only Nephrite remained sitting upright. He stared at the other three with the same detached look he had worn all through the meal.
"Why?" Jadeite gasped.
"You destroyed what I loved," Nephrite replied quietly.
"That's - what this is about? That little - slut?" Zoisite's voice was nearly strangled with pain.
"You murdered my wife."
"Your wife?" Jadeite said. He realized now that Nephrite was wearing a gold ring on his left hand. Had it been there the whole meal? Nephrite never wore rings. He wore earrings - all the Guardians did, it was traditional - and his magical symbol on a chain around his neck, but never a ring. Until now. "Neph - I had no - idea - I wouldn't have -"
"It was an illegal marriage." Kunzite was clearly putting great effort into speaking in a relatively normal tone. "In opposition to the King's orders."
"She was my wife. I love her."
"That's why you're killing us?" Jadeite could barely speak for the pain.
"I'm not killing you," Nephrite replied. "Although you may, in the end, wish I had." He barked out a few short words in a language unfamiliar to the other men. Immediately, half a dozen creatures appeared, shimmering into view out of the air. Each was a different color, mottled with varying shades of blue, green, or purple. They were taller even than Nephrite or Kunzite, and heavily muscled, and armed with spiral-shafted, many-barbed spears. They had long talons on their fingers, and fangs that extended upwards and downwards out of their mouths.
"What is this?" Kunzite demanded. The initial pain was wearing off, leaving the three poisoned Guardians weak and lethargic, unable to resist. "What --?"
"They are youma in the service of Beryl," Nephrite said, his voice still flat and impassive. "She has need of good commanders. I thought you three would be ideally suited to the job."
"You've joined Beryl?" Jadeite asked in disbelief.
"You're a Guardian of the Realm of Earth!" Zoisite protested. "How could you serve that vindictive bitch?"
"It isn't Beryl whom I serve, but the force behind her. The demon Metallia. It is Metallia to whom I have made my oaths, and to whom I promised to deliver you."
"Demon," Jadeite breathed.
"Nephrite, do you realize what you've done? Making oaths to a demon?" Kunzite asked desperately.
"Can you tell me of any hell worse than the one I'm living in now?" His words remained quiet, but now an edge of something, anger or grief, sharpened them. "The hell you've condemned me to?"
"It was your fault!" Zoisite cried. "You tricked her -- !"
Nephrite silenced him with the hard gaze of his cerulean eyes. "Why did you do it? Was it for the greater glory of the Realm of Earth? To punish me for disobeying the King? To promote Kunzite as the wise one, the loyal one, the one who should be first among us? Or to cover up your own crimes?"
"What crimes?" Jadeite asked. His voice, and the others' voices, were growing weaker.
"You called my wife a slut. Perhaps our marriage was not legal. But our love, unlike yours, was not an abomination."
"What's going on?" Jadeite looked at the three other men in turn.
"Who are you to accuse us of committing an abomination?" Kunzite demanded, anger making his voice hoarse. "You've betrayed your King and your comrades and sold your soul to a demon -- "
"I don't want my soul any more," Nephrite said too quietly. "My loyalty to the King and my fellow Guardians ended when my wife was murdered. All that matters now is that my Naru is avenged." He turned to Jadeite. "I'm sorry, Jade. I don't think you were behind this. But you didn't do anything to stop it. And Metallia wants all three of you. That was the terms of our contract. My soul, and the three of you, in exchange for revenge." Now he looked at the six youma. "Take them."
Two per man, the youma seized the weakened Guardians by the arms. Jadeite, Zoisite, and Kunzite tried to resist, but by now they could barely move. A darkness appeared over the center of the table, and expanded to envelope everyone in the room and carry them away to the Dark Kingdom.
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Nephrite watched while the others were given to Metallia and made into her servants, but he did not see them. They screamed horribly, for what must have seemed like eons of torment, but he did not hear them. All he saw was Naru struggling as she was dragged to the execution block, and the raw, animal fear in her eyes. All he heard was her screams, her plea of "Nephrite, help me!" that he hadn't been able to answer. Finally, all three new Lords of the Dark Kingdom lay naked in a quivering, whimpering heap on the floor outside the forge where Metallia's power burned. Nephrite stared at them a moment, feeling only emptiness, then turned to Beryl. "I've fulfilled my part of the bargain. When do we attack Earth?"
"Oh, Nephrite." Beryl laughed in her harsh, oily voice. "You think it's that simple, do you?" She walked around him, dragging a finger along his shoulders. "Remember, you once vowed to our mistress that you would fight her to the last drop of blood in your body?" Suddenly, a dagger with a long, crooked black blade appeared in her hand. Before Nephrite could react, she plunged the blade into his heart, then pulled it out.
He stared down at the blood pouring from the wound. "Bitch!" he gasped. He was drenched in his own blood, and still bleeding, but, he suddenly realized, he wasn't dying. Finally the flow stopped. He felt terribly cold. But, somehow, he wasn't dead. Beryl touched the wound. It healed, and Nephrite felt a warmth slowly begin to stir through his limbs. It was different, though. Not like before. It burned him from inside, and made him feel strangely heavy.
"So, Nephrite," Beryl said. "Every drop of blood in your body is gone. Don't worry, I've replaced it with a substance which will serve the same purpose. You are released from your previous oath, and you are fully my servant now." She laughed again. "Oh, I remember, such brave and noble things you said to Metallia, and you were the one to betray the others to us. You always took such pride in being honest, and now you will serve a demon by being a liar." Her laughter faded, and she fixed Nephrite with a hard gaze. She was tall, even taller than he, and he was compelled by something inside him to raise his eyes to her. "I love irony," she said.
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The other three Lords remembered nothing of the past. They served Beryl and Metallia as ruthlessly and efficiently as Nephrite did. The only things that seemed to remain from the past were Kunzite's contempt for him, and Zoisite's need to prove something to him, to put him in his place. Nephrite thought about this sometimes, during the long, chill, starless nights in the Dark Kingdom. He wondered what good his vengeance against the Guardians was if they didn't remember what they were being punished for.
The stars had counseled him over and over to not seek revenge, but he had ignored them. You'll find no satisfaction or peace in taking revenge, they had warned him. It won't bring her back. Be patient. All things will come right, in time. But what did the stars, so vast and distant and inhuman, understand of pain? He would take his revenge, over and over and over, until he had found some sort of peace. Betraying his fellow Guardians to Metallia was only the beginning.
The Lords worked together, training the human armies who had been swept up into Metallia's power on Jupiter and the other planets where Beryl had made forays. They prepared strategies for Beryl's conquest of the Earth and Moon. Finally the day came when they attacked Earth. Millions upon millions were killed, including King Arrendel. Earth's armies were powerless against Metallia's vast power when it was finally fully unleashed, and against the huge armies commanded by the men who had been Earth's elite Guardians.
Prince Endymion fled to the Moon, to give warning of the coming disaster. His heroic efforts were in vain. The armies of the Dark Kingdom, led by the four Lords, overran the Moon, slaughtering every living thing in their path. The Senshi, fighting valiantly, were cut down one by one by the armored Lords themselves. Nephrite watched as Jupiter was run through by Jadeite's long sword. He felt nothing. He killed, one victim after another after another, each death like a weight added to a balance. The other side of the balance was weighted all the way down by Naru's death. If he killed enough, eventually the balance would hang evenly and Naru would be avenged. But each life he took carried less and less weight, until finally Nephrite was killing simply because he had to, he couldn't stop, he couldn't bear to see one person left living when his Naru was dead.
Beryl had her revenge on the Prince who had spurned her; she killed Endymion and his beloved Serenity. Queen Selene, distraught at her daughter's death, made one final, desperate effort. She invoked the power of her Crescent Moon Wand and the Silver Crystal, and with that great outpouring of power was able to repel Metallia and her forces and banish them back to the Dark Kingdom. Then she used the last of her strength to gather the souls of her daughter, the Prince, the Senshi, and as many other of the souls of the people of the Moon as she could, into the Silver Crystal and send them, along with the wise cats Luna and Artemis, to another time and place where they could live in peace. Her last thoughts, as her life gave out, were of her daughter and Naru. At least Serenity would have her best friend with her. And Naru was no longer alone. "Usagi, my little Moon Rabbit," she murmured, "Naru, my little maid... Please find a way to be happy...."
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Victory had been so close, until that sudden explosion of light and pain. Nephrite regained consciousness in the throne hall of the Dark Kingdom, along with Beryl and the other Lords. Beryl was fuming. "How dare she!" Beryl screamed. "We almost won! How dare she take my victory from me. She can't do this to me... Selene, I swear, one day I'll figure out a way out of here, and I'll get that idiotic daughter of yours and the Silver Crystal and then we'll see who wins!"
Nephrite's head felt like it was being slowly split in two. He didn't even notice what any of the other Lords were doing; he stood and walked to his chambers, leaving Beryl to her tantrum. What happened? he wondered. He remembered the destruction of the Moon Kingdom, remembered the sense of anger he felt, the need to kill that drove him even when the ache in his sword arm had become unbearable. Why? He tried to remember. He recalled back to when Metallia used her power to launch her forces at the Moon, in one huge, howling, dark cloud, but before that... Nothing.
Nothing. All he knew of his life was the destruction of the Moon Kingdom. Had he always been in Beryl's service? he wondered. Had he always lived in the Dark Kingdom? Its paths and passageways were certainly familiar enough to him. He searched all through his mind but found no answers. For some reason, this disturbed him, though he saw no reason why it should.
He arrived at his chambers, and looked around. Though they were familiar, he could call up no specific memories connected to them. There was a large throne carved of stone in the middle of the colonnaded chamber. His throne. He took off his armor and stored it away in a niche carved into one of the walls, then sat, waiting for his headache to ebb.
His jacket was stiff with dried blood. He took it off, and realized he was wearing a silver chain around his neck. Strange, he didn't remember that. He lifted it off over his head and studied it. There was an odd symbol worked in gold, set with a pale green stone at the top. It was his own magical crest. Where had the pendant come from? He had no idea. There were also two gold rings, one larger than the other, joined by a lock of wavy red hair twined around them. Curious, he touched them with one forefinger --
He was unprepared for the pain that drove him to his knees on the floor, doubled over and biting his lips against his cries of agony. He fought to pull himself together, and was finally able to look again at what he held in his hand. Two rings and a lock of hair. What did the rings mean, he wondered, and whose hair was it? There were no answers. All he knew was that these things caused him a pain he could neither understand nor bear.
He should destroy them. But as he gathered his power to do so, something stopped him. If he destroyed them, he would lose something infinitely precious, even though he had no idea what it was. He didn't know how he knew this, he just knew. But he couldn't bear the sight or touch of the tokens in his hand.
Nephrite looked at the heavy stones that made up the arms of his throne. He could hollow one of them out, make a hiding place for the chain with its emblem, rings, and lock of hair. They would be safe, and close by, but he wouldn't have to see them or touch them.
It took quite some time, in his exhausted state, but he was able to use the small amounts of star power available to him in this dark place to cut a slab off the top of one of the stones on the arm of his throne, then to hollow out the rest of it. He started to put the chain inside, then hesitated. Not knowing why he did this, only that it seemed like the right thing to do, he went to the niche where he had put his armor, took a dagger from the weaponry there, and cut off a lock of his own hair. He unknotted and unwrapped the red hair from around the rings and twined it together with the lock of his auburn hair. Then he wrapped the hair around the rings again, knotting it firmly. Gently, he placed the chain, pendant, rings, and hair into the stone box he had made, and put the heavy cover over it. They would be safe there.
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Over the long centuries, he forgot they were there, and forgot the pain they had caused. But the rings and intertwined locks of hair were safe, waiting for the day when they would be found....
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Lyra's Children Index / go to Book 3 Chapter 1
The Nephrite and Naru Treasury