Book 3 Chapter 2
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Nephrite and Naru set a wedding date for four months after Nephrite's expedition to the Dark Kingdom, a date shortly after Naru's nineteenth birthday. Naru started classes at Juuban University while planning a small but exquisitely elegant wedding at the Hikawa Shrine.
Nephrite gradually resumed a heavy travel schedule, until he was gone two or three weeks out of each month, continuing both his expansion of his arts, crafts, and luxury items import business and his humanitarian work. He had begun combining the two interests by placing orders for locals arts and crafts in areas that were recovering from the devastation of war and natural disaster. The immense respect he was earning worldwide for his efforts translated into vastly increased profits for his business.
The money barely registered on his consciousness, though. He was too wrapped up in Naru and in his research into Metallia. He and Naru had begun a thorough study of all the world's mythologies and religious systems, looking for any mention of souls damned before they were born, or spirits who were forbidden to take on a physical form. There were tantalizingly few hints about such things, but he filed away every bit of information and lore that he gleaned, no matter how small or vague, in his mind with his memories of Metallia, slowly building a picture of what sort of being she was.
Nephrite was also concerned about making reparations for his treason so long ago. The thought of the young Prince and Princess whose trust he had betrayed was painful to him. It took Nephrite some time to work up the courage, but the past had to be faced and dealt with. Finally, he phoned Chiba Mamoru and invited him to meet him for lunch at a fashionable businessmen's restaurant where he frequently ate.
Nephrite sat at his usual table, with the drinks he had already ordered for himself and his guest, watching the younger man as he approached. Mamoru looked uncomfortable in his coat and tie. Nephrite sympathized; he hated wearing a tie, but it was the uniform of the circles he moved in. Besides, this restaurant had a dress code requiring ties. Nephrite had thought that the formal, businesslike surroundings would offset any emotional awkwardness that might arise during the meeting.
He stood and shook Mamoru's hand when the young man arrived at the table, then they sat down. "What did you want to see me about, Mr. Sanjouin?" Mamoru asked cautiously.
"I'm meeting you as Nephrite today."
Mamoru looked surprised. "You know --?"
"Who you are? Yes. Prince Endymion. I regained my memories recently. I used to be in your service, until I betrayed you and your father."
Mamoru stared at the menu thoughtfully. "I remembered, quite some time ago, that the four of you had been Earth's Guardians. But I've never been able to remember what happened. Why did you all desert to Beryl's side?"
"The other three weren't at fault, or not directly. It was my doing...." Nephrite related the story of his and Naru's marriage and Naru's subsequent death, pausing only to sip at his whiskey.
Mamoru was silent for a long time when Nephrite was done. He stared into his beer, swirling it around in the glass, then drained what was left. "Damn, Nephrite," he said softly. "I'm remembering now. It's like your telling me is opening up doors in my mind." He paused. "I remember how you were that night, after... You know, if someone had... had done to my Usagi-chan what Kunzite and Zoisite and my father did to Naru, I can't say I wouldn't have reacted any differently. I would have wanted revenge, and nothing else would have mattered." The waiter stopped by, and they ordered their meal and another set of drinks. "How much of this have you told Naru?"
"I've told her that she was killed, but not how, or why, or who was responsible. I also did not tell her about her condition at the time of her death. I thought that would be too much for her to handle."
"You're probably right," Mamoru said. "Usagi ought to know about this, being who and what she is."
"I agree," Nephrite said "But perhaps it would be best to let Naru tell her. Since the two of them are best friends, it could be awkward if Usagi knew more than Naru. In fact, it might be best for the girls if they never learn all the details."
Mamoru nodded. The fresh drinks arrived, followed shortly by the food. After a few moments, the young man said, "You were always so distant and detached. But I remember now, one time when I was missing Usagi and you were missing Naru, when you had the crazy idea that we could just go to the Moon and see them, protocol be damned."
Nephrite smiled into his whiskey. "I remember that, too."
"I want you to know, Nephrite, that if I had been King instead of my father, you and Naru never would have had to hide anything."
"Thank you," Nephrite said. Then he added, quietly, "I know it's too much to hope, that you would be able to forgive me for everything I've done to you and Usagi, but I want to apologize for betraying you, and for the things I did when I was serving the Dark Kingdom. Particularly that elevator trick. That was cruel."
"Hell, Nephrite," Mamoru said, "of course I forgive you. Like I said, if what happened to you and Naru happened to me and Usagi, I would probably react just the way you did. You weren't yourself, then. You're a good man - I think you've proven that over and over the last five years. And now that Usagi and I have found each other again, everything's okay."
Nephrite was bewildered at this easy forgiveness. "But, so many people died because of what I did -"
"It isn't my place to forgive you for all of that. But it probably would have happened anyway, without your help. I'm sure Beryl and Metallia would have found other servants - maybe, eventually, it would have been Kunzite and Zoisite who turned to them. Or someone else. Anyway, I do forgive you for what you did to me and Usagi."
"Thank you," Nephrite said quietly. "I'm at your service again, Endymion. If there is ever anything I can do for you -"
"There's one thing." The young man grinned. "You can let me stand up with you at your wedding. I would have insisted on it if you and Naru had been able to be properly married, before. Usagi's going to be the maid of honor anyway, and then you two can do the same for us at our wedding next year."
"I would be honored, my Prince." Nephrite was surprised to feel a bitterness he had never been aware of ebbing from his heart. The younger man's simple, frank understanding, forgiveness, and friendship had healed a wound that had been there since... even since before he joined the Dark Kingdom, Nephrite realized. His service had been valued - he had been valued. He savored and swallowed a mouthful of whiskey, waiting for the rush of emotion to subside. Then he grinned back at Mamoru. "You'll have to wear a tuxedo, of course. I'm afraid Naru-chan is insisting on it."
"That's all right," Mamoru replied. "I'm used to them."
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The night before the wedding, Usagi slept over at Naru's. In the bedroom where they had shared so many heart-to-heart talks and gossip sessions while they were growing up, Usagi was giving Naru a stylish new kind of manicure, following the instructions in one of the dozen bridal magazines piled on the floor. "Oh, it's so pretty!" Usagi exclaimed, looking at Naru's right hand, which she had just finished. "If nothing else, Naru-chan, you'll have perfect fingernails tomorrow."
"Everything will be perfect tomorrow," Naru said. "I just know it will." She did know. She had a feeling inside her that she couldn't have described, something more than happiness, a deep, calm joy. Everything would be just right.
Usagi smiled at her. "I can't believe it. You and Nephrite getting married tomorrow. I remember, when we first knew him, when he was evil, what a crush you had on him and you thought he'd never notice you, and then you saved his life and he protected you and left the Dark Kingdom for you.... You guys have loved each other for so long."
"Longer than you know," Naru said. Nephrite had told her it would be all right if she told Usagi about their past.
"Hmm?" Usagi said, looking up from filing the nail on Naru's left forefinger. "Wait a minute - you too?"
"What do you mean, me too?"
"On the Moon Kingdom. You were there, too, weren't you? But you aren't a Senshi... are you?"
"No, I mean, yes, I was there. Nephrite remembered all this when he went back to the Dark Kingdom a few months ago, remember? He said I could tell you. He was there - he and the other Lords were Mamoru's Guardians -"
"Yes, Mamo told me that. He remembered them, but not what happened, why they left him and went to Beryl."
"I was there too, but I wasn't a Senshi or a princess. I was your mother's maidservant, and you and I were best friends."
Usagi frowned a little as she concentrated on the manicure. "I don't remember - there's so little - wait, maybe I do remember something now - running through a garden, dragging you behind me by the hand, and you didn't want to go with me but you were laughing.... Darn. That's all. Anyway, so you were there, and Nephrite was there, and - let me guess. You two fell in love. Right?"
"Right." Naru wished so much she could remember that earlier time in love. All she had was what Nephrite had told her. "We even got married, even though we weren't supposed to because he was a Guardian and I was only a servant."
"How romantic," Usagi sighed, then she frowned again. "But he must have left you and joined Beryl, and you died with the rest of us in the battle on the Moon, right?"
Naru shook her head. "I died before then. Nephrite wouldn't tell me what happened, only that I was killed, and that was why he joined Beryl, to get revenge on the people who killed me."
Usagi briefly paused in applying pearl-pink polish to Naru's fingernails. "There must be a lot he didn't tell you. I'd love to know - but at the same I have the feeling it's an awful story, and maybe it's better if we don't know everything that happened."
"As far as I'm concerned," Naru said, "it doesn't matter what happened before, as long as we have each other now." She met Usagi's eyes briefly, then they both glanced away. Naru knew they were both thinking the same thing. Except for Metallia. But neither of them wanted to say it. Instead, after a moment, the conversation returned to the next day's wedding.
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Mamoru and the other boyfriends of the Senshi had offered to take Nephrite for a boys' night out the night before his wedding. Nephrite had been tempted to accept the invitation - he had memories of long ago, when he and the other Guardians had gone carousing together, once upon a time when they were young and their friendship was strong. He missed having that kind of camaraderie with other men.
But the stars had been most insistent on showing him something, so he declined the invitation, saying that he had to take care of some last-minute details. Late that night, he stood outside on the balcony of his home. He centered himself and opened his mind to the stars. Show me, he asked, and they replied, Follow us. He closed his eyes and teleported, allowing the power of the stars to guide him....
It was still there, the little meadow high up in the mountains, exactly as he remembered it. The grass was lush and green, the cool air was crisp with the scent of pine trees. Starlight filled the clearing. Nephrite looked up and saw Vega shining brilliantly overhead.
I kept it for you, so you could keep your promise, her softly chiming voice said.
You knew I would have the chance to keep it? Nephrite asked.
We tried to tell you, but you would not listen. I cannot judge you for that. I cannot comprehend the pain you must have been in, that caused you to cut yourself off from us. But know, my son, I felt pain at her death, too. I felt pain at seeing your pain. And tomorrow night, when you bring her here, I will feel joy at your joy, and at hers.
The voice faded away. Nephrite found himself on his knees in the grass, tears trickling down his face. He should have listened when the stars counseled him against seeking revenge. A vision came clearly into his mind of how events would have unfolded had he not sought revenge and sold himself to the demon. The revenge he had sold himself for had been in Metallia's plans all along. She had given him nothing; she had only used him to accomplish her own purposes. Other servants would have been found, the destruction she longed for would have been carried out, he would have died defending his liege lord, the Princess, and the Moon Kingdom, and would have been reborn with Naru in this time and place, free of Metallia's taint.
"Fool," he muttered to himself as he knelt, shivering, in the grass. "Idiot." Every bit of hardship he went through in his hunt for Metallia was no more than he deserved.
Vega's light filled the clearing again. This is not the place for recriminations, she said. This is a sacred place. If you wish to dwell on the error of your ways and call yourself names, go do it somewhere else. This is a place of love and hope.
There was a gentle humor in the star's words, but they were also quite firm. For her to speak of hope must mean that there was still hope. Thank you, he said.
Don't mention it. It's my job to look after fools like you. A gentle caress in his mind. Beautiful, beloved son. Go home and dream of your bride.
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The wedding was quite a long, elaborate affair. As was the common practice, it actually consisted of two weddings. The first part was the traditional wedding. Nephrite and Naru knelt together inside the Hikawa Shrine, and Rei's grandfather performed the ceremony. Naru wore a red kimono with gold and white embroidery that had been in her family for generations and that her mother had worn at her own wedding.
When this was over, the wedding party broke up so everyone could change into the gowns and tuxedos of a fashionable western-style wedding. Then they gathered in the gardens behind the shrine for the second ceremony.
Nephrite thought he would burst from love and pride as he watched Naru walk towards him in her wedding dress. Her gown was a beautiful concoction of white satin and frothy lace. Her red hair was topped by a long spill of the same white lace, her face was framed with flowers. For a wedding gift, he had given her earrings and a necklace of teardrop-shaped pearls, which she wore now.
Nephrite himself had consented to dress in the height of formalwear: white tie, white vest, tails on the jacket. He had had the suit custom-tailored, so that it fit perfectly. Naru's gift to him had been shirt studs and cufflinks set with the stone for which he was named, and, despite his dislike of formalwear, he knew that he was a match for Naru in elegance and formality. This pleased him, partly because he did like to look good, and partly because he didn't want Naru's wedding to be spoiled by a groom who looked less than his best.
Rei's grandfather also conducted this ceremony, which included vows which Nephrite had written down. "I promise that I will always love and cherish and care for you, Naru, and that I will keep myself faithful to you," Nephrite said, holding Naru's hands and looking into her glowing face. "You will be the queen of my heart and the treasure of my soul until the end of time. Even if we can't be together, you will always be in my heart." He slipped the ancient gold ring, newly set with three large diamonds, onto her finger.
When he had shown Naru what he planned to say, explaining that they were the same words he had said to her so long ago, she had asked what she had said to him. "Nephrite," she said now, speaking his real name softly, then continuing a bit louder, "Masato, I promise to always love and cherish and care for you. I am yours, and yours alone, forever." She slid his wedding band onto his finger. "I have always been yours."
The tiny, elderly priest blessed the marriage, then Nephrite kissed his bride and turned around to present his new wife to the world. Almost before he knew what was happening, Naru was being hugged by a squealing, crying Usagi, and Mamoru was shaking his hand. Nephrite sighed inwardly. Now all the necessary social niceties were beginning. He couldn't wait to get Naru alone, but he also didn't want her to miss the beautiful reception she had planned. Sighing once more, he steeled himself to get through the next three hours.
The cherry trees in the garden were hung with thousand of tiny white lights. A jazz combo started playing as the wedding guests began moving towards the round tables, which were covered with pale green damask - the exact same green as the stones in the shirt studs and cufflinks Naru had given him, Nephrite realized. Naru had even secured the highly selective and exclusive catering services of Sakura House, so the food and wine were exquisite. Makoto looked as happy as she could be, volunteering alongside the catering staff in her blue silk dress.
They danced, and accepted handshakes and hugs and congratulations seemingly without end, and danced some more, and drank toasts and cut the wedding cake and ate it, and danced again, then finally Naru was able to throw her bouquet, which was caught by Rei. While Yuuichirou was being teased by the other young men, Nephrite took Naru by the hand and they ran through a shower of rice and good wishes down the front steps of the shrine to his Ferrari. He bundled his wife into the car - her skirts and veil took up most of the interior - then got in himself, and they drove home.
When they arrived at the mansion, Nephrite scooped Naru out of the car in his arms, and carried her inside and up the stairs. She was laughing and clinging to him , her arms around his neck. In the bedroom, he set her down on her feet, and gave her the long, hungry, passionate kiss he hadn't been able to give her in public. They clutched at each other, their tongues tangling together as they tried to inhale, absorb, consume each other.
Finally Nephrite pulled back a bit, breathing hard. He didn't want to go too far too fast, not yet. "I'm sorry," he whispered, his voice gone husky and breathless. "I couldn't wait to have you to myself. But I'll slow down now, if you don't mind."
"I don't mind, I guess," Naru said. "But I can't wait too much longer."
"You won't have to." Nephrite took off his coat and bow tie, then popped the shirt studs and cufflinks out of his shirt while Naru took off her veil. He stopped her from undoing her own buttons, and set about figuring out how to dismantle the complicated gown.
Naru was content to let him take command, though she felt herself blush as the layers of clothing ended up on the floor. When she finally stood before him in her white lace-and-satin underclothes, she wondered why she felt so shy; they were really no more revealing than the bikini she wore when they went up to the lake. But the bikini had been meant to stay on....
When they were both undressed, Nephrite gathered her close to him, holding her, stroking her hair and kissing the top of her head comfortingly, letting her get used to the feel of him against the full length of her bare skin. "Are you all right?" he asked after a while.
The heat of her blush had finally faded from Naru's face, and she nodded.
"Good." There was a folded-up blanket on the bed; Nephrite reached for this, then held onto it while keeping both arms around Naru. "Hold on tight," he said in a low voice. "We're going to teleport."
"What - ?" Naru started to say, but it was too late. A swirl of white and crimson light enveloped them, and the world seemed to fall away. Just as she got used to the sensation of standing on nothing, she felt cool, thick grass beneath her feet. The light dissipated, and she saw that they were in a small mountain meadow that was bathed in silver light from the moon and stars. The air was clean, cool, and fragrant with the scent of pine.
"Oh, Nephrite," Naru said, "it's beautiful here." She looked up into his face, and saw a wistful, almost sad, expression there. "This place is special to you."
"It was one of my favorite places, long ago, to come and look at the stars." He brushed some hair back from her eyes. "I brought you here, once, when you came to visit Earth with the Princess. We lay together in this clearing, and loved each other, and laughed together, and I told you about the stars. I promised I'd bring you back, but I didn't get the chance."
"Because I died," Naru said softly.
He nodded, and held her closer. "The next night," he whispered. After a few moments he said, "But Vega knew I would have a chance to keep my promise, so she kept this place for us, just as it was a thousand years ago. She told me it's a sacred place, a place of love and hope."
Naru reached up and took his face between her hands. "Everything will be all right this time, Nephrite."
He bent down to kiss her, then gently lowered her to the ground. They lay on their sides, stretched out together, and Nephrite pulled the blanket over them. "Are you ready?" he asked softly.
"I've been ready for a long time," she answered.
Naru had eagerly looked forward to their first time together, and had imagined many times what it would be like, but nothing in her imaginings had come close to what it was really like, as Nephrite's strong, gentle, skillful hands commanded her body, making her feel things she couldn't even begin to describe. She had never imagined that a pain could be as sweet as the pain she felt when they came together, or how beautiful Nephrite's face would look when he finally let himself be overwhelmed by passion, or how her name would sound when he moaned it against her neck. She never could have imagined the sensation of flying, falling, dissolving into millions of brilliant colors even while being held securely in his arms.
Afterwards, they lay curled up together, trembling, exhausted, and sated. Naru was incapable of speech, but she didn't feel that anything needed to be said. She cuddled as close to Nephrite as she could, grateful for his warmth and for the blanket, and looked up at the stars.
"Look!" she finally whispered to Nephrite. The stars seemed to have moved out of their regular patterns, and were weaving in and out amongst each other in a design that was so lovely and perfect that her mind could barely grasp it. She thought she saw something in the design that was deeply profound and eternal, beyond any words she could ever put to it.
"They're celebrating," Nephrite murmured low in her ear. "Vega told me that when we came here tonight, she would feel joy at our joy. See, there she is."
Naru looked. The brilliant, blue-white star was at the center of the pattern, gleaming more brightly than Naru had ever seen before. They watched the stars dance around Vega for a long time, then Nephrite shifted, rolling on top of Naru. His long auburn hair curtained their faces, sheltering them. "Guess what I want to do," he whispered, his tongue and teeth flicking lightly at her earlobe.
Naru laughed softly, and gave herself over to him again.
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From the cold, lightless, lifeless place where she and her kind dwelled, Metallia also watched the stars' rejoicing at the coupling of their favored son and his bride. The sight filled her with icy, inhuman rage. His fight against her had been amusing; though it had weakened her, she had known that, in the end, all his efforts would be futile. Eventually, he would wear himself down to the point where he could longer resist her.
Then he had learned the truth about their bargain, and renounced it. The fact that he no longer wanted what she had offered him had seriously diminished her ability to command him. Now, worst of all, was this open defiance. He refused to fear her, refused to let her influence his decisions in any way. She no longer had any power over him.
The servant was no longer useful to her alive.
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Lyra's Children Index / go to Book 3 Chapter 3
The Nephrite and Naru Treasury