Book 3 Chapter 4
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Naru pulled the emerald silk dress down over her head, then stood still so that Nephrite could zip up the back. The dress was short, with a low, straight-cut neckline and spaghetti straps, and it fit perfectly. Nephrite had ordered it custom-made for her, as his 1st-anniversary gift to her. When Nephrite was done with the zipper and hook, Naru turned around so he could see her. He looked her up and down. "You look gorgeous, as usual."
Naru smiled up at him. "Thank you." She meant the thanks for more than just the dress. She had never imagined being as happy as she had been the last few months. Nephrite had been with her every day and every night, for the longest stretch of time that they'd been together since they met, more than five years ago. Naru supposed that some couples might have gotten tired of each other, being together so much after so many absences. But with her and Nephrite, every day together just made them want more. The list of things they were planning to do kept growing longer.
Nephrite put his hands on her shoulders and turned her away from him again.
"What --?" Naru asked.
"I've got your present for you."
"But the dress was my -"
Nephrite brought his hands around in front of her. He was holding a triple strand of pearls with a gold bow-shaped clasp covered with diamonds. "Happy anniversary, Naru-chan."
"Oh, Nephrite!" Naru reached one finger towards the pearls, hardly daring to touch them.
He put the pearls around her neck and fastened the clasp, then bent over and nuzzled his mouth against her bare shoulder. "What did I do to deserve something as beautiful and wonderful as you?" he murmured into her ear.
Naru leaned her head back against his chest as he hugged her from behind. "You're the one who's wonderful, Nephrite. I'm glad I make you happy."
His mouth was still against her ear. "We'd better go. If we don't leave now, we might not make it out of the house at all tonight." He squeezed her once more, then, hand in hand, they went downstairs.
They had dinner at Sakura House, of course. The same maitre-d' who'd been there for years greeted them warmly, offering his congratulations on the occasion of their anniversary. He led them to their usual secluded table for two, where a single long-stemmed pink rose lay across Naru's plate. "For the lovely Mrs. Sanjouin," the maitre-d' said. "With the highest regards of the Sakura House staff."
"Oh, how sweet!" Naru said. Nephrite held her chair for her while she sat, then took his own chair. The maitre-d' disappeared, then came back with champagne.
Naru sipped her champagne, while she remembered the night of her eighteenth birthday, when Nephrite had given her her engagement ring. That had been a little more than two years ago. So many things had changed, Nephrite had remembered their past together, they were married now, that that night seemed like an eternity ago. On the other hand, she couldn't believe time could go so quickly.
The meal arrived, exquisite as always, then they ordered dessert. While they waited, holding hands across the table, making comfortable married-couple small-talk, Naru decided it was time to tell Nephrite her news. She was nervous, for more than just the obvious reason, but the occasion was perfect for such an announcement. "Nephrite," she began, interrupting a brief silence that had descended, then looked down at their hands as she felt herself blush.
He touched her face lightly, coaxing her to look back up at him. He was smiling a little, almost as though he already knew. "What is it, love?"
"Nephrite, I'm pregnant. I did the home test yesterday, and I'm going to the doctor next week." She smiled up at him, and his own smile deepened.
"I guessed right," he said, then gave her a puzzled look. "Is something wrong?"
"I'm just -" She glanced down. "I'm just afraid that, now that I'm pregnant, you'll start traveling a lot again."
"I'm not going to be able to give it up entirely, Naru-chan. But I've realized, these last few months, that being with you is the most important thing. And I promise I'll be here, with you, when our baby is born."
They squeezed each other's hands, and Naru felt tears swim in her eyes. "I can't think of anything else in the world that I want," she said.
"Except, possibly, chocolate mousse parfait," Nephrite said. They sat back so the waiter could put the tall crystal glasses on the table.
Naru laughed. "Okay, now I have everything I could ever want."
* * * * * * * *
Later, while lying in bed with Naru, Nephrite wasn't sure how to go about making love to her. Part of him wanted to throw aside all restraint, to pleasure her and take pleasure in her until they were both mindless and exhausted. But another part of him was very conscious of the fragile new life nestled deep inside her body. For the first time, he felt something when he thought of the child he had lost when he lost Naru so long ago. Nothing would happen to this child, he vowed. He would see it safe and well and happy, and would protect it, and the mother, with his life.
He raised his head and looked at his wife. She still wore the pearls he had given her. "Hmm?"
"It's okay, Nephrite. You won't hurt the baby."
He smiled as he moved over her to kiss her. Mindless and exhausted it would be, then.
* * * * * * * *
What's taking you so long? Metallia asked.
I've got to find men I can trust to do this right, and the right opportunity, Shimura Jiro replied. Finally he had a good contract. Metallia had promised that if he would get rid of Sanjouin Masato for her, she would keep Sanjouin's "bodyguards," whoever they were, from finding out about the plan. As his reward for doing the job, he would inherit everything Sanjouin Masato had. Jiro wondered if that applied to Sanjouin's hot little red-haired wife. I'll only get one chance. I've got to be patient. You can just be patient, too.
You have no comprehension of how long I've been patient, Shimura Jiro. I want something done soon. Or I'll find someone else to do the job.
No, no. I promise, it'll be soon. Damn, he didn't want to lose this contract. He was tired of being a loser.
* * * * * * * *
Despite morning sickness, Naru continued attending a full schedule of University classes. She had decided to major in economics, along with taking a heavy courseload of languages, in order to be able to help Nephrite in his business. He was already training her in the business, and had promised that when she graduated he would make her the vice-president of Sanjouin International.
One morning, three weeks after their anniversary, Naru pulled into a parking space in the University parking garage later than usual. She had been delayed by a particularly bad bout of morning sickness. She gathered up her book bag and quickly got out of the car, trying to calculate if it was worth even trying to get to her first class this morning. Naru actually didn't feel like going to class at all; she looked bright and fresh in her denim miniskirt and button-front white blouse, but inside she felt exhausted and sick. She would miss enough school after the baby came, she reminded herself as she hurried towards the stairwell. She couldn't afford to fall behind now.
Suddenly, three men in dark suits bumped up against her, crowding around her. "Excuse me," Naru said, trying to push free of them. Before she could react, one of them grabbed her around the neck in a choke hold and clapped his other hand over her mouth. He dragged her into the back seat of a black sedan with dark tinted windows. One of the other men got into the back seat, on Naru's other side, while the third took the driver's seat. Naru struggled, but couldn't free herself of her captor's grip before the car squealed away down the garage ramp.
Finally she worked her face free from the man's sweaty hand. "Stop it!" she screamed. "Let me go!"
"Relax, babe," said the man behind her, who still had an arm around her neck. "We won't hurt you. Not if your husband does everything our boss tells him to."
"You won't get away with this! My husband is -"
"We know exactly who your husband is, baby. Now you just calm down, and don't do anything stupid, and you'll be fine."
"Someone must have seen you grab me. They'll call the police!"
The man who was facing Naru chuckled a little. "No one saw anything unusual. We're professionals, babe. We know what we're doing. And we know that maybe right now you'd rather not have a nice hard punch to the belly, right? Might hurt something?"
Naru went cold. They were threatening her baby. How did they know? Had they been following her, spying on her? She took in a long, shuddering breath that threatened to turn into a sob. "All right, I'll cooperate. But what do you want from my husband?"
"That's for the boss to say."
"Who is your boss?"
The second man smiled coldly. "You'll find out when it's time."
Nephrite, I'm scared, she thought.
They arrived at one of the city's most exclusive apartment buildings, and parked in the garage. Naru's captor shoved her out of the car, and the three men herded her towards the elevator. They rode to a floor near the top of the building, then got out and knocked at the door of one of the apartments.
A tall, blonde, expensively made-up woman in a very short dress opened the door. She shot Naru a hateful look, then yelled, "Jiro, they're here!" as she closed the door behind Naru and the kidnappers.
During the brief wait, Naru looked at her surroundings. The room was furnished entirely in glass, chrome, and black leather. No, Naru corrected herself. Black vinyl. It was just a little too shiny and stiff-looking to be real leather. Thanks to Nephrite's tutoring, she identified the many paintings and sculptures in the room as blatant examples of the worst recent trends in bad art.
A man came into the room. Shimura Jiro. Naru recognized him from a few social events she and Nephrite had attended. He was tall and thin, and rather handsome until you noticed his artificial smile and how his eyes shifted constantly around the room. His longish black hair was slicked straight back from his forehead with a large quantity of gel. His dark suit, dark shirt, and dark tie were at the very cutting edge of style. Naru could almost hear Nephrite's snort of contempt. "This is what happens when you mistake fashion for good taste," he had said to her as they were leaving an art opening a month ago. The assessment certainly applied to Shimura Jiro and his apartment. Naru felt another sharp pang as she thought of her husband. Nephrite, please get me out of this. Please be careful.
"Ah, Mrs. Sanjouin." Shimura came across the room and took her hand. His palm was sweaty, and his cologne was overpowering. The combination made Naru suddenly sway with nausea. Thank goodness Nephrite didn't wear cologne, she thought vaguely. "I'm told that your husband will do anything for you," Shimura said. "We're going to find out if that's really true."
"What do you want?" Naru asked. "Money? He doesn't care about money."
"Not money. I just want a piece of his action." He looked Naru up and down with an expression that made her wonder if she was part of that "action." "So," he continued, "you just sit down and make yourself comfy, and once your husband's done what I want, you and that little bun in your oven will be able to go home."
Naru sank down onto the black vinyl sofa. There was nothing to do but cooperate, for her baby's sake.
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When Nephrite got home at his usual time, early in the evening, the house was dark. That was odd; Naru was always home by now, unless she had gone somewhere with Usagi or some of the other girls. If that was the case, though, she would have phoned. Even if her own cell phone wasn't working, all the other girls also had cell phones. Nephrite, of course, had his cell phone with him at all times, so he wouldn't have missed her call. Maybe she was just taking a nap.
Nephrite reached the front door, and saw a thick manila envelope lying flat on the doorstep. Curious, he picked it up, bent it to determine that it contained nothing other than paper, then tried the door. It was locked; Naru wasn't home yet. Nephrite decided to call her when he got in, and let himself inside.
After turning on a lamp, Nephrite opened the envelope, thinking that if it were for Naru he could tell her about it on the phone. The first thing he saw was a note paper-clipped to the front of a thick sheath of papers. He emptied the envelope onto the table by the front door, and read the note. "Sanjouin Masato - I have your wife. She is safe, and will remain so if you will sign the enclosed contracts giving me 75% interest in all your dealings and deliver them to me personally at Harborside Park tonight at midnight. We will have a gun to your wife's head, so do not notify the police, send anyone in your place, or bring anyone with you. Best regards, your future partner, Shimura Jiro."
Nephrite's stomach clenched up and his chest tightened painfully. "Naru," he whispered harshly.
There was no choice. He wouldn't take any chances with Naru's life. He looked at his watch; it was 7:30. He took the pile of contracts and a pen to the kitchen table, sat down, and began signing. He didn't even bother reading what he was signing. He didn't care if he signed away everything he owned. None of it mattered, it was only money; the only thing that mattered was getting Naru back safely. Once, he had been unable to protect her and had lost her. That wouldn't happen again. Never again, he vowed, stabbing at Shimura's papers with his fountain pen. He cursed himself for being so stupid and not taking Shimura Jiro more seriously. Five years ago, the stars had warned him of the threat from Zoisite; why hadn't they warned him now?
When he had finished signing the papers, more than an hour later, he went outside and put the question to the stars. Why didn't you tell me Shimura was dangerous? he demanded. I could have protected Naru. This wouldn't have happened.
Vega and her surrounding constellation Lyra shimmered into view. We didn't know. Metallia is involved in this. Her movements are hidden from us.
Metallia. Damn. What was she doing now? She had threatened Naru nearly five years ago. Maybe this whole setup was intended to tear Naru from him, to force him into Metallia's service, or to force him to harm Naru somehow....
Call the Senshi, Vega said. They may be needed.
I can't. If anyone else comes -
The Senshi will know how to avoid being seen. Call them.
Nephrite debated with himself. What would Metallia be expecting him to do? Maybe she wouldn't expect him to call the Senshi, because of their old enmity, which Metallia might not know was long-buried, or because he would be too afraid for Naru's safety to go against Shimura's instructions. On the other hand, maybe Metallia had anticipated that he would think of these things and would expect him to call the Senshi. On the balance, though, it would be good to have the Senshi on his side, just in case, and they did know how to keep themselves hidden. Praying that he had not just made the decision that would cost Naru her life, he went back inside and phoned the Chibas.
"Hello?" Usagi said.
"Usagi. It's Nephrite. I need the Senshis' help. Naru's been kidnapped."
"What?" Usagi gasped. "What happened?"
Nephrite quickly explained about the papers and the stars' advice.
"Of course we'll help. What do you want us to do?"
" If you and the Senshi could be at the park a little before midnight without letting yourselves be seen, just in case..."
"Of course we'll be there, Nephrite. And we can be invisible, no problem. Hang on..." Nephrite heard Usagi's muffled voice as she spoke to her husband. "Mamo says he'll be there too, as Tuxedo Mask. Midnight, at Harborside Park, right?"
"Right. I can't tell you how much I -"
"Nephrite, what do you expect? You guys are our best friends. This must be just awful for you, you must be so worried about Naru and the baby."
"It'll be all right," he said, trying to keep his voice calm. "I've done everything the kidnappers want. Just, please, please, don't let them know you're there. That was in the instructions. If anyone else comes, they'll kill Naru."
Mamoru's voice spoke. "Relax, Neph. They'll have no idea we're there. Okay? Look, do you want to come over to our place and wait, so you aren't alone?"
Nephrite was about to say no, then changed his mind, thinking about spending the next few hours alone, worrying about Naru and unable to do anything. "I'll be there soon. Thanks."
* * * * * * * *
Naru was waiting with Shimura Jiro and his three henchmen in a stand of trees in the park at the appointed hour. One of the men who'd kidnapped her had a tight grip on her arm, but otherwise she wasn't bound in any way. They knew by now she wouldn't do anything to make them mad. She wouldn't risk them hurting her baby.
The day had seemed to drag on forever. Naru had spent it sitting on the sticky sofa, watching a 24-hour financial news channel on TV. Normally this would have been of some professional interest to her, but under the circumstances she was too scared to pay any attention to the reports and facts and figures. Though she wasn't tied up, two of the men who had captured her were with her at all times, not taking their eyes from her. She was certain they had guns in their jacket pockets. She was fed at appropriate intervals, and permitted to use the bathroom, accompanied by Shimura's sulking girlfriend.
Now, waiting in the park for Nephrite to arrive, she was torn between wanting the whole ordeal to end and fearing how it might turn out. The three men who'd kidnapped her each had a large automatic rifle. Naru had asked what the guns were for, and Shimura answered, "In case your husband does something stupid like call the police." Naru was terrified at the thought of this turning into a gun battle with the police, with her and Nephrite caught in the middle. Please, Nephrite, she thought, please just come and get me and take me home and everything will be all right, please. Vega, please don't let anything bad happen.
I'm here with you, child, came the faint, chiming voice in reply.
The group waited, staring out across a broad stretch of grass, lit silvery in the moonlight, towards the gate leading into the park. "What's taking him so long?" Shimura muttered.
Finally, a dark figure appeared in the gateway, then started crossing the lawn, approaching the stand of trees. Though his face was shadowed, the build and hair were clearly Nephrite's. He was carrying something rectangular in his left hand; Naru realized it must be the manila envelope of papers that Shimura had sent over to him. Nephrite stopped, looked around., then called out, "Shimura? I've done everything you wanted. I've got the papers all signed, and I'm alone. Where's my wife?"
"Tell him where you are," Shimura hissed to Naru.
"Masato, I'm over here!" Naru called out.
"Naru! Are you all right?"
"Yes, I'm fine, just please take me home, okay?"
Shimura added, "Bring the papers over here, Sanjouin, and we'll let your wife go."
Nephrite began walking towards the trees. Suddenly, two of the henchmen raised their weapons, and an explosion of gunfire tore through the quiet park. Nephrite jerked backwards and around, the papers flying in tatters from his hand, and fell to the ground.
"No!" Naru screamed. She pulled free from the man who was holding her arm and ran towards Nephrite. Behind her, she could hear the Senshi shouting out their attacks and the screams of Shimura and his three strongmen as they were destroyed.
She fell to her knees at Nephrite's side and gathered him into her arms. His chest was a mass of blood and torn flesh, his body was limp in her arms. "Nephrite." Naru shook him. "Nephrite, no. Oh, no. Noooo!" Pain sliced through her body. She screamed, gathering him as close to her as she could, his blood soaking through her blouse and skirt. "Nephrite, no!"
She was barely aware of Sailor Moon, Tuxedo Mask, and the Senshi as they gathered around her. Someone tried to speak to her, but she couldn't hear the words through her own sobbing. A police car and ambulance arrived, their sirens mingling with Naru's wailing. A voice said, "She's his wife. She's pregnant." Someone tried to pull her away from Nephrite's body, but she held on more tightly. As long as he was still in her arms, he was still real.
Voices spoke to her, but she didn't understand the words. Hands pulled at her, trying to pry Nephrite out of her arms. Finally, a sharp voice in her ear broke through. "Naru, you must think of the baby," Rei said. "You've got to let the paramedics take care of you, and make sure the baby's all right."
Momentarily startled out of her shock, Naru looked up at Sailor Mars. The dark-eyed woman's face was streaked with tears. Her sailor fuku had adapted itself to fit her swelling abdomen; she knew what she was talking about, Naru realized. She had to think of her baby. "All right," she said, her voice barely audible. She let the two blue-shirted paramedics gently draw her away from her husband's body and lead her to the open back of the ambulance. Another ambulance pulled up, and a second set of paramedics came over and crouched beside Nephrite. She watched as they checked him over, then shook their heads. Then they stood back as a police photographer began taking pictures of Nephrite's body where it lay.
The flashes of light from the cameras made the whole scene seem even more nightmarish and surreal. Naru stopped at the back door of the ambulance and stared at the lights, momentarily confused until Sailor Moon and Sailor Jupiter lifted her into the back of the ambulance. Just as the paramedic was closing the doors, Naru caught a glimpse of someone bringing a yellow plastic body bag over to where Nephrite lay.
"No!" Naru screamed. She tried to pull away from the hands that were holding her; she couldn't let them put Nephrite in that bag, that would mean he was really gone, she couldn't allow that. "Don't -" she cried out, barely feeling the sting of a needle in her arm. A few seconds later, everything went blessedly dark.
* * * * * * * *
After a period of darkness, Nephrite found himself in what appeared to be a room made of grayish marble. It was empty, except for a kind of mist that drifted along the floor and up along the walls. Naru, he thought. Oh, Naru, I'm so sorry, my love. If he was the one who was dead, why did he feel that desolate howling inside, that he had felt after he lost Naru so long ago?
He spun around to see a tall, beautiful woman standing in the room with him. She had long, dark green hair, wore a sailor fuku with black skirt and trim, and held a tall, elaborate staff. Nephrite knew he knew the woman; he searched through ancient memories, came up with a name. "Princess Setsuna. Sailor Pluto."
"This... this isn't what I expected."
She smiled slightly. "What did you expect?"
"I don't know." He thought about it. "Not this. Is Metallia --?"
"Metallia still has claim upon your soul. But Vega has made a plea on your behalf, and you have been granted a brief reprieve."
Something -- hope? excitement? -- clenched at Nephrite's heart. Funny, he thought absently, how could he feel anything if he was dead? "What do you mean?"
"You rejected your bargain with Metallia. You renounced your desire for revenge. You became a good man, Nephrite. You fought valiantly against evil. Vega has argued that because of that, you should be given one more chance."
"What must I do?"
"I have been instructed to present to you a choice." Setsuna now spoke in a formal, detached manner. " A change is coming soon to the Earth, a physical change which will also change all political and social structures. Most who are presently alive on Earth will survive the physical change; a few will not. The question is, will your wife survive the change? Here are two possibilities for your consideration. One is that she does not survive, and will share a future with you in death. The other is that she does survive, and will never be reunited with you. What do you choose, Nephrite?"
This was very far from anything he had expected. "I don't understand. Either she dies, and we can be together, or she lives and we are separated forever?"
"I believe that is the essence of the question, yes."
"But what future have I got, except to be in Hell with Metallia?"
"A future that would be more endurable with Naru at your side."
" I don't know why you even bothered asking me. I want her to live. I couldn't let her suffer...." He thought for a moment. "What about the baby?"
"If the mother survives, so will the child," Setsuna replied.
"At least she won't be alone..." Nephrite's voice trailed off into a whisper.
"This is your choice, even if its consequence is that you will never be with Naru again?"
"Yes." Nephrite closed his eyes. If he was a spirit, he wondered, why did he feel this pain in his chest, this stinging of tears in his eyes?
"This is the last time I will ask you - are you certain?"
"Yes." He opened his eyes and looked at the Senshi. Her large, dark eyes were briefly filled with compassion, then the detached look took over again.
"Very well," she said. "I've have been instructed to report your decision. Wait here for my return." She walked through the mists to a corner of the room, then faded out of sight.
"Naru," Nephrite whispered. He sank to his knees upon the mist-covered marble floor, crying for his lost love.
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Lyra's Children Index / go to Book 3 Chapter 5
The Nephrite and Naru Treasury