Book 4 Chapter 4
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Setsuna finally returned to the small gray room. "I apologize for my absence. Between guarding the Gates of Time and helping Neo-Queen Serenity build the Crystal Palace, I've been rather busy."
"Neo-Queen who?" Nephrite asked.
"Also known as Usagi. We finally finished the Palace. It took a whole year."
"A year?" Time was incomprehensible here. It could have been only a few days or weeks... or forever.
"A year on Earth. There is no time here. Things happen when they happen, and the intervals between are not measured."
"I see. How are Naru and Hoshiko?" he asked, feeling a little nervous. A lot could happen in a year.
"They're fine. Your daughter is walking now, or, rather, running, and has quite an impressive vocabulary for a sixteen-month-old. She keeps Naru quite busy, but your wife is more than equal to the challenge."
Longing sliced through Nephrite like a knife. More than anything, he wanted to be with Naru and Hoshiko, to see them, to hold them.... Hoshiko was the only child he would ever father, except for the one lost with Naru's death in the Silver Millennium, and he had missed her infancy, he was missing her childhood. He would never see his Naru-chan be a mother to their child.
He closed his eyes, feeling tears leak out from between his eyelids. "How could I have been such a fool?" he whispered. In his rage and pain after Naru's death, all he had been able to think of was avenging his loss. Revenge had brought neither peace nor satisfaction, and now he had nothing.
"Nephrite." Setsuna spoke gently. "It's time to move on. We need to talk about the weapon you will use against Metallia."
He tried to collect himself enough to think. "The Silver Crystal," he said.
"The Silver Crystal was strong enough to destroy Beryl's soul, and to weaken Metallia, but it will not destroy Metallia."
"Then what will?"
"The power of the Silver Crystal."
"They aren't the same?"
Setsuna smiled a little. "No, they are not the same. The power within the Silver Crystal is the same Divine power that is used to create all things. The Crystal itself is merely a vessel, a filter, if you will. It restrains the power so that it can be wielded by mortal beings without destroying them. And even then, only certain mortals have the right and the ability to use it without being destroyed, specifically, those of the lineage of the Queens of the Moon, because of their purity of heart."
"Then only Usagi can destroy Metallia."
"No. As I said, the power within the Crystal, filtered and restricted as it is, is not strong enough to destroy Metallia, one of the strongest and wisest souls ever created. She could have been a great force for good, had she not been so ambitious, so proud.... At any rate, the only thing that will destroy her is the unfiltered, unrestrained power, which no mortal can use."
"Why doesn't the Divinity destroy her, then?"
"They cannot and will not destroy their own creation. This is for you to do, Nephrite. You willingly pledged your honor and your soul to a demon, a sin of such magnitude that only you can redeem yourself. No one else can do it for you. You must take Divine power into yourself, in its full, uncontrolled strength, and you must use it to destroy Metallia."
"But you said no mortal..."
"You aren't mortal any more. Remember?"
True enough; mortal meant capable of dying, and he was already dead. "All right," he said. "Show me what I must do."
"Let Them guide you to where you need to be. My body must stay here - it is not refined as yours is - but I will still be able to communicate with you. Go, now."
Nephrite nodded, then stepped beyond the wall of the gray room. He stood in space, surrounded by stars. He felt a gentle pull, and gave in to it. Slowly, the stars seemed to start moving past him, going faster and faster until they were streaking past in long ribbons of light. After some time, the movement of the stars slowed down - or rather, Nephrite reminded himself, he slowed down.
Before him shimmered a great, iridescent cloud of something that could be either gas or light, yet was neither. The Deity have placed this here for you to take, Setsuna's voice said in his mind. It is Divine power, the same power that is contained in the Silver Crystal. You have permission to use it, and if you are pure in your heart you will be able to use it without being destroyed by it.
Nephrite's heart sped up a little. To be able to control such power, the power of deity... No. There was one reason only that he would be granted the privilege of using it. He must keep his vision focused on that. Still, it was frighteningly easy to understand why Metallia had wanted to usurp that power for herself. Perhaps this was a test for him, to see if he could resist the same temptation that Metallia had given in to. "How am I to know if I'm pure enough?"
You must search your own heart, Nephrite. I cannot tell you that, and the Deity are refraining from further judgment. You must be honest with yourself, and judge yourself.
Nephrite looked deep inside himself. He had sincerely renounced his contract with Metallia; he no longer wanted the revenge he had bargained for. He knew he had been wrong to want vengeance. He truly mourned the lives he had taken and the evil he had done. He loved Naru, and he had been faithful to her. He loved his daughter. He had been honest in his business. He had done as much good in the world as he had been able to do in the five years he had had after leaving the Dark Kingdom. Was he perfectly pure in his heart? He didn't know. He certainly wasn't perfect, but if perfection was required then why had the Deity even bothered placing that power there for him to use? Though he tried, he couldn't think of anything else it was in his power to do to make himself any more worthy at this point.
Nephrite stretched out one hand, brought it nearer to the glowing cloud. One fingertip touched the substance -
Burning pain, agony beyond anything he had ever imagined, shot up his arm and filled him. He felt as though his entire being were on fire. He screamed as everything went black.
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Naru watched Hoshiko running with Taji and Little Usa across the new lawns of the Crystal Palace gardens. Umino and Monique's one-year-old son Rene toddled madly after the two-year-olds. Smiling, knowing that the children were safe, Naru turned back to the flowerbed she was weeding. She had always wanted a flower garden, but that hadn't been possible in the apartment she had shared with her mother in Old Tokyo, and the land around the mansion on the hill was too rocky and overgrown. Also, some of her favorite memories of the Moon Kingdom were of working in the Palace gardens, tending and gathering the flowers and herbs. She had mentioned this to Usagi, and when Usagi mapped out the landscaping for the grounds of the Crystal Palace, she gave Naru a nice plot in the Inner Gardens to do as she pleased with. So now Naru finally had her flower garden.
It had taken Mrs. Osaka, Monique, and Usagi quite some time to persuade Naru to move out of the huge old mansion into private, comfortable quarters in the Crystal Palace. Naru hadn't wanted to leave her home, the house she and Nephrite had shared, the house she had decorated so beautifully while dreaming of all the years they would live together there. But, as everyone had quite rightly pointed out, keeping up the mansion was a big job, and it was terribly isolated from everything, and it would be good for Hoshiko to grow up surrounded by her unofficial aunties and uncles and cousins.
But what finally convinced Naru were the long, lonely nights and the ache in her heart that never lessened. At least at the Palace she would be surrounded by friends. They would never fill the emptiness in her heart that Nephrite had left, but it was better than rattling around in that huge house, being constantly reminded that Nephrite would never come walking in the front door again.
Sometimes she felt almost happy, like right now, working in her flower garden and watching her daughter's curly red head bobbing through the gardens as she ran, laughing, with the other children. Though Hoshiko was the smallest and youngest of the three two-year-olds, she was the fastest. It seemed sometimes that she never stayed still, and Naru's heart would stop several times a day when she caught the little girl climbing or jumping where she shouldn't, or running around with something she shouldn't have that Naru had sworn was well out of her reach.
The only time Hoshiko was ever still was when she was looking at pictures of her father. Her blue eyes would become very intense, so like Nephrite's, as she studied photos of Papa in Africa, Papa at the lake, Mama and Papa's wedding... The child had never asked where her father was now. Naru didn't know if she knew enough to ask that; after all, she was barely two years old. But one evening a few weeks earlier, feeling that the issue ought to be addressed as early as possible, Naru had taken Hoshiko outside and shown her the stars. Vega had shone brilliantly that night. Such a beautiful child. So like her father, the star said.
Naru pointed out Vega and several other stars to Hoshiko, who was sitting up on her shoulders. Then she said, "That's where your Papa is, Hoshi-chan. Up there with the stars. He went to visit them, and got lost. So now he has to stay with the stars instead of living here with us."
Hoshiko hadn't said anything, to Naru's relief; she couldn't have answered through the aching lump in her throat. Now, as she knelt in the dirt of her flower garden, she had to swallow a similar lump. Every once in a while she had a day when she didn't feel like crying, but today wasn't going to be one of them.
Usagi, Monique, and Rei, who was four months along with her second child, came over to Naru. "Naptime, I think," Usagi said.
Naru pushed down the cuff of her gardening glove and looked at her gold wristwatch, a gift from Nephrite for her nineteenth birthday. It was, indeed, naptime. Though Hoshiko rarely actually slept; usually Naru would cuddle with her on her bed in the darkened room and tell stories and sing songs. "You're right," she said, pulling off her gloves. She stood, brushing the dirt from her knees and straightening her short yellow denim skirt. "Hoshi-chan!" she called as the other women called to their children.
The children made one last wide circle on the lawn, then came charging towards their mothers. Rene tumbled onto his fat little tummy, and Monique ran to her dark-haired baby and picked him up, cooing to him in French.
Hoshiko ran full-speed towards Naru. Naru knelt down and caught her daughter into her arms, gasping a bit at the collision. "Come on in. Naptime," she said, and kissed the child on her flushed cheek. In the spacious apartment they shared with Mrs. Osaka, she washed Hoshiko's face and helped her go potty, then drew the blinds across the window and lay down atop the bedspread with her warm, snuggly little daughter. She really was still a baby, Naru thought, wanting to cling to every second of the early years of the only child she would ever have.
"Are you going to sleep, Hoshi-chan?" she asked, as she did every day. And as she did every day, Hoshiko answered, "No. I want story."
"What story do you want to hear, Little Star?"
"Story 'bout Papa."
This was something new. Naru supposed that Hoshiko had been thinking for the last few weeks about what Naru had told her about her papa, and was ready to talk about it now. She steeled herself against the pain she still felt whenever she spoke of Nephrite and said, "All right, then -"
"Papa lost," Hoshiko said.
"That's right. Papa got lost in the stars -"
"No stars. Papa lost in dark. I help him. I say I love you, Papa."
Naru fell very still. Nephrite lost in the dark... How could Hoshiko have known?
"Story 'bout Papa," Hoshiko said firmly. Then she stuck her thumb in her mouth and, amazingly, fell asleep.
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Nephrite came to in the small gray room. Setsuna was crouched over him, a worried look on her face. "What happened?" he asked. The inside of his throat felt as though it had been badly burned.
"The power nearly destroyed you," Sailor Pluto said. "It's a good thing you weren't able to take any of it into yourself; otherwise you surely would have been destroyed."
"But why... I renounced my contract with Metallia, I renounced my desire for revenge, I tried to do as much good on Earth as I could, I was faithful to Naru, what else do I need to do?"
The answer came to Nephrite in Vega's gentle, chiming voice. You may have renounced your desire for revenge on those who killed Naru, but have you forgiven them?
Setsuna looked at him. It seemed that she had also heard Vega's words. "That's it. You still bear hatred in your heart. Hatred and the Divine power cannot exist in the same place. You must forgive."
"Forgive Kunzite, Zoisite, and Arrendel for what they did to my Naru?" Nephrite demanded. "How can I? Am I supposed to just say, Oh, forget about it, it doesn't matter, no harm done? I love her too much to pretend that happened to her doesn't matter."
Vega spoke again. That isn't forgiveness. Forgiveness isn't justifying what was done, or making excuses for it, or saying it didn't matter. Even while acknowledging that a wrong was done, you must let go of the past, let go of the hatred and anger in your heart.
"I love Naru too much to forgive her murderers." He paused, then continued, speaking quietly. "I would feel like I'd betrayed her, if I stopped hating them."
"Nephrite," Setsuna said. "Do you love Naru enough to do anything that would give you even the smallest chance to be with her again someday?"
"I'll do anything."
"Except forgive. You love her too much to forgive those who wronged her, or do you not love her enough?"
"What do you love more, Naru or your hatred of her murderers?"
Nephrite couldn't say anything. Put that way... He thought of King Arrendel, slowly driven mad by his obsession with Beryl's rebellion. He thought of Kunzite's ambition and plotting, egged on, no doubt, by Zoisite. He thought of Jadeite, once his best friend, doing nothing to stop Naru's execution. Jadeite, who had pushed his face down against the cobblestones so that he wouldn't have to see his beloved's death.
He thought of his own impatience, going against the stars' warnings that the time was not right for him and Naru to be together, ignoring their wisdom and greater perspective.
So many people were at fault, so many wrong choices had been made, and Naru was the only true innocent in the entire tragedy. Nephrite realized all at once that he was tired of carrying around the burden of what had happened. A small voice inside him protested that it would be a betrayal of Naru to forgive those who had murdered her. But it was far in the past, he argued back. It was done and could not be undone, but he and Naru had had a second chance together. They had had four years of courtship, and one gloriously happy year of marriage, and had created a child. If he could forgive, and use the Divine power to destroy Metallia, then perhaps he and Naru could be reunited once more, somehow, some day. It was time to let go, and move on.
He argued with himself for a long time. But finally, the voice that insisted on continuing to bear the grudge became silent. Forgive me, Naru, he thought. I must forgive them, for your sake. I hope you understand. Zoisite, Kunzite, Jadeite. Arrendel. If you can hear me, or even if you can't, I forgive you. What's past is past, and I don't hate you any more.
Nephrite let out a long breath. It had been easier than he thought it would be; it was almost a relief. He felt as though some burden that had weighed him down for almost as long as he could remember was lifted from him. His heart was curiously light inside his chest. He looked at Setsuna, who had sat patiently while he fought his inner battle. "I think I'm ready to try it again."
"Good. My mind will go with you as far as it can."
Nephrite stepped outside of the gray room for what he knew would be the last time.
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He approached the shimmering, many-colored cloud. Nephrite hesitated, feeling afraid, knowing somehow that this time he must either use the power or be destroyed by it.
Good luck, Setsuna said in his mind.
Vega added, Remember we are with you, beloved son.
Nephrite hesitated a bit longer. "Tell Naru - If I'm destroyed, tell her I was willing to risk it for her. Tell her how much I loved her."
Setsuna and Vega answered simultaneously. I will.
"Thank you." Nephrite approached the glowing power. Tentatively, he reached out a hand towards the dusty-gaseous cloud, touched it, buried his hand in it....
Heat filled him, not quite enough to burn, just bearable. He felt as though his heart, his mind, his spirit were expanding with the heat, so much that his body surely would not be able to contain them, but somehow it did, he was not destroyed, not yet. He drew the power into himself, and he and the power re-shaped themselves to fit each other. Slowly, the power, the warmth he felt, the expanded sight and wisdom took on a form that was familiar to him, yet unfamiliar on this scale, and told him its name.
He thought of Metallia, and understood now what he needed to do.
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Naru was tending Taji while Rei, who had given birth to her and Yuuichirou's second son a week earlier, rested. As Naru watched Taji and Hoshiko play together, she felt the familiar sadness that Hoshiko would never have a baby brother or sister. She had done the right thing, moving into the Palace so that Hoshi-chan would have other children to grow up with. Naru had been an only child, and she would have been unbearably lonely if not for close childhood friends like Saionji Rui and Usagi, who had been almost like sisters to her.
Hoshiko and Taji started fighting over the blocks, and Hoshiko bopped Taji on the head with one. Naru had long ago decided that the best way to deal with bad behavior was to let it go unrewarded. She ignored Hoshiko while she picked up the wailing Taji and comforted him. Sure enough, Hoshiko was soon climbing over the two of them, telling Taji she was sorry and giving him noisy kisses on the top of his head.
Naru was hugging both of the children when Setsuna appeared in the doorway. She set the children on the floor with a stern warning, "If you fight over those blocks again I'll take them away," and stood. "Hello, Setsuna."
"Naru." Setsuna smiled briefly as she approached the shorter woman. They kissed each other on the cheek, then Setsuna whispered, "It's time. Nephrite is ready to fight Metallia."
Naru drew back, wrapping her arms tightly around her chest, suddenly afraid. "Do you think he will win? If he doesn't he'll be trapped by her forever, won't he?"
Setsuna spoke in a gentle, neutral voice. "I believe he is stronger than she is, now. I believe he will destroy her. The question is, will he be destroyed as well or will he survive?"
"Oh..." Naru suddenly felt dreadfully cold. She fought to remain calm.
"When it's over, I will tell you what happened. But for now, know that he loves you, and that everything he does is for you. Remember that, no matter what happens."
Naru nodded, and the Guardian of Time left. Shaking badly, Naru stumbled to a chair and collapsed into it, burying her face in her hands, not noticing as Hoshiko and Taji climbed over her. Nephrite, she thought numbly. The thought came to her that it would be better if he were destroyed than for him to continue to exist as Metallia's captive. Oh, Nephrite.
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As Nephrite drew near the clot of darkness beyond the farthest stars, he slowed down, feeling a heavy, cold reluctance to go in there again. He was safe, he reminded himself over and over. He was protected from the grasp of the Darkness by his body and by the Divine power he had taken into himself. He had met his daughter and watched Naru give birth to her - how could despair ever overcome him now?
At the edge of the Darkness, he hesitated, then fixed the memory of Naru's face firmly in his mind, as a reminder of why he was doing this. Then he stepped into the heavy blackness before him.
The Darkness seemed to part before him. He felt a clammy, sliding sensation as it flowed past. He sensed the agony of the souls trapped within the Darkness as they tried to pass their torment onto him, but this also slid past him, not affecting him. Blinded by the absolute lack of light but knowing where he was going nonetheless, he pressed forward, seeking -
"So you've come back, Nephrite," Metallia said. "And this time you will not leave."
"I will leave," he replied, "after I've destroyed you."
Metallia's grating, hissing laugh started, then stopped abruptly. "No. No, it can't be. How can you have that power? You are as evil as I am." Rage entered her voice. "How dare They give you the same power they denied me? And you have a body again?" A sense of fury boiled around Nephrite. "Why is it that you can have what I am so unfairly denied?"
"I was willing to let go of my evil. There is something I love more than my own self, and for that I was willing to lose myself."
"You're a fool, Nephrite. If you lose yourself, what is left?"
"Peace," he answered.
He crossed his arms over his chest, concentrating on focusing the power he carried within him. He wasn't afraid any more; if he destroyed himself along with Metallia, at least oblivion was better than the torment of eternal Darkness. If he survived, he would have the hope of being reunited with Naru someday. Either way, he would be free.
"No," Metallia said. She sounded almost frightened. "No. I don't want peace. I want power. I want to rule."
"You've had power. You've ruled over men and kingdoms. Was it enough?"
"No! I want - I want -"
"What do you want?" Nephrite murmured, refusing to allow his concentration to be broken. He remembered, long ago, taking in and commanding enough star power to destroy an entire village. That had been like a candle flame next to the inferno he was now preparing to unleash.
"I want everything - I mean - I want to live!" Metallia's words turned into a desperate plea. "That's what I want, I want to live!"
Pity tugged at Nephrite, threatening to break the control he held over the vast power inside him. He remembered Naru's cries as she was led to her death. He remembered his own realization that he was going to die, in the second or so after Shimura Jiro's men gunned him down, remembered that brief, desperate wish to live....
But Metallia could have no life except for misery, her own and that which she brought to others. Nephrite understood now that he could not destroy Metallia out of hate or vengeance or for his own sake, or even for Naru's sake. The power inside him, which was love, mercy, and justice in a form vaster and deeper and broader than he could ever comprehend, must be used to give Metallia the only gift that could really do her any good - the gift of oblivion.
Nephrite's whole body seemed to vibrate, to sing, with the highly-concentrated power. He pressed his arms closer against his chest.
"No!" Metallia screamed. "I want to live!"
He focused his mind on the words of the command.
"No! Don't! You can't!"
Nephrite looked into the Darkness where he knew Metallia was.
"Be not!" he roared. He flung his arms wide apart, and light exploded into the Darkness. The light was beyond any light Nephrite had ever seen before; it was more than light, it was a negation of Darkness. It burned through his eyes, his mind, his body.... Even as he lost consciousness, it was light he saw rather than the Dark.
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Lyra's Children Index / go to Book 4 Chapter 5
The Nephrite and Naru Treasury