Conflicting Convictions

By out_there


Disclaimer: All of these characters from Sailor Moon belong to Naoko Takeuchi, Kodansha Comics, and Toei Animation.

JADEITE

I wonder if Zoisite understands his feelings towards Lord Kunzite?

Walking into the training hall, slightly late, I find myself thinking about my fellow students. Normally I keep to myself. It’s easier. It also means I tend to be ignored by the unobservant. Kunzite glances at me, acknowledging my presence and continues to train Zoisite. I watch as Zoisite strains to please Lord Kunzite and feel like an objective observer.

Zoisite is 14 years old, not quite a young man but no longer a child. He is clearly Lord Kunzite’s favourite. I think this is mainly caused by Kunzite’s physical attraction to Zoisite but Zoisite’s attitudes are also a factor. Zoisite respects Lord Kunzite and makes himself inferior to Kunzite. He continues to put Lord Kunzite on a pedestal, making the difference in age and rank more significant than it really is. It is obvious that Lord Kunzite appreciates this behaviour, this praise, respect and admiration, and it influences his decisions. Zoisite does not do this on purpose, it’s just the way that he is, the person that he is. His crush on Kunzite is obvious, naive but obvious. As for his appearance, I can see how it could be considered ‘pleasing’. Long golden blonde hair, a few shades darker than my own short hair, with curly bangs that frame his pretty face. Dark green eyes, high cheekbones and a small chin combine to form a slender face that would not described as handsome but as beautiful. Petite features in a pretty face. Petite and pretty. Those two words sum up Zoisite’s physical appearance completely. His is a slight frame; slim shoulders, narrow ribcage, long and slender limbs. His lack of height also serves to give the impression of a petite physique. Out of the three of us, he is the shortest and only reaches to Kunzite’s shoulders. Nephrite is the tallest but even so Kunzite still towers over him by several inches.

Nephrite is my other fellow student. At twenty-one he is the eldest of us and the most… volatile. He is taller than me with long wavy auburn brown hair and eyes as blue as my own. Nephrite is handsome but his looks tend to be described to as rugged and hardy. His personality, filled with extremes of hatred and lust, tend to give his face an almost animalistic appearance. His entire image is very strong. It is not just his sturdy frame and broad shoulders that give this impression, it is also his entire character. He does not understand the meaning of the word ‘compromise’. He sees life as a series of struggles, a fight to the finish. Whatever he does, he does it wholeheartedly; he cannot fight for something he does not believe in. In a way he is more honest than I am but some day that idealism will cause him trouble. He lets his principles rule his actions and this in turn makes his motivations obvious. Admittedly he does hide his feelings for Lord Kunzite better than Zoisite but his attraction is still apparent.

I enjoy my own company, sometimes I find it more fulfilling than that of the creatures that surround me. In a way I’m glad that I am not a very social creature. Unlike the other two I am not competitive. Nor am I infatuated with our mentor. I admit that Lord Kunzite is good-looking but, fortunately, I do not find myself attracted to him in any way whatsoever. His cold ice blue eyes and impassive sculptured mouth give the impression of an indifferent pedagogue but the roguish affect of his strong jawbone and the lock of silver hair that falls across his face offset this. His broad shoulders, brawny chest and shoulder length silver hair combined with his regal bearing make him a cultivated and kingly figure. His refined and elegant looks have captured the imaginations and hearts of my two fellow students. Zoisite shows this in his nervousness while Nephrite shows this in his arrogance. It is clear that their constant competition with each other is caused by both of them striving to prove themselves to Kunzite. Doesn’t he see it?

KUNZITE

I walk into the room, glad to see that Zoisite has already arrived. There are several points of hand-to-hand combat that I want to go over with him. He is turning out to be a very promising student, the most powerful yet. With proper training, he will some day match my own power, if he can ever learn to control his temper and trust his own strength. I give him a few defensive manoeuvres to practice as I wait for the other two to arrive.

Jadeite slips into the training hall. He is late but is smart enough not to interrupt me. Out of all of my students, Jadeite is the most mature. At seventeen he is younger than Nephrite but controls his temper much more efficiently. He has always been a quiet student, quite a hermit, who prefers to be alone with his thoughts. He is the weakest of the three in brute force but manages to hold his own in most practice fights by using his intellect. He accepts the fact that he cannot win some fights and will cease fighting, will surrender, before he is badly hurt. He also uses information to help himself. On the few occasions I have become angry with him, he calmly responded by telling me some useful piece of information. The way he treats the other two is also admirable.

He deals with Nephrite by showing him respect, and by complimenting him. It was rather obvious when Jadeite first became my student that Nephrite looked down upon him and that he believed Jadeite was nothing to worry about since Jadeite’s powers would never be as strong as his. Their first practice fight was extremely close. Nephrite had underestimated Jadeite, and had only won by a very small margin. Then Jadeite congratulated him before Nephrite had a chance to make his victory anything more than symbolic. Jadeite calmed Nephrite’s temper by asking afterwards if he would show him how he had avoided his main attack. Since then, Nephrite has had many practice fights but does not deal with Jadeite as serious competition. He helps the younger youma and Jadeite has greatly increased his skills.

Jadeite was smart enough not to use the same approach on Zoisite. Zoisite is naturally distrusting and would have been very suspicious of a boy three years his senior complimenting him. Jadeite treated Zoisite as a friend, and they took their practice fights lightly, not bothering with any competition. Although Zoisite had more raw power, Jadeite had more finesse and much more skill at controlling his and they were roughly equals. These are the reasons why I can trust Jadeite. If left alone with Zoisite or Nephrite he would proceed to practice and I could trust that no serious harm would be done to either. If I left Zoisite and Nephrite together to practice, I would return to find one of the two more than likely dead.

The rivalry between those two is irritating to say the least. Their fights are not ‘practice’ and the amounts of power that they used are exceptional. Most of this competition I blame on Nephrite. He is the youma that is so naturally competitive that he refuses to admit defeat. Never once, during all the times I had tried to show him the flaws in his techniques, would he admit that I had beaten him. Not even the day, when in hand-to-hand combat I almost broke his arm, did he admit that I had won. The pure obstinacy in that youma is the reason why I like him the least.

NEPHRITE

I storm into the room, noticing that Zoisite has once more managed to get as close as possible to Kunzite. I hate that youma brat! Hate his mannerisms, hate the way he looks and moves, hate the way he speaks and the way he ‘poses’ for Kunzite! I hate everything about Zoisite…and… am perhaps envious of it as well. The way he’s always the centre of Kunzite’s attention, the way Kunzite responds to him…a way Kunzite’s never acted towards me. No matter how many times I beat the upstart, no matter how many times I humiliate him in front of our mentor, I never receive the same response, the same praise, the same proud glances as that…waif does!

Kunzite glances at me, just another disapproving stare.

"So, you have finally arrived." That voice is as cold as his heart, as frozen as the rest of him. "Prepare to fight Zoisite. I want to see if you can manage a reasonable defence."

I shrugged, "Don’t I always win? A good defence is only necessary if you know you don’t stand a chance." Zoisite looks up at me. We both know that his defence is his skill. I can see the fear and hatred in his eyes. I smile back at him. He knows I’ll beat him, I always do. The pattern has been the same since he first arrived and became Kunzite’s favourite student.

Before Zoisite and Jadeite arrived, Kunzite was my mentor and mine alone. I tried so hard to gain his approval, to show him my real worth and every time I was humiliated, beaten and defeated by him. At least I never had to suffer the embarrassment of having to admit it. Not once did I give him the satisfaction of knowing he had broken my spirit. In those first few years I trained so hard to try to increase my powers, to show him…what? These days I’m not so sure of what I wanted to show him or if I wanted to show him anything at all. I just wanted him to…take notice of me, to pay attention, to see who I was and that I was worthy of him! I also know deep down, what I really wanted, and still want. Some affection from those cold icy eyes, some praise from that handsome face and some intimacy from that well-formed figure; some indication, some small show, some minute amount of warmth from this man who haunts my dreams so often.

But I never received it, no matter how hard I tried. Every lesson followed the same structure. He lectured me on my faults, then fought me. Every lesson was as quick and almost as humiliating as possible. He made it obvious that I was unwanted here, that I was a nuisance, requiring time he would rather not waste on me. When Jadeite became another of his students, the routine had remained the same, each lesson as short as Kunzite could make it without drawing the queen’s attention. Both of us would arrive at the same time, and fight each other under his supervision or watch as he fought the other. Then Zoisite arrived.

Suddenly, teaching was not the same mundane routine bore to Kunzite that it had always been. It was one thing to accept that my mentor did not like students and abhorred having to teach them, but it’s a different matter entirely when you realised he just hated teaching you. Kunzite went out of his way to make the young brat comfortable and started to give him private lessons. That is exactly why I hate Zoisite, because of the obvious attention given to him, even from the start. I tried rationalising; I’d been Kunzite’s student for nine years; he was only twenty-seven when he became my mentor, perhaps he had mellowed, had matured; perhaps he had just grown to enjoy teaching, perhaps…. But rationalising and making excuses to spare my feelings could not change the truth. Kunzite preferred Zoisite. No matter how many times I tried to prove to him that I am the better student, that I am the one more worthy of his sparse praise he still prefers Zoisite to me!

I find myself wondering, taunting myself again, tormenting myself with the question, are they already lovers? Has Zoisite already kissed those cruel lips? Has he already wrapped his arms around those broad shoulders? Are those ‘private lessons’ little more than excuses for Kunzite to hold Zoisite? Has Kunzite told Zoisite that he cares for him? Are my feelings totally wasted, are all my efforts squandered on a hopeless cause? Does Kunzite love him…? He doesn’t, he can’t, love me but does Kunzite love him? These are the thoughts that keep me awake at night, wondering if they are together while I am alone.

ZOISITE

I slowly walk over to the training hall. It’s early morning and I was enjoying the small courtyard garden that Kunzite-sama had created last year. He had been teaching me about the different planets, about all the faunas and floras that filled all those alien environments. I remember telling him that what I liked the most was the beautiful flowers of Earth, especially the cherry blossoms. Kunzite-sama just agreed that ‘beauty is always appealing’ and went on with the lesson. I felt like such a fool! Then, a few days later, on my birthday actually, Kunzite-sama said he had a surprise for me and showed me this place. He had created an incredible Earth garden in this small, hidden area. It was full of all the beautiful flowers I had seen in the holograms that Kunzite-sama had showed me. There was every beautiful flower I could name, some that I couldn’t, and in the middle was an immense cherry tree. I was astounded by all the beauty and told him so. Then Kunzite-sama smiled and said that I could visit this place any time! Since then, this has become my favourite place, my sheltered retreat from the ugliness that fills the Dark Kingdom.

I walk through the doorway, from this angle the training hall looks like it stretches on forever. In this dim light the shape of the dark walls can’t be seen. It’s almost frightening. Almost...

"Ah, Zoisite."

I jump at the sudden sound of Kunzite-sama’s unexpected voice behind me.

"You must learn to remain more aware of your environment Zoisite," he says stepping in front of me, watching my face in this darkness. He gracefully waves a hand and light surrounds us. "That negligence could lead to your downfall."

"Y-yes, Kunzite-sama," I stutter. I wish I could be more like Kunzite-sama, always calm and collected, but I just can’t help it. Every time I’m around Kunzite-sama I get nervous and tense. It’s horrible. I’m fine around everyone else but whenever my mentor watches me, I get all tongue-tied and clumsy! I just wish I could show Kunzite-sama that I’m not always so hopeless.

"Since the other two have not arrived I want to show some different moves in hand-to-hand combat."

I hate physical fighting! It’s the thing that’s the most difficult for me. My lack of physical strength means I lose every time, not to mention how untidy it makes my hair! I pulled a face before I realised who I was with.

"Zoisite, is there something you wish to say to me?" he asked, giving me a level stare. When he looks at me like that, it feels as if he can see right through me.

"N-no Kunzite-sama." I could feel my cheeks beginning to colour. I just hope Kunzite-sama doesn’t notice my blush.

"If not, I would appreciate it if you would be sensible in my class Zoisite." I can feel my blush growing brighter. "Come over here." I nod and follow him to the centre of the room. "You seem to have some difficulties in physical combat due to your…frame." I look up at him, wondering if he’s going to tease me about this flaw as Nephrite continually does. "Your frame could be used as an asset. These moves should help you, they rely on speed and agility, not strength."

I find myself doubting that, but I would try anything to please Kunzite-sama. Kunzite-sama is one of the very few people who seem to believe in me. I hate disappointing him and I know I must every time I fight against Nephrite, every time he beats me. He’s very important to me because he’s my mentor…and a small part of me says he’s important for an entirely different reason. I’m just not sure what. All I know is that part of the trust that I feel for Kunzite-sama is related to…those dreams I have of him. I feel myself begin to blush again, so I concentrate on what Kunzite-sama is showing me. I lose myself in these repetitive exercises, just enjoying being with Kunzite-sama and the occasional nod of approval he gives me. Kunzite-sama stops and turns to address Nephrite. I didn’t even notice him, or Jadeite, arrive.

"So, you have finally arrived." Part of me wishes that Nephrite would come on time, it always annoys Kunzite-sama that he shows him absolutely no respect at all. The rest of me wishes Nephrite wouldn’t come at all. "Prepare to fight Zoisite." I wish Kunzite-sama wouldn’t, I hate being defeated and taunted by Nephrite. Sometimes I wonder if he’s even aware of how Nephrite treats me, he never disciplines Nephrite for it. "I want to see if you can manage a reasonable defence."

Nephrite just shrugs, boasting, "Don’t I always win?" I hate that rhetorical question, probably because he’s right. "A good defence is only necessary if you know you don’t stand a chance," he says, grinning at me.

There’s no way I can avoid this, I’m going to have to fight Nephrite. I wish I didn’t. I feel so embarrassed, so useless, when Nephrite beats me time after time. He’s going to win and he knows it. I prepare myself and stand in the corner waiting for Nephrite’s attack.

JADEITE

Nephrite enters the room, characteristically late. Lord Kunzite turns giving Nephrite his full attention, which is the one of the reasons Nephrite refuses to be an obedient, submissive student.

"So, you have finally arrived. Prepare to fight Zoisite. I want to see if you can manage a reasonable defence."

"Don’t I always win? A good defence is only necessary if you know you don’t stand a chance," Nephrite replies, leering at Zoisite.

I wonder if Nephrite will win. So far, he has remained undefeated by his fellow students. Personally, I do not have the strength to beat him but Zoisite does. He’s just too scared to test his limits, to attempt to control the amount of power he is capable of but some day he will. Some day he will beat Nephrite and then…I don’t know. This stalemate between Nephrite and Zoisite has existed for months, years actually. When Zoisite finally beats Nephrite…there will be changes around here. I doubt Nephrite would accept the defeat and continue to run after Kunzite after being humiliated. Kunzite could easily keep him here with just a few words of praise but I wonder if he is too blinded by his attraction to Zoisite to do that? Sooner or later Zoisite will beat Nephrite but…when? Only time will tell.

NEPHRITE

That question, does Kunzite love him, goes round and round my mind, harassing and disturbing all other thoughts until I push those accusations away from me. I have no answers to them, only speculation! They are only guesses, fuelled by jealousy. I try to ignore them and concentrate on the present, on what is actually happening at this very moment.

Zoisite stands in the opposite corner of the training hall. I make the first move, hurling a small bolt of energy at him. He dodges it, returning my gesture with a pale pink blast. I know this game; it is the same every time we feud. A ritual to see who can produce the more powerful blast. Sometimes I play with this whelp, starting with a weak blast, then slowly building the power until he is no longer game to use such strength. That is what this game is really about, who has the courage to wield and try to control such power. Always, it is Zoisite who will not go further, will not test his limits. It is always cowardly Zoisite that is defeated, that cannot continue, that ends this game. Well today, I’m in no mood for games.

My next attack is strong and I know from experience that it is more powerful than Zoisite will dare to use. I watch as his face portrays his shock. He summons an ice crystal, his weapon of choice as I produce my sword. I attack, he parries and I strike again. I continue to increase the force of my attacks and Zoisite is forced to do the same. I can see the amount of effort it is taking Zoisite not to retreat, his ‘delicate frame’, his slim figure, is not made to sustain the physical force of close combat.

"Why don’t you just admit defeat pretty boy," I hiss at him. "Why don’t you just surrender? I’ll win, you know I will!" His eyes widen briefly and I laugh at his visible fear. "Why do you even try to fight me? Just to please your dear Kunzite-sama? You’re not a fighter, it’s obvious the only reason you’re here is because Kunzite favours you." He glares up at me, the insults attacking his pride as much as my strikes are attacking him. "Tell me, exactly what did you do to gain Kunzite’s ‘favour’?" This is petty and I know it. None the less, I find Zoisite’s blush, his public embarrassment, rewarding.

ZOISITE

I dodge the small energy blast, hurling a slightly stronger one of my own in return. I don’t want to fight using too much strength; I don’t really know how much I can use without losing control. I’ve never tested my limits, not even in these so-called ‘practice fights’ with Nephrite. Nephrite’s next attack is strong, a stronger attack than I want to use. It shocked me and I nearly didn’t move out of the way in time. If that had hit me…My defences are strong, stronger than Jadeite’s or Nephrite’s, but against an attack like that…

I summon an ice crystal, hoping Nephrite will agree and turn this fight into a physical one. I realise he has agreed as his sword appears in his hand, lunging towards me. I deflect his blow, using my ice crystal as he uses his sword. His next assault is stronger, forcing me to use all my strength to defend myself. He’ll win. I just know it. He’s much stronger than I am. I hate this! I hate losing to him every time! I’m not going to let him beat me so quickly. I concentrate on deflecting his attacks, refusing to retreat. Then he starts tormenting me like always.

"Why don’t you just admit defeat pretty boy? Why don’t you just surrender? I’ll win, you know I will! Why do you even try to fight me? Just to please your dear Kunzite-sama? You’re not a fighter, it’s obvious the only reason you’re here is because Kunzite favours you." I glare up at him, resenting what he’s inferring. I deserve to be here just as much as he does! "Tell me, exactly what did you do to gain Kunzite’s ‘favour’?" My cheeks start burning as I realise exactly what he’s referring to. I attack him with all my anger and feel myself pushed away. I realise that he must have attacked as well; it was the amount of power in a confined space that repelled us from each other.

I stand there gathering energy and for once I just don’t care what will happen! I want to hurt him for insulting me, for insulting Kunzite-sama! I want to make him apologise for every time he’s teased me, for every time he’s been disrespectful to Kunzite-sama! He launches an attack and I strike with all my force.

NEPHRITE

He tries to attack me, but I increase the strength of my strike. The amount of pure power physically repels us from each other. The same pattern, the same game. I stand there, gathering power, waiting for Zoisite to strike. Zoisite isn’t fighting! Normally he always makes the first move and I defeat him with pure strength. He’s mirroring my actions, gathering strength and waiting for the other to attack. How pathetic. He doesn’t have the strength to beat me and he knows it. I attack, knowing I’ll defeat him. I was almost surprised that the brat had enough guts to strike with all of his power an instant later. The strength of my blast will probably kill Zoisite. That is exactly what I have wanted for years, the only thing that stops me from using my full power on Zoisite is Kunzite’s obvious disapproval. Our two blasts hurl toward each other, ghostly ivory against frosted pink. Perhaps this victory will show Kunzite my real value. Or will he do as he always does, criticising my technique while praising the insolent upstart? Like he does every time I beat that brat!

I watch that brat’s face, it’s clear he knows as well as I do that I’ll win. Then, I see a flash of hope in his eyes.

His petals defeated my power?!

How could this happen?!

I feel his power wash through me, winding me, causing pain in every inch of my body. For a second I find myself struggling to breathe, every breath becoming more difficult, every moment becoming more painful…then...it’s gone. I find myself kneeling on the floor, that simple action taxing my strength. I try to stand and find I haven’t moved an inch. My entire body feels strange, an alien thing that won’t obey my will.

"Congratulations Zoisite. You did well." The sound of his voice brings me back to reality. I am not going to be humiliated like this. Zoisite is the one who should have lost! I’m the one who should be receiving that praise! I try to say this but my throat is unwieldy, my voice comes out as little more than a whisper.

"I-I’m…not…beaten…yet…"

"Yes, you are!" Another bolt of power shoots through me, blasting me backwards. I hear a loud ‘thud’, then darkness.

ZOISITE

I look up, suddenly aware of what I have just done. Using so much energy in an attack left me none for defence. I don’t have enough time to dodge and at the moment I don’t even have enough power to teleport away. The next few seconds felt like hours. I stood there, unable to move, as I watched our two blasts slowly converge. I glance up at Nephrite’s face and realise that he is certain that he will win, he has no doubts. I look away from him, focusing on the immense energy in front of me. I wonder if it will be strong enough to kill me.

I can’t tear my eyes away from the sight of our two energy bolts. Suddenly my blast conquered Nephrite’s! I watch in shock, almost not believing what I am seeing. My bolt absorbs Nephrite’s and continues speeding in his direction. It hits Nephrite and nearly looks as if it went straight through him. I’ve beaten him! I see him double over, and fall to his hands and knees on the ground, but that one thought just kept going through my mind. I’ve beaten Nephrite.

"Congratulations Zoisite. You did well." I hear Kunzite-sama’s voice but everything feels far away, as if I am in a dream. I hear Nephrite whisper something and see Kunzite-sama blast him but am too…detached to wonder why. "That was an impressive victory Zoisite. None the less, that was an extremely risky action. You could have been beaten. Take more care in future." Kunzite-sama’s voice briefly makes me aware of my surroundings.

"Y-yes Kunzite-sama. But I did win. If I had been more careful Nephrite would have won."

"That is true Zoisite but you must be certain that what you are gaining is worth the risk."

I’ve beaten Nephrite. That strange feeling returned. "Yes Kunzite-sama." I felt strange, as if someone else is answering for me. I beat Nephrite. I’ve won.

KUNZITE

I turn as Nephrite walks into the training hall, twenty minutes late. I notice the glare of hatred he gives Zoisite with severe disapproval. I must admit that I feel almost sorry for Zoisite. Within the first month of becoming my student, Nephrite had made his hatred perfectly clear. He continued to taunt Zoisite at every possible chance. I am still uncertain as to whether Zoisite’s part in this rivalry is caused by fear or anger of Nephrite’s actions towards him. I think that it is probably both.

I set those two to fight against each other. I try not to put them against each other, but I can not reasonably postpone these fights forever. I expect that Nephrite will once more beat Zoisite. He always does. Every fight tends to start with both of them as equals, then Nephrite strikes Zoisite and continues to hit him, wearing down his defences and not giving him any chance to attack back. Once Nephrite has that first strong attack through Zoisite’s rather impressive defences, the rest of the battle is set. That continual onslaught of power means that these fights always conclude when Zoisite can no longer get up. Nephrite’s strategies are just as ruthless and heartless as the young man himself.

They start fighting, throwing blasts of power against each other and deflecting in turn. The next stage will be extremely close. Nephrite will probably use his sword while Zoisite uses a shard of ice. I am not mistaken. They draw closer, the fight heightens in intensity and Nephrite is saying something to Zoisite. His voice is too low for me to be able to hear, but Zoisite’s sudden blush confirms my suspicions that it was just another taunt. The strikes of power finally become too strong and push both away from each other.

Neither strikes, they just stand there. This is very unusual. I wonder what will happen. I feel the amount of raw power both are gathering. Normally, Zoisite attacks and Nephrite avoids the blasts finding a weak spot in his defences. For once Zoisite is waiting for Nephrite to make the first attack. Nephrite is too intelligent to attack when Zoisite’s defences are at full power. I am surprised by the amount of power that is building in both of them. One look at Jadeite’s face reveals that he is surprised as well.

They are both gathering power to strike. Zoisite has gathered all of his strength to attack but has left no strength to defend himself. This is Nephrite's major flaw, that his defences are so weak. I would not have expected Zoisite to be stupid enough to do that. I looked at Nephrite and saw him sense the weakness in Zoisite's defences. He attacked, and as he did, Zoisite released his own attack. The blasts were both heading in the same direction and both youma had their defences down. The identity of the victor would depend on whose attack was stronger as the stronger blast will cancel the weaker. By looking at both of them, I realise that Nephrite has no doubt that he will win while Zoisite is extremely uncertain as to who will be the conqueror. At this close range, I cannot discern which will win.

I watch as Zoisite's pale pink cherry blossoms absorb Nephrite's white blast of power. Nephrite looks shocked as he is finally beaten by Zoisite. His frame trembled as he knelt on all fours.

"Congratulations Zoisite. You did well."

"I-I’m…not…beaten…yet…" I hear Nephrite weakly exclaim.

"Yes, you are!" I said sending a blast at him. I am sick of his arrogance and pride! I hear his head crack against the wall from the force. "That was an impressive victory Zoisite. None the less, that was an extremely risky action. You could have been beaten. Take more care in future." I have to admit I am proud of Zoisite, he has done well.

"Y-yes Kunzite-sama. But I did win. If I had been more careful Nephrite would have won." He looks up at me, nervously awaiting my answer. Unlike Nephrite who openly challenges my authority, or Jadeite who is distant and respectful, Zoisite is nervous around me. He has always been that way. He appears to be frightened of me, but I am not absolutely convinced that this is the reason for his awkwardness and lack of confidence around me.

"That is true Zoisite," His relief was written all over his face. "But you must be certain that what you are gaining is worth the risk."

"Yes Kunzite-sama."

ZOISITE

"...Ughn…" I walk over to Nephrite, the source of that sound and try to help him stand. He just pushes me away from him, growling "Don’t ever touch me!". I step back, this entire scene feeling unreal. None of it seems to be real or even affecting me. I defeated Nephrite. Kunzite-sama’s voice is a blur but I watch his frame strain slightly under the weight of Nephrite’s limp body and I summon a chair for Nephrite’s prone form. I defeated Nephrite. I watch in a daze as Nephrite sits, only to stand and walk towards me.

I gasped as his hand hit my cheek and the ground rose to meet me. That abrupt pain brought me out of my stupor. My cheek was burning. I felt tears fall down cheeks.

"Are you okay?" Kunzite-sama asked. I stood up, nodding my response. I was fine, just a little shocked. I stare at the ground; I don’t want him to see me crying. I want Kunzite-sama to think well of me, not to see me as the weakling that Nephrite does. I feel his strong hand beneath my chin, gently lifting my face. "It will pass in a few hours. At least it will not bruise."

I nod as he speaks and then look up at him. He looks so gentle, so caring. I’m curious. His eyes show so much warmth towards me. He slowly bends down and I close my eyes as he softly kisses me. My first kiss! Just as I’ve always dreamt it would be. I stretch my arms and wrap them around Kunzite-sama’s broad shoulders gently pulling him closer to me. He ceases the tender pressure and focuses his attentions on my lower lip. I run my hands through his pale mane of hair and feel myself shiver at the exquisite sensation of his lips against mine. I gasp as I feel his tongue lightly brush against my lips and taste his tongue within my mouth. Kunzite-sama holding me, kissing me, his hands gently running up and down my spine. This is so…I can’t describe it. I start to kiss him back and he… abruptly pulls away from me?!

KUNZITE

"...Ughn…" A low moan comes from Nephrite’s direction as he regains consciousness. I walk over to him as do Jadeite and Zoisite. Zoisite approaches him, attempting to help him to stand. Nephrite roughly pushes him away growling, "Don’t ever touch me!" I watch as he sways, trying to independently stand.

"For once in your life Nephrite be sensible." I say, helping him up. He is tense and I increase the strength of my grip, letting him know that he could not push me away as he had Zoisite. He relaxes against me allowing me to support his weight and resting his head against my shoulder. "How many times have I told you to increase your defences Nephrite? I do not tell you these things for my own benefit!" I am more than angry at him. "I hope this defeat will show you just how much your ‘techniques’ lack!" I realise that Zoisite has transported a chair beside me. "Thank you Zoisite." I say in a less aggressive voice. I try not to take my temper out on those who do not deserve it. I sit Nephrite down.

He just sits there with his head in his hands. I can feel his strength growing as his body heals. He looks up at me and his gaze is…disappointed and almost…sad. Then he turns to Zoisite, his features setting into that familiar sneer of hatred. Even in defeat he cannot see his faults are his, not Zoisite’s.

"Nephrite! You must learn to - " I start to admonish him.

"Leave me alone Kunzite!" he growls back, as he interrupts me. He stands and walks over to Zoisite. "And that goes double for you brat!" Nephrite said. He smiles at Zoisite shocked gasp as he slaps Zoisite across the face. I was aware of Nephrite leaving but was more concerned about Zoisite who had been flung against the floor by the blow.

"Go after him Jadeite. Calm him down and bring him back here." Jadeite nodded and quickly left. I walk over to Zoisite. "Are you okay?" He just nods. He stands but refuses to look up at me. I tilt his face up and see that he is crying. I also observe the bright red print of Nephrite’s hand that covers his cheek. "It will pass in a few hours. At least it will not bruise." He nods as I say this. My attention was suddenly drawn to his wavy blonde hair, his wide green eyes and his soft dark lips.

He looks up at me, questioning and inviting. For once I let my attraction to this beautiful young youma control my actions. I lean down and kiss him. I expected him to pull away and was rather surprised when he wrapped his arms around my shoulders and pressed his innocent lips against mine. I capture his lower lip, gently sucking and tasting. Kissing him again, I swipe my tongue against the slight parting of his lips. He gasps; opening his mouth and allowing me to tenderly explore his guileless mouth as my hands roam his back.

NEPHRITE

"...Ughn…"

My head is pounding, my entire body throbbing in pain. I press my hands against the wall behind me, using it to help me to my feet. I feel an arm against my shoulder, Zoisite’s arm. I push him away from me, even in this state I’m stronger than he is.

"Don’t ever touch me!" I wanted to say more but I was concentrating on trying to make the floor stay still beneath my feet. I leant back against the wall as the ground below me tilted at an alarming angle.

"For once in your life Nephrite be sensible."

I feel Kunzite’s arms around me. I was about to push him away when I felt his arms tighten around me. I’m suddenly aware of all those old feelings and of how many times I have dreamt of him holding me like this. I rest my head against his shoulder. Right now, I don’t want to think about Zoisite or Jadeite. I just want to be alone with Kunzite and have him hold me like this forever. The lecture he’s giving me doesn’t matter; nothing matters as long as he keeps me in his embrace. I am briefly aware of him thanking Zoisite for something, then I feel myself gently lowered to a seat.

I sit with my head in my hands, waiting for my body to recuperate. I knew it wouldn’t be long before the pain inhabiting my entire frame would be gone. Slowly the events of the past few minutes started to make sense to me. It didn’t matter if I won or lost to Zoisite, Kunzite would still praise him and thank him. It didn’t matter what I did. I couldn’t be Zoisite. I look up into those grey eyes, almost glad to see a slight tinge of concern there. I want to tell him that I care, tell him how I feel, that I love him…

I suddenly realised that we weren’t alone. Zoisite was standing there, as close as possible to Kunzite, just like always. I felt my hatred of him and my anger at being humiliated by being beaten by him well up inside me. If it hadn’t been for him, if he had never come, maybe it would have been me standing there next to Kunzite, me who received praise and thanks, me who Kunzite cared for.

"Nephrite! You must learn to - "

You don’t care for me, you never have! And it’s because of this whelp; I want to yell at him. "Leave me alone Kunzite!" I stride over to Zoisite, my body almost fully healed. "And that goes double for you brat!" I say, slapping Zoisite across the face. I want to hurt him, hurt him as much as all of those encouraging comments from Kunzite have hurt me. I storm out of the room, wanting to be as far away from Zoisite and Kunzite as possible.

JADEITE

I feel compassion for the more volatile of my fellow students. This humiliation will not be easy for him. He does not deal well with embarrassment. I walk over to Shadow Lake. It is the one place where Nephrite can normally be found. I turn the corner and see him, sitting beside the water’s edge. He looks so alone…probably because he is. I could not imagine him having anyone he would trust enough to become his confidant. But neither do I and I would never want one.

"For once in your life Nephrite, be sensible." Kunzite did not need to be so hard on him. He would have been sufficiently shamed by his defeat, but there was no need to add insult to injury.

I quietly walk over to his side, not taking my eyes off him. He was humbled but he was still impulsive and likely to do almost anything. I can see the unrest and distress deep within his eyes. I place my hand upon his shoulder as he turns to face the water once more. His sigh is almost…heart-broken.

I get straight to the point. "Lord Kunzite wants to see you."

"I don’t care. I don’t give a damn what Kunzite wants!" Volatile as ever.

"Don’t let your emotions rule over your logic." He suddenly turns to face me. I see the stunned silent question and answer it just as soundlessly.

"He wants him…but he doesn’t want me! He wants him…" I knew he would some day realise this fact, just as I have realised it. Yet it does not make the truth any less bitter or cruel. I wish I could offer him some solace, some consolation or some form of understanding.

"You and Lord Kunzite are too different," but I can only offer the truth, "And too similar."

"But I want him so much…."

"I know. We have to return." He nods and slowly stands, the disappointment still so visible.

NEPHRITE

I found myself unconsciously walking over to a favourite spot of mine. It is a small hidden arbour beside a deep blue lake. I have always found this place soothing, refreshing my mind and calming my temper. I sit there, not really thinking, just…sitting. I hear soft footsteps and feel another presence standing beside me. I look up to see Jadeite’s calm blue eyes watching me. I don’t mind Jadeite, the young man is weaker than I in strength, but he is intelligent. I find that in the training hall, he is frequently forgotten. I would look up and realise that he was standing there, just quietly watching as he always did. He is the closest I come to having a friend. He says nothing and rests his hand upon my shoulder. I sigh and am rather surprised at how comforting that gesture is.

"Lord Kunzite wants to see you."

"I don’t care. I don’t give a damn what Kunzite wants!" I expect that he will be shocked at my behaviour but he just calmly stood there.

"Don’t let your emotions rule over your logic." I look up at him, shocked, wondering if he knew. He smiles slightly and nods.

"He wants him…but he doesn’t want me! He wants him…" At this moment I almost want to cry. I feel so disappointed, so…betrayed.

"You and Lord Kunzite are too different," he stated calmly, adding, "And too similar."

I look up at him, knowing that he’s right, and knowing that it would never work… "But I want him so much…."

"I know." I find myself wondering if he feels like this about anyone. "We have to return," he said gently.

I nod, standing. He’s right but…I just don’t want to believe it. I don’t want to know Kunzite could never feel the same way, don’t want to admit that Zoisite has something I could never have and I don’t even know what it is!

ZOISITE

What did I do?! I…I just wanted to…I look up and see that Nephrite and Jadeite have returned. Kunzite-sama is right, I do need to pay more attention to my surroundings - I hadn’t notice them leave. I watch, shocked, as Nephrite actually argues with Kunzite-sama! Kunzite-sama makes a note appear in front of Nephrite. I pay attention as I hear my name mentioned.

"… Zoisite, I meant what I said. Stay out of my way. You’d better watch your back. Because if I do find a weakness, I’ll attack! I will kill you Zoisite."

He couldn’t mean it. He couldn’t! My fear was more than real. Nephrite had beaten me in every other fight. Today had just been luck…

"Nephrite…" Kunzite-sama started.

"And I doubt your lover here will protect you." Lover?! Kunzite-sama? He’s never been my lover but… Was Nephrite right? Would he protect me? Why would he? I’m just a child, of no real importance. But if he didn’t protect me…

"You forget that Zoisite is my student and is under my protection Nephrite." My relief is almost audible. If Kunzite-sama hadn’t said that Nephrite surely would have…. "Remember that I am still stronger than you and could kill you easily."

"You wouldn’t dare. You couldn’t. Not without upsetting the Queen!"

"No? Are you sure of that Nephrite?" Nephrite transports away, then speaks to Jadeite. "I wish that Nephrite would not allow himself to become so upset over losing. Those practice fights are just that. Practice. He should not let himself get so upset about being defeated in these training sessions. The next training session will only consist of you and Zoisite. I expect to see you at the usual time." Jadeite also leaves, leaving me alone with Kunzite-sama.

NEPHRITE

We walk over to the training hall and I’m surprised as Jadeite suddenly stopped in the doorway. I walked over and saw what he’s staring at. Kunzite and Zoisite kissing! Zoisite was kissing him?! I had barely left the room for five minutes and already Zoisite was getting ‘intimate’ with Kunzite! I couldn’t believe it.

"What do you think you are - "

"What did you want Kunzite?" This proof that Zoisite is Kunzite’s lover changed something inside me. I no longer give a damn what Kunzite will say. Personally I don’t give a damn about Zoisite either, I just don’t want that wretch around me. It doesn’t even matter… but along with this new detachment I feel the old anger start to take hold of me. "I’m twenty-one! I’m old enough not to have to bend to fulfill your every whim! If you need that power trip you have these two to entertain your ‘desires’! I’m sick of being your student, understand?" The look of anger on Kunzite’s face shows that I’ve hit a nerve.

"Fine! Take this!" A letter to Queen Beryl appears in front of me. It basically said that I am finally ready for a mission of my own.

"Thanks." As if I really needed it! "As for you Zoisite, I meant what I said. Stay out of my way. You’d better watch your back," I wasn’t in the least surprised that I meant every word of what I was saying. "Because if I do find a weakness, I’ll attack! I will kill you Zoisite."

"Nephrite…" So this is Kunzite’s real weak spot. His beloved student, his defenceless lover.

"And I doubt your lover here will protect you," I said, using Zoisite to see just how far I can push Kunzite before he really loses his temper.

"You forget that Zoisite is my student and is under my protection Nephrite. Remember that I am still stronger than you and could kill you easily." I could hear the anger beneath the sure logic of the words. I also knew that he was bluffing, I wasn’t stupid enough to believe that.

"You wouldn’t dare. You couldn’t. Not without upsetting the Queen!" And losing her favour, I silently added.

"No? Are you sure of that Nephrite?" I transported away, briefly wondering if I had pushed Kunzite too far. I didn’t care, I thought as I reappeared in my own quarters. This letter gave me the opportunity to stop bowing down to someone else and obeying his every whim. Once I have my own missions, I will use my success to prove to the entire Dark Kingdom that I am more capable than Zoisite. I will use everything I have to humiliate that brat as I have been humiliated! But right now, I’ll concentrate on gaining the queen’s trust. I can wait until Zoisite has his own missions before I squash him like the weak coward he is.

JADEITE

I would have thought that Kunzite would have had enough sense not to flaunt his attraction for Zoisite in front of Nephrite. Perhaps he is more of a blind fool than I realised. "I wish that Nephrite would not allow himself to become so upset over losing." He is right. Nephrite would be much easier to deal with if he did not lose his temper but for once I do agree with Nephrite’s reaction. It would not have been mine but it is perfectly valid.

Lord Kunzite has made Nephrite swear to kill Zoisite and this will not go well for either of them. All that Nephrite needs at the moment is some space, away from Kunzite and his new lover, and some time to get over it. He will get over it. His temper is explosive but it does not last for long. Zoisite’s is just as expansive but it will outlive Nephrite’s easily. Somehow, I doubt Kunzite will be bothered to find a peaceful solution to this problem.

"Those practice fights are just that. Practice. He should not let himself get so upset about being defeated in these training sessions." ‘Practice fights’?! This situation could have been avoided, a few simple words and a small amount of discretion…..yet he looks surprised at Nephrite’s reaction and tries to blame Nephrite’s reaction on a practice fight. I would have expected more of Lord Kunzite.

KUNZITE

I feel another presence enter the room and pull away from Zoisite. I look up to see Nephrite and Jadeite standing in the doorway. Jadeite has a rather strange look on his face while Nephrite stares with utter fury.

"What do you think you are - "

"What did you want Kunzite?" His tone is brusque. "I’m twenty-one! I’m old enough not to have to bend to fulfill your every whim! If you need that power trip you have these two to entertain your ‘desires’! I’m sick of being you’re student, understand?"

That youma is completely and utterly infuriating! "Fine! Take this!" I make a note addressed to Queen Beryl appear in front of him. It was a letter I had written weeks ago saying that Nephrite had completed his training and that I believed he was ready to be trusted with a mission. Hopefully he’d be sent to collect life energy from Venus…and not return.

He read it and seemed satisfied with its contents. "Thanks." His voice is dripping with sarcasm. "As for you Zoisite, I meant what I said. Stay out of my way. You’d better watch your back. Because if I do find a weakness, I’ll attack! I will kill you Zoisite."

I am outraged at his threats. Insulting me by threatening my student in my very presence! "Nephrite…" It was a warning not to go any further.

"And I doubt your lover here will protect you," he says in a superior tone with that arrogant self-confidence.

"You forget that Zoisite is my student and is under my protection Nephrite." I barely hold my anger at bay. "Remember that I am still stronger than you and could kill you easily."

"You wouldn’t dare. You couldn’t. Not without upsetting the Queen!" he says about to transport.

"No?" At least I have the paltry glory of the last word. "Are you sure of that Nephrite?" He looks slightly unsure of himself as he transported away. I turn to Jadeite. "I wish that Nephrite would not allow himself to become so upset over losing." Jadeite nods his agreement. "Those practice fights are just that. Practice. He should not let himself get so upset about being defeated in these training sessions." Jadeite gives me another strange look, almost a mixture of disbelief and disapproval. As if I should have known better of Nephrite. At least he is no longer my problem. "The next training session will only consist of you and Zoisite. I expect to see you at the usual time." He takes the hint and leaves.

ZOISITE

I find myself wondering why he kissed me. It’s not something that Kunzite-sama would normally do. It’s like a scene out of those dreams I have of him, those dreams that are filled with him holding me and kissing me and caressing me and…I feel my face colour as several images come floating back to me.

"Zoisite?"

I look up at him and cautiously walk over to him. I suddenly realise that I’m biting my lower lip and stop. It’s a habit from when I was younger that I only do when I’m really nervous.

"Yes Kunzite-sama?" I ask wishing that my voice would sound normal instead of betraying how nervous I felt.

"How old are you Zoisite?"

Old? I thought he already knew. "Fifteen."

"Really?"

"Well…fourteen," I admit, feeling extremely stupid for lying about such a trivial matter. "But I’m almost fifteen….in a couple of months."

"I thought as much. I’m thirty-six Zoisite."

So? I already knew he was older than I was. It doesn’t matter, I don’t care about the difference in ages. I tried to tell him so. "B-but Kunzite-sama…I’m old enough to…to understand…" Kunzite-sama silenced me by placing a finger against my lips.

"No, I don’t think you are."

What?! This wasn’t fair! Anything else, my behaviour, my looks, anything, I would have changed for Kunzite-sama. I’d do anything if only he’d find me as… desirable…as I find him. But age? How could I change that? "But I want to…I want to…to be your…"

"No Zoisite."

"...Oh…" There was nothing I could do. How stupid had I been to ever think that he… Why would he want me? I was just a kid to him…and he was so strong and so sophisticated; so smart and so handsome, so very handsome…"I’m sorry, I should go."

"Why?"

He could have any youma in the Dark Kingdom. Why would ever he choose me? "Because you…I…you don’t want this. How can I be your lover if…"

"You can’t."

KUNZITE

"Zoisite?" He looks up at me. He is blushing and looks so very confused. He worries at his lower lip as he approaches me.

"Yes Kunzite-sama?" he asks rather breathlessly.

"How old are you Zoisite?"

He looks wary. "Fifteen."

"Really?"

"Well…fourteen. But I’m almost fifteen….in a couple of months."

"I thought as much. I’m thirty-six Zoisite."

"B-but Kunzite-sama…I’m old enough to…to understand…" I silence him by placing my finger over his lips.

"No, I don’t think you are."

"But I want to…I want to…to be your…" He seems lost for words.

"No Zoisite."

"...Oh…" he looked defeated. "I’m sorry, I should go."

"Why?"

"Because you…I…you don’t want this. How can I be your lover if…"

"You can’t."

He nods and stares at the ground. "I-I know."

I tilt his head up and realise he is about to cry. I gently wipe the tears from his eyes. He glances up at me and I see the love and trust in those emerald green eyes. "Zoisite, you can’t be my lover now. I would rather wait for you to…mature." His eyes light up with hope.

"You would do that? You would wait for me? Really?"

"Yes. I want to be your lover but I’m not going to rush you. I want to wait for you." I lean down and lightly kiss him. "Understand?"

Zoisite nods. "Thank you. I want this so much…but I…Thank you." He caught my wrist and lifted my hand to his face. He kisses my palm then holds my hand against his cheek. I lean down and press my lips against his forehead, breathing in the strong scent of cherry blossoms that wafts from his silky hair.

"Now go. You need a good night’s sleep. I expect to see you bright and early tomorrow morning." He nods happily and walks away. After a few steps, he turns and runs into my arms, wrapping his slender arms around me as he presses his lips against mine.

"Thank you Kunzite-sama." He briefly breaks eye contact by looking down. "You don’t know how happy you’ve made me!" he exclaims stepping back and transporting away, beaming a joyous smile at me.

I find myself laughing at his childish antics and rather surprised at how much he amuses me, how happy he makes me. I wonder if I will be able to keep my promise of waiting for him. I know I would not be tempted by any other youma but will I be able to wait for years before kissing him like that again? Perhaps not. I find myself suddenly thinking of Nephrite’s threats. It doesn’t really matter, does it? Not as long as I’m there to protect Zoisite from any harm or danger. And I plan to there, at Zoisite’s side, protecting and supporting him. Always. Forever.

ZOISITE

I stare at my feet. I want this so much, I want him so much… "I-I know." I just wanted to get out of there before I burst into tears in front of him. I feel Kunzite-sama firmly tilt my head towards him but I refuse to make eye contact. I felt his hand against my cheek, his thumb gently wiping away my unshed tears. It’s not fair. How can he be so kind and yet so cruel? More than anything else I just want him to hold me… I look up into his ice blue eyes expecting them to be as cold as my ice crystals are. I almost wish they were. At least that way I could hate him for making me feel like this, instead of being angry with myself for being so stupid!

"Zoisite, you can’t be my lover now." Or ever…my mind silently adds. "I would rather wait for you to…mature." Huh? ‘Wait’? But that means…

"You would do that? You would wait for me? Really?" I couldn’t keep the optimistic hope out of my voice. Maybe he does care for me…

"Yes." He smiled, the rare broad smile softening his stern features. "I want to be your lover but I’m not going to rush you. I want to wait for you." He pauses, leaning down and lightly pressing his lips against mine. "Understand?"

I nodded, temporarily lost for words. "Thank you. I want this so much…but I…Thank you." I just couldn’t explain how elated I felt. I reached out and gently grabbing his wrist and lifting his palm to my lips. I kissed it, wishing I could tell him just how he made me feel as I rested my cheek against his large hand. I feel Kunzite-sama’s other arm encircle me and his lips press against my forehead.

"Now go. You need a good night’s sleep. I expect to see you bright and early tomorrow morning." His refined voice tenderly says. I nod happily and turn to go…but couldn’t leave like this. I turn around and run back to his embrace, wrapping my arms around his neck as I stretch up for one last kiss.

"Thank you Kunzite-sama." I look down, then realise exactly what I wish he could know, what I wish I could explain to him. "You don’t know how happy you’ve made me!"

I step back, smiling at Kunzite-sama’s unguarded expression of amusement before transporting out of the training hall and into the quiet courtyard filled with flowers. I’m too happy to think, to happy to care! Laughing, I walk over to the large cherry tree and sit against its solid trunk. All I want to do at the moment is sit here and watch the pale pink petals softly float to the ground. And, perhaps, remember the sensation of being held in his arms…

THE END


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