Honor and Doubt

Part 2

© 1999 by Mizuchiko


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Disclaimer:

As always, the men we love to love and the prince we love to hate are the property of Naoko Takeuchi. I think that covers it.


Honor and Doubt - Part 2

© 1999 by Mizuchiko

"You can do better than that," Kunzite scolded severely as Zoisite aimed a bolt of energy him. It instead hit the column Kunzite had ducked behind. "I know you can hit me. Come on, try harder. You're a Guardian now, you shouldn't let your fear of injuring me stop you from attacking. Now do it again." Kunzite kept up the stream of insults and encouragements while ducking, dodging, and deflecting Zoisite's blows.

Zoisite was having a hard time of it. Not only was he unused to his new Guardian uniform, but Kunzite was incredibly fast. No matter how many times he came close to hitting him, the elder and more experienced Guardian always managed to escape unharmed. It was beginning to annoy Zoisite, so he tore off the burdensome green-lined cape, revealing that he still wore his blue pupil's sash, and redoubled his efforts.

"That's better. Good. Now even faster. Oh, come on. That was pitiful. You can hit me. What's the matter, Zoisite? Did your little confrontation with Lady Beryl unnerve you?" Kunzite called out. He immediately wished he hadn't.

With an enraged snarl, Zoisite pooled his energy and let loose a volley of tiny bolts of energy in the form of ice crystals. They followed Kunzite closely as he dodged them, embedding themselves into the columns and the tail of the Guardian's white cape. One managed to find its way into Kunzite's shoulder. He grimaced at the slight tingle it caused, but paid it little more attention. He waited behind a column until the barrage of ice crystals halted.

"That was interesting, little rat," Kunzite said, materializing behind Zoisite. The young Guardian whirled on his mentor, an infuriated glaze over his pretty green eyes. Kunzite placed his hands on the younger man's shoulders and shook him. "You can come back down to Earth now, Zoisite," he chided softly. Slowly the vehemence left Zoisite's gaze and his angered breathing slowed. He looked up at Kunzite a little dazedly. When he saw the slight bloodstain on the Eldest Guardian's white cape, he gasped.

"My Lord! I'm so sorry! I don't know what came over me, I didn't mean to hit you!" he exclaimed.

Kunzite chuckled. "I'm no longer 'your Lord,' Zoisite. How many times do I have to tell you, we're peers now. So you can take off that silly sash. And don't worry about it. It was just a little ice crystal, a scratch. Where did you come up with that, by the way? You have a flair for the dramatic, but at least it's effective." Zoisite blushed and blew a strand of copper hair out of his face.

"Thank you, my- er, Kunzite," he said. He didn't like the taste left in his mouth by calling his elder by his first name. Ignoring the corrections, he turned his companion around and began to march him toward the door. "But flattery will get you nowhere, my Lord. Except the infirmary, that is. You are going to get that checked whether you want to or not." As he dragged Kunzite along, ignoring his elder's protests, he sensed some other presence in the columned Grand Hall. Pausing and surveying the scene, Zoisite located the intruder behind one of the white columns. He turned and ran off in its direction.

"Zoisite? Where are you going?" Kunzite called after him.

"I forgot my gloves. You go on ahead, I'll meet you there," came the echoing reply. Kunzite's brow furrowed, wondering what mischief his former pupil was getting into now.

Zoisite slowed his jog to a jaunty walk, humming a few bars of a marching song and casually looking around him. When he sensed that the intruder was just on the opposite side of the nearest column, he pounced. There were sounds of a brief struggle, then the slightly disheveled Zoisite dragged a struggling youma out from behind the column.

"Who sent you?" he hissed in its ear. It tried frantically to escape the Guardian's grasp, but Zoisite only held it tighter.

"High Queen Metallia," came the garbled reply. Zoisite grinned evilly into the youma's face.

"Did she think she could kill the Prince, or just some of his guardians? Well, when you return to the hell from where you came, you can tell her that we won't be taken that easily." With that, he produced a tiny, sharp ice crystal and flicked it at the creature's throat. It gurgled once, then died.

"Zoisite?" Kunzite called from the end of the hall. Zoisite quickly vaporized the body of the youma and threw his cape over his arm to hide his injured hand. He stepped out into the open hallway, smoothing his tousled hair, and waved cheerfully at Kunzite, who stopped short.

"I guess I didn't wear my gloves today," Zoisite said as he bounded agilely up to Kunzite, "I could have sworn I did. Oh, well. Now, let's get you to that infirmary." Forgetting that his cape was hiding his injury, he shifted it to his other arm and took firm hold of Kunzite by the arm. The other Guardian stopped and grabbed Zoisite's wrist.

"You're wounded!" he exclaimed. "How on Earth did that happen?" Zoisite yanked his arm from Kunzite's grasp and held it protectively close to himself.

"It was nothing, just a little problem I had with one of my ice crystals. I cut myself on it."

Kunzite let out a dry chuckle. "Oh, that's funny. You didn't seem so clumsy with those ice crystals when you were hurling them at me! Here you are, finally finding your trademark attack, and you attack yourself with it!" Kunzite's gaze softened as he saw how serious his normally bright young companion had become. "You look white as a sheet, little rat. It's strange, I don't like to think of you in pain. Show me that hand." He reached again for Zoisite's hand, but the young man snatched it away.

"It's nothing, my Lord."

"Then why do you look so pale?" Kunzite demanded with an arched brow. "Show me your hand."

With a sudden coldness, Zoisite's eyes flared and he stood as tall as he possibly could, though he was still petite next to Kunzite. "If I am indeed a Guardian now, as my Lord insists upon reminding me, then I should be capable of looking to my own injuries, should I not?" He remained standing there, seemingly indignant, while Kunzite regarded him with dumbfounded amazement. Had his little rat just addressed him in such a way? This temperament of his was indeed volatile.

"All this over a little concern! Very well, very well, don't get it looked at. Heal it yourself, if you feel you have something to prove to someone. But keep in mind, you've already proved yourself to me several times over, little rat. The only one you need to impress is yourself." Zoisite's thin shoulders slumped a little at the thought of offending his Elder Guardian, but Kunzite threw an arm around him. "Don't worry about it, Zoisite. We all have our moods. I'll just be more careful to avoid yours in the future. And you be careful with those ice crystals, do you hear?"

* * *

The torches in Nephrite's quarters threw strange, contorting shadows on the walls and the table where Nephrite and Jadeite sat. They were sharing a bottle of wine, with Nephrite drinking the majority of it. He had long ago abandoned the goblet and was drinking straight from the bottle. Jadeite, not much of a drinker anyway, swirled his in his glass, watching the light through it, taking only the occasional sip. He was as deep in thought as Nephrite was in his drunkenness.

"This Zoisite, then, who is he?" Jadeite asked suddenly, tearing his focus away from the swirling patterns in his goblet to look at Nephrite.

"The new fourth Guardian," Nephrite answered around the bottle, a little surprised at the question.

"I know that!" Jadeite snorted, "But who is he, exactly?"

"The fourth Guardian, I tell you! The fourth Guardian is the fourth Guardian! I don't see what else there is to inquire into on that score." Nephrite grimaced upon looking into the bottle and seeing the bottom. He tossed the empty bottle aside and rubbed his already aching head.

"You don't understand. Look, supposing the new Guardian were some other man. Me, for instance..."

"That's plain idiotic. You're already a Guardian."

Jadeite sighed at Nephrite's stupor. "I said supposing. Now, I would be the Guardian, but I wouldn't be the same Guardian as Zoisite is. You can follow that, can't you?"

Nephrite seemed to be sobering a little. "Yes," he said guardedly.

"So, who is this man Zoisite?" Jadeite continued, leaning back in his chair triumphantly. "Can't you consult your stars or something? You always say they know everything. Or haven't they had much to say on the subject?" Nephrite threw a caustic glare at his younger counterpart. Suddenly seemed to sober completely as he leaned forward and rested his elbows on the table. The torchlight reflected in his blue eyes.

"I'm waiting," he said simply.

"Waiting for what?" Jadeite asked crossly. Now he was the confused one.

"Till he shows himself," Nephrite explained, "Some sorts of enemies are like that: you follow them all day, but it won't do any good to charge ahead with an attack. You'd just spoil everything because you don't know what kind of enemy you're dealing with. You have to wait."

"What for?"

"For whatever it is to show itself. And if you're patient, it always does in the end. For this man Zoisite, I'll wait for him to break cover. The day he does, we'll know who he is." Nephrite took the half-filled goblet from Jadeite and drained it in one gulp. He smiled, and so did Jadeite after a moment.

"What a mentality!" Jadeite chuckled. "All I was saying was that I'd like to know the man I'm going to be guarding the Prince with. He seems nice enough. Say, Nephrite? Do you have another bottle of that?"

* * *

Kunzite and Zoisite were training again in the Grand Hall. This time Kunzite was the one attacking, though none of his attacks were reaching their mark. Zoisite had improved considerably even when compared to the week before. Kunzite sighed at the thought of how much the young Guardian must be training on his own. It was surprising that he was still on his feet, let alone moving this fast.

"Alright, alright. You can stop running and dodging like a damned rabbit now, Zoisite. We're done." Kunzite didn't see the point in continuing. He wasn't going to hit the smaller, more agile young man unless he stepped up his power level a bit, and he didn't want to do that. Then he might seriously injure him. Zoisite appeared with a flourish of petals beside Kunzite, who swatted one of them away from his face.

"Have I improved, my Lord?" Zoisite asked wickedly, a playful smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. Kunzite tried to look severe, but he just couldn't. He knocked the devilish little Guardian gently on the head for his impudence.

"Don't be pert," he chastised. "And yes, you have. Been training all night again, haven't you?" Zoisite's guilty look from beneath his lashes betrayed him. "How many times have I told you that you'll wear yourself out doing that?"

"I'll pay the price, I know. One must always pay the price." There came a low laugh from behind them. They both turned quickly to the source, finding it to be Prince Endymion. Kunzite elbowed Zoisite when he grumbled, "Great," under his breath.

"Very nice work, Guardians," Endymion said. "Kunzite, I'd like to speak with Zoisite privately for a moment." Zoisite stiffened next to Kunzite, but the Eldest Guardian simply winked in savage amusement at the irate young man, then bowed and vanished in a flash of pink energy.

"You wished to speak with me, Your Majesty?" Zoisite said through a forced smile. Endymion, much to his Guardian's distaste, threw a friendly arm around him and began walking him along the hall.

"My newest Guardian Zoisite," he began, "I want you to know how glad I am that I have you on my elite force. It makes me glad that there are still some people in this kingdom that can be trusted."

"Thank you, Your Majesty, but what exactly is you point?" Zoisite asked, attempting to cut off Endymion before he could make one of his notoriously long speeches.

"My point is, young Zoisite," the prince continued, "that I trust you with my life. With all our lives. Enough to have chosen a special mission for you." Here Endymion stopped, looked around suspiciously, and dropped his voice. "I want you to find out if Beryl and the Eclipsians are indeed collaborating with Metallia. I want to get this thing over with, and if I can crush those rebellious upstarts in the process, all the better."

Zoisite pulled away from the prince's arm. "You mean to say you want me to go inside the Eclipse movement and find out if they've made an alliance with the Negaverse?" Zoisite asked, astonishment replacing any malice he had felt toward Endymion. He couldn't help himself then and started to laugh. "Oh, that is good, Your Majesty! You're joking, of course. Just look at the man you'd be sending over there. Your own mother was probably taller than I am. Probably stronger, too. And I've only been a Guardian for a couple of months! That's not enough experience to warrant sending me off on a mission like that! Oh, you are quite the trickster, Your Majesty!"

Zoisite continued to laugh until the prince cut him off, "This is no joke, Zoisite. I'm in deadly earnest. You shall be ready to depart tonight."

Zoisite's mood changed dramatically in the matter of an instant. "You are forgetting, Your Majesty, that I am Guardian Kunzite's servant first. I cannot and will not leave him." Color high on his cheeks, brought on by the heat of the argument, made his sharp green eyes sparkle with defiance. With a sneer of disgust, Endymion slapped the insubordinate Guardian across the face. Zoisite, shocked at the abuse by the prince, didn't even turn his head back to face him.

"No, you forget, Guardian. You are my Guardian first and foremost. You duty is to me. My orders take precedence over any position you have held or will hold, and over any mutinous thoughts you might have of your own. I don't care whose servant you were. I don't care if you defy protocol and still wear you pupil's sash and still address Kunzite as 'my Lord.' You should address only me with such respect, do you understand? You will do as I say and never question me." The prince was shaking with his fury.

For a moment, Zoisite remained perfectly still. Then he turned and glared at Endymion, calmly enraged. He put a hand on his sword and took a step closer to the Prince until he was standing as close as possible to him.

"Though my better judgement and my loyalty to Guardian Kunzite would deny it, I am starting to agree with Lady Beryl," he spat the name like a curse upon the prince, "you are an over-zealous idiot. You know as well as I do that Beryl and Metallia are working together. But you apparently don't care that by sending me in there, you'll be angering Metallia and Beryl even further. But as it is not my place to question orders, Sire, I will do your bidding and join the Eclipsians. But later you might regret sending me to do it, because if ever I have loved anything, it's doing what I have to do and doing it well." He remained there for a moment, his hatred for Endymion betraying itself plainly in his eyes, then vanished in a tempestuous gust of cherry blossoms.

Goto Part 3


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