Honor and Doubt

Part 4

© 1999 by Mizuchiko

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No matter how much I might wish otherwise, none of these characters are mine. The credit goes where it's due. Wow, that's the last time I have to say that for this story!

Honor and Doubt - Part 4

© 1999 by Mizuchiko

Far off in the distance the sounds of battle drifted over the trees. It was almost comforting, Kunzite thought as he led the other two Guardians down the walkway to the fountain at the center of the courtyard. A slight fog had rolled in, partly due to the smoke from the battle sites that had reached the Palace at last. The Guardians stopped abruptly when they saw the diminutive silhouette through the mist.

"Guardians," came the voice. Kunzite's pulse quickened. It was indeed Zoisite. But no, he thought as the fog cleared and the former Guardian could be seen, this wasn't the Zoisite he remembered - his Zoisite! This creature was deathly pale, dressed in some sort of grey soldier's uniform. His green eyes were so cold, so ironic - even though they were still youthful and heavily-lashed. And the smile...it wasn't the same either. The mischief that had once tugged at the young man's lips was now replaced with a cruel smirk.

"Zoisite!" Jadeite cried, brightening somewhat. He didn't notice the subtle changes that had come about him as Kunzite had. "Finally, we thought you would never come. What kept you? You know that every moment you were gone just magnified the kingdom's suspicions of your treachery!"

"Have you nothing to say for yourself, wretch?" Nephrite challenged, his hand on his sword. "Nothing to defend your traitorous acts, you-" but he didn't finish. Zoisite had stopped him with a gesture.

"I will hear nothing of my supposed treachery," he said quietly, bringing his eyes up from the ground to focus on Kunzite. Nephrite was stunned into silence at the calm power Zoisite wielded. Jadeite looked back and forth between Kunzite and Zoisite, unsure of what was about to happen.

"Your supposed treachery, Zoisite?" the Eldest Guardian said, "Then it is not true that you have betrayed your kingdom and your Prince?"

"No. I have done nothing that you have not done. It was I who was first betrayed, Guardian Kunzite. Not you." His name being spat so acidly from his former pupil's mouth stung Kunzite more than any physical attack.

"How did we betray you, Zoisite?" demanded Jadeite, obviously hurt by Zoisite's remark.

"Several times," Zoisite said, still staring at Kunzite. "First, when I was asked to defend a Prince I did not believe in. That is impossible. You cannot expect someone to die for something in which he doesn't believe." Kunzite made no reaction, his face a mask of composure.

"You needn't like your charge. You simply do what you have to do to defend him. Didn't you always say that the one thing you ever loved was doing what you had to do and doing it well?"

"I've forgotten," Zoisite murmured, putting a hand to his head. Suddenly he snapped back, "That's where you're wrong, Kunzite," Zoisite said, his voice suddenly strong and cold, his eyes blazing, "I did love something else! I loved you! I loved working for you, learning from you, simply being around you! I even tolerated that stupid oaf of a Prince in order to please you!" Jadeite's mouth dropped open in shock, and Nephrite drew his sword and charged with a growl. Zoisite threw up his hand and the enraged Guardian was thrown backward several feet, knocked out cold. Jadeite, eyes wide in fear and wonder at Zoisite's display of power, took a step back.

"Why are you so angered, Zoisite?" Kunzite's voice rang out across the courtyard, the only thing calm in the turmoil of battle noises and souls, "If you loved me and you loved doing things well, why did you revolt against the Prince? What did he do to anger you to such an extent?"

"He was going to send me there anyway," Zoisite replied, as calm now as Kunzite, "but he was slandering both you and me. He said my sole duty was to him and him only and to disregard you completely! I couldn't do that, my Lord!" Zoisite's voice suddenly trembled at his use of the phrase of respect. Tears seemed to well up in his eyes as he went on. "I was angry, yes, but I was going to complete my mission anyway. And then when I got to the northern outpost and everyone seemed to be against me...I thought I'd send you my sash to assure you that I was alright. Beryl's youma captured me and brought me to her...and she told me that I had been declared a traitor. That didn't surprise me, I knew Endymion would do that. But what struck me was that you, of all people, we backing him! Calling me a traitor!"

"I had no choice, Zoisite!" Kunzite retorted. "When I got that sash I was certain you had forsaken not just the kingdom, but me. Doubt is a terrible thing, my little rat. In the slightest dosage it can destroy confidence and friendships built over a lifetime. And that doubt in you is what made me back the Prince."

"Why are you calling me that?" Zoisite cried.

Kunzite replied gently, "Because you have remained my little rat."

"Then why did you doubt me?" Zoisite sounded almost desperate for a simple answer, one that would allow him to come back to his mentor.

"I'm only human, Zoisite. As are you. We all make mistakes." Kunzite held out his hand to the young man.

"My Lord," Zoisite whispered, "I do so wish I could come back to you. But I can't. It's no longer my choice, you see. I am no longer like myself." He smiled a ghost of a smile, gesturing to his uniform. "I will do what I have said I would do. I will confirm your suspicions. Beryl and Metallia are allied and are in fact planning to attack the palace tonight."

"Heaven help us," Jadeite whispered.

"No, Jadeite, I don't think it can. If you stay and fight, that is." Here Zoisite almost seemed like his own self, his smile just a little more twisted. "My Lord, if you love me as I have said I loved you, and you are willing to risk even treason as I did...when you're ready, find one of the youma and tell him that with General Zoisite's permission, you wish to speak with High Queen Metallia. They have orders to take you."

"Zoisite!" Kunzite called, leaping toward him as he vanished in a gust of cherry blossoms. He landed hard on the ground, his hands grasping only petals.

At that moment, with a thunder of canon and the low rumble of soldiers' war cries, the attack on the palace began.

* * *

"To me, soldiers, to me!" roared Nephrite as he carried the royal banner across the field. The tide of royal soldiers clashed with jarring force against the grey-uniformed youma army of Lady Beryl. The Lady herself floated high in the back of her army, sending out energy attacks from her crystal ball with her long, clawlike fingernails. She cackled maniacally as man after man of Prince Endymion's army fell to her soldiers.

"You said you wanted a war, Endymion?" she screeched. "We shall give you one! You will battle my army and High Queen Metallia! You cannot defeat the awesome power of the Negaverse!"

The three Guardians surrounded Endymion in the thick of the battle, hacking and chopping at the youma endlessly. Unfortunately, their weapons appeared to have little or no effect on the demons. Kunzite threw down his sword with a growl and began to throw pink boomerangs of energy into the fray. They caused heavy damage among the youma forces, but they weren't enough. The Earth forces were losing.

"Your Majesty," Jadeite called above the din of battle, "we have to get you to safety!" He formed a writhing ball of blue energy in his hand and hurled it into the mass of youma surrounding them. Endymion hesitated a moment, then nodded.

"We will escourt you back inside, your Highness," Nephrite said, launching star-bright points of energy ruthlessly into the crowd. "From there we can get you to the safety of the Moon Kingdom."

Jadeite and Nephrite began to fight their way through the soldiers, battling to get the Prince back to the palace. Kunzite was holding up the rear, when suddenly a thought dawned on him.

The Prince is deserting us, he thought. The Prince for whom we will more than likely give our lives is deserting us and running to safety. His eyes narrowed and he strengthened his offensive, this time fighting to go in the opposite direction from the Prince.

Kunzite let no man get in his way, killing both royal soldier and youma alike should they be fool enough to cross his path. He unleashed his anger with himself for allowing himself to believe in the Prince and his cause. Somewhere along the way he thought he saw Zoisite from the corner of his eye, battling four royal men at once and giving no quarter. A look of sheer, terrible delight lit the young General's face as he hurled an ice crystal at a soldier's throat. With a sick grimace, Kunzite felled another youma. He suddenly found that he was rather enjoying it, the killing part. A cold chill touched him and he shuddered. Was this what it was like for you, my little rat? Kunzite felt a deep, respectful pity for his former pupil as he fought his way deep into Negaverse territory.

It took six youma soldiers to bring him down. Even then, battered and pinioned as he was, he stalked over to the youma that appeared to be in charge.

"I wish to speak with High Queen Metallia, on General Zoisite's orders," he snarled in the youma captain's face. A fleeting look of terror passed over the captain's countenance.

"Ah, Guardian Kunzite," he said, regaining his composure. Then he barked at the other youma, "You heard him! Take him away!"

* * *

The feeling was cold, and painful. Kunzite's head had never hurt so badly. But soon the pain numbed, even forgotten. Along with everything else in his memory.

"Rise, General Kunzite," came the sharp hiss of Queen Metallia as she took her hand away from his head. He stood slowly, feeling the difference in his grey General's uniform and in the very air around him. It was still cold, but it was almost comforting. And as he looked to his side, Zoisite appeared in a flourish of petals.

"Is his mind washed clean, most High Queen?" the young General asked. There came a caustic laugh from the darkness of the throne.

"Yes, yes, as it was agreed." A youma soldier came running into the chamber and knelt before the Queen.

"Your Majesty," he said, panting, "the operation has been successful! The royal army is disbanded and captured, and the escourt is bringing the other two Guardians here at this very moment."

A contented sigh escaped the darkness of the throne, "Very good. I assume the Prince has fled to the Moon Kingdom?" The youma nodded. Metallia dismissed him with a gesture. "Generals, we shall attack the Moon Kingdom tomorrow. Until then, rest. We will celebrate our coming victory tonight with the inauguration of your two fellows."

Generals Kunzite and Zoisite bowed deeply, then turned and vanished from the chamber together in a flash of pink energy and cherry blossoms.

- The End -

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