Step by Step

(Tales from the Dark Kingdom - Pt.4)

© 1998/01/10 by Stayka deyAvemta


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Zoisite sighed when he opened his eyes and discovered the next perfect pink rose lying next to him on the pillow. His collection was growing. This was the ninth flower he had gotten, and he still couldn't imagine what he did wrong in the design of his teleport wards.

He had the impression that Kunzite enjoyed showing him that his skills were far superior to his. Zoisite inhaled the sweet fragrance of the rose and wondered if it really was merely a reminder to show him that Kunzite still had no problems to circumvent his wards, or if he wanted to say something more that he couldn't bring himself to voice aloud.

Not that he would blame him, Zoisite thought. In the Dark Kingdom emotions were considered a weakness, something that could be easily exploited to manipulate others. Jadeite was a master at that game; he had bound a group of youma to him who would do anything for him if he but asked.

Not long ago he would have agreed without thinking twice, but somehow his attitude had gradually changed - at least concerning his mentor.

Suddenly he became aware of the fact that his musings had taken more time than he could afford, and he jumped up. Why did even the Kings of the Dark Kingdom have to keep such a tight schedule, he thought sullenly. Well, he didn't want to make Kunzite wait, and so he managed to be ready in record time. Today he was supposed to work on enchanted weaponry, if he remembered correctly.

When he materialized at the appointed time in the magickal research lab, his mentor was already there - as usual. Zoisite sighed.

Did the man sleep at all? Probably not, he suspected, especially when he thought of the matter of his security wards. Somehow Kunzite timed his visits so well that he, Zoisite, was always deep asleep. The night when he had stayed awake to surprise him was the only one he had been left alone. Unfortunately he was tired the whole day after, and Kunzite-sama had put some particularly straining weapon exercises on the schedule. It was unfair.

Pic
of Kunzite by Stayka

"Ah, Zoisite. You actually arrived on time. That's commendable." A hint of amusement sparkled in Kunzite's platinum coloured eyes, and Zoisite marveled that his gaze could convey warmth as well as the usual coolness.

"Thank you, Lord Kunzite," he finally managed to say.

"There has been a slight change in our schedule," Kunzite announced. "Today we shall investigate the Earth Realm. Queen Beryl wants to know where we can best install a permanent doorway. She also wants a preliminary study which areas are best suited for her plans to gather energy."

"Does that mean we will actually visit the Earth Realm?" Zoisite asked eagerly.

"That's right. We will do a survey of the energy distribution on the continents."

"How?"

"Well, you have proved that you are able to float around rather nicely..." Kunzite grinned at his pupil who blushed slightly. "...so we will open doorways to several points above the major masses of land and measure the amount of available energy for the revival of our great ruler. The most promising areas will later be harvested by specially chosen youma."

"When will we begin?"

"Right on the spot - or do you have other pressing obligations?"

"Of course not..." Zoisite made a face.

"Then let's go." Kunzite waved his hand and created a black energy doorway. After they had gone through, they floated in the air, about two miles above an area which was known as 'Near East' to the inhabitants of the planet. Kunzite formed an energy bubble around them which should protect them from the environment and eventual attacks.

"Don't you think the territory down there looks rather desolate?" Zoisite asked.

"I agree. Although I can sense quite a lot of destructive energy in this area."

They floated over a barren landscape as suddenly two fighters appeared and started to shoot at the sphere. Zoisite looked scandalized at the aircraft.

"How dare they?" he snarled and shot a blast of energy that deceptively looked like a gust of cherry blossoms at the fighters. Immediately the aircraft fell into an uncontrollable spin and crashed down.

Zoisite looked at the smoking wrecks with satisfaction.

"It seems the amount of destructive energy has increased," Kunzite remarked dryly.

"Oops." Zoisite looked not in the least sorry. "I don't think this region is what Queen Beryl had in mind," he said.

"Probably not. Let's open a doorway to the next area."

They teleported to the other destinations. They were attacked by fighters only one other time, and Zoisite again took care of the problem. He wasn't aware that he caused a little hysteria about UFOs and an upcoming alien invasion, but actually this time the people's fears weren't too far from reality.

When they returned to the Dark Kingdom, Queen Beryl already awaited them in her audience chamber.

"Report," she ordered. The kings bowed before Beryl, and Kunzite gave a short account of their findings.

"There are three territories of major interest," he explained, showing the regions on a swiftly conjured holographic map of the Earth. "North America, Europe and East Asia. I commend concentrating our efforts on these areas."

He gave her some more specific data about the kinds of energy he had located and their distribution. Beryl listened and tapped her fingers on the large crystal ball that sat in front of her. Finally Kunzite closed his report. "The matter of the permanent doorway needs some extra investigation," he finished.

"Very well," she said. "I shall consider the most promising course of action in due time. You are dismissed." She waved her hand, and the two Kings disappeared.

* * *

They materialized in the magickal research lab.

"I think we'll skip the training for today," Kunzite announced. He was tired and just wanted to get some rest. Opening so many doorways that reached over great distances taxed even his resources.

"Great!" Zoisite beamed.

"I would suggest, though, that you study a bit on your own. You should consider trying meditation, too, to get some reign on your temper." He stifled a yawn.

"Yes, Lord Kunzite," the young man sighed.

"Good night, little rat." Kunzite teleported to his quarters, and Zoisite stared at the vacant spot where his mentor had stood only seconds before.

'Good night'?! Normally he ordered him to go instead or simply said 'dismissed'. Well, probably he was too tired to maintain the proper decorum. But it had definitely sounded strange, almost tender. Or it had only been a figment of his imagination...

Zoisite returned to his quarters. He had dug out some books on warding techniques, and he decided to leaf through them. There had to be something in there.

He pulled off his boots and let himself fall onto the bed, before he opened the first of the thick volumes. He propped his head on his elbow and skimmed through the text. 'Why did those guys have to write the stuff in such a stilted way', he thought annoyed.

'Funny', he thought suddenly. One of the antique tomes was actually written by some 'Master Mage Kunzite'. He wondered if the author was somehow related to his mentor.

When he was only some chapters into the first book, he found an interesting hint that showed an energy weaving he hadn't tried before. Zoisite's eyes lit up, and he smiled triumphantly. That definitely should do it!

At once he started to reweave the wards in the new configuration. This time the energy flows were strangely blackish, not the usual invisible type. But as long as it worked, the colour should make no difference.

* * *

Kunzite fought a while with himself if he would rather sleep or pay Zoisite the usual visit. He was tired after all. On the other hand it would lift his spirits to take another peek at the young man, especially when he was peacefully asleep and looked really sweet.

The thought of Zoisite cut the decision process short. Of course he would go. He waited some more time until a short psychic probe confirmed that his student seemed to sleep, and he could teleport in.

Strange, he thought, the wards had changed. Actually they weren't more difficult to get through than before - but they certainly felt different. He'd have to analyze it later, he decided. Right now he was content to study Zoisite's pretty features.

Quite a while later, as he managed to tear his gaze from the object of his longing, he conjured the usual pink rose und teleported away. When he unexpectedly found himself bounced back by a barrier and thrown to the ground, he looked utterly shocked.

What was that?! He tried another jump, with the same result. Trapped! Frantically he thought on a way to get through the barrier, but he couldn't find a weak spot. Unfortunately the door was slightly behind the ward as well, so that he couldn't even use the mundane method to leave. This was embarassing!

Kunzite walked up and down while he was trying to figure out an escape route. He wondered if Zoisite had done this on purpose to take revenge and put him in an utmostly disgraceful situation. If this was the case it was a really clever move, he had to admit.

Unfortunately it didn't help him in the least to get out of here. Great work, he thought. Here he was, the most powerful of the four Kings of the Dark Kingdom, and he could not overcome a simple teleport ward. It wouldn't have bothered him that much if he had been on the other side of it - then he could have said he'd had more important matters to attend to and tried later on to find a way around it - but to get stuck within it was...plain stupid.

If he weren't that tired... Kunzite massaged his temples. He just couldn't think clearly enough to analyze the energy flows of the ward. He decided to return to Zoisite's bedroom. When he was detained in here he could at least pass the time with a nice view.

While he gazed thoughtfully at Zoisite, he became aware that a thick book lay on the bed beside him. According to the title it was something about wards, and Kunzite felt sudden hope arise. Maybe this book held the key to his escape! Quietly he went to the bed and bent over Zoisite to retrieve the volume.

* * *

Zoisite woke up when he had the vague feeling that something or someone moved in his vicinity. He opened his eyes a fraction and became aware of the fact that there was another presence in the room. Actually the intruder was not only in the room, he was bent over him. Without further thought Zoisite blasted him with his trademark cherry blossom attack - and got knocked out himself for no obvious reason.

It took some moments until he returned to consciousness, and he felt like hell warmed over. What had happened? He turned on the lights of his room and discovered that he had hit Kunzite who still lay stunned on the ground. No surprise that he had been attacked by the backlash. Zoisite only wondered why the oath had struck when he wasn't even aware whom he had blasted. Well, maybe that was why he didn't feel worse...

Zoisite took a deep breath and stood up. He still felt dizzy and weak, but he wanted to check on Kunzite. It seemed he had taken him completely by surprise, else he should have been able to deflect most of his attack. He knelt down beside his mentor, who lay there unmoving.

"Kunzite-sama!" Zoisite called worriedly. He would never forgive himself if he had done him any real harm. Gently he brushed back some strands of Kunzite's long, silvery white hair that had fallen into his face. He was still alive, that much was obvious, but he hadn't regained consciousness yet. "Please wake up," he urged. When he tenderly stroked his cheek, Kunzite opened his eyes and met two fretful emerald eyes.

"Zoisite?" He felt as if he had been chewed on by some particularly large and nasty youma. "I guess I had that coming," he groaned.

"I'm sorry," Zoisite apologized miserably.

Kunzite frowned. Was that really the same Zoisite, who had intended to kill him not too long ago? "Don't worry, I'll be all right," he said. He sat up with some difficulty and rubbed his temples, when Zoisite flung his arms around him.

"I really didn't want to hurt you!"

With some delay he realized that Zoisite seemed to care about him a bit more than was proper, and he decided to give it a try and planted a tentative kiss on the lips of the younger man. Zoisite looked at him with delight and wonder and returned the kiss with unsuspected passion. Kunzite savoured every second until they had to part to get some breath.

"I don't know how you think about it, but I find the cold stone floor rather uncomfortable," he said dryly. Zoisite blushed furiously before he helped him on the feet. Kunzite smiled and wrapped his arms around him. "I love you, my little rat," he finally voiced aloud what he had only dared to think all the time before.

"You really do?" Zoisite asked breathlessly. "Well, so do I..." He rested his head against his shoulder. "And you're really not angry anymore even though I tried to kill you in the beginning?"

Kunzite chuckled. "Your spirit only adds to the attraction."

"Would you like to ...stay with me tonight?" Zoisite asked almost shyly.

"With pleasure," Kunzite replied and buried his face in Zoisite's gold-copper hair. He wasn't able to teleport through the ward anyway, and this was an unexpectedly delightful way to save his face.

Effortlessly he lifted the delicate figure onto his arms and put him down on the bed before he got rid of his uniform and joined him under the dark green sheets.

* * *

Zoisite woke up in the morning with one strong arm possessively wrapped around his waist. He smiled contentedly and turned around to face his bedfellow who was already awake.

"Good morning, little rat," Kunzite said tenderly and kissed him.

"Hello..." Zoisite gave him a truly beatific smile. Then something else came to mind, and he thought that maybe here and now was a good time to bring up the subject. "Kunzite-sama," he began pensively while he absently traced figures on the chest of his lover with one fingertip. "Are you going to release me from my oath?"

The silver-haired man sighed, before he smiled. "I may trust your love, little rat, but I will never trust your temper. I can just see it - you getting mad at me for some obscure reason, then in a sudden fit of rage you stab me with one of those ice crystals of yours, and afterwards you'd be really sorry, but I'd be dead. No, thanks."

"But I would never..." Zoisite protested.

"Oh, you would, little rat, you would." Kunzite pulled him closer and kissed him. "I'd never have achieved such a level of power in the Dark Kingdom without being able to size up people, and you are by far the most dangerous person around - except for Queen Beryl and me, that is."

Zoisite looked thoughtful for a moment. "What do you think - if we worked together, would we be able to get rid of our beloved Queen?"

His casual tone left Kunzite speechless for a moment, then he began to chuckle. "You might even be able to do it all on your own." He played with a strand of Zoisite's long, coppery golden hair. "I must admit, though, that I've been working on a plan to overthrow her for quite a while now. Unfortunately there hasn't been a safe opportunity to attack her yet."

"That's a pity. I would love to see her dead."

"So do I - but it wouldn't accomplish anything if one succeeds in killing her only to be killed oneself by the guards or some other people who might consider themselves fitter for the throne."

"So you mean we should take care of Jadeite and Nephrite first?"

"You read my mind," Kunzite smiled. Zoisite pouted.

"So you would have killed me, too, when you made the move, were it not for this oath?"

"Of course. I don't need rivals for power. Although it would have been a real waste to eliminate you. - And I must admit, this way I like it much better." He tenderly caressed Zoisite's cheek and throat, and the younger man made a mental note not to underestimate Kunzite, ever. His calm and reserved demeanor easily led one to forget that he hadn't become the first among the Kings because of his good looks or understanding nature. On the other hand, this only made their relationship the more interesting.

Zoisite snuggled closer to Kunzite and wondered again why he still felt perfectly safe in his arms.

"As much as I would like to stay with you, I think we should return to our duties," Kunzite said after a while.

Zoisite sighed. "Well, you are in command..."

Kunzite grinned. "Somehow I don't think Beryl would like the idea of two of her Kings taking a prolonged vacation to explore each other rather than a way to get energy from Earth..."

"Hm, what about telling her we'll do the job on Earth and take a vacation there?"

"You are pleasure-loving, aren't you?" Kunzite stroked Zoisite's back.

"Oh, you saw through me," he purred.

"That wasn't too difficult," Kunzite claimed. "But let's get up now."

Reluctantly Zoisite sat up and watched Kunzite as he left the bed and collected his uniform from the ground. The older King moved with catlike grace, and that marvellous silver hair of his shone like condensed starlight, even though it looked a bit tousled this morning.

Well, his was in an even greater mess, he discovered, when he tried to run his fingers through the length and got stuck in the middle. It would take hours to untangle it! He fetched his brush from a drawer and started to work out the worst knots.

Kunzite observed his effort. "No wonder you're perpetually late," he commented amused. "But I adore every inch of your lovely hair."

"I noticed." If Kunzite hadn't tried how many different kinds of knots he could work into it, it certainly wouldn't be in such a mess.

"By the way, Zoisite, would you mind lending me that book?" He pointed at the volume about wards that had fallen down when he got blasted yesterday.

"Sure - but why? I thought you knew everything about wards..." When Zoisite met his gaze he noticed that Kunzite's cheeks had turned rather red. "Kunzite-sama?"

"Err, well, ahem..." He tarried, and Zoisite started to giggle.

"Correct me, if I'm wrong, but did I actually manage to build up a truly working ward this time?" So that was why it had looked and felt differently when he wove it - he had put the wrong side outwards!

"Yeah," Kunzite admitted embarassedly. "You managed to catch me by surprise... But why I need the book - I think I can modify this ward to use it to imprison enemies. I only need to make some minor adjustments and it should work perfectly."

He paused briefly. "Err, Zoisite, could you please shut down the ward now? I'd like to teleport to my quarters. You see, I hadn't intended to stay, else I would have brought a change of clothing with me..."

Pic
of Kunzite by Stayka

Zoisite gave him an impish smile, before he dissolved the barrier.

"See you in the lab in an hour, little rat." Kunzite disappeared in a blue flash of energy.

Zoisite stared at the vacated spot for quite a while and still couldn't quite grasp the fact that Kunzite did love him. Well, but this was still no excuse to come late again, he reproved himself, and he continued to work on the tangles in his hair with renewed vigor.

The End of the First Series of the Tales of the Dark Kingdom

Go to the Second Series of the Tales of the Dark Kingdom


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Disclaimer: SailorMoon is the property of Takeuchi Naoko, Kodansha and Toei Animation. All characters, settings etc. are used without permission. This is an amateur fiction, and I definitely won't make any money of it.


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