* * * * * * * *
Sanjouin-san was angry, Naru could tell. At their tennis lesson three days after the Diamond Ball, he barely spoke a word to her. His serves had a ferocity that made them almost impossible for her to see, let alone return. It was her fault, she just knew it. She had failed in her assignment at the ball. She was supposed to talk to Princess Daiya to find out what the treasure was, but she hadn’t. What was it she had done there? Naru wrinkled up her face, trying to remember, and completely missed yet another ball whizzing past her at almost unearthly speed. She had gone out onto the balcony with Sanjouin-san, and then… and then… Nothing, until she had awakened to find herself on the floor of the Princess’s apartment. Too much champagne? She didn’t think she had had any….
A loud clatter as Sanjouin-san threw down his raquet in frustration shook Naru out of her thoughts. He stalked past her to the bench where their duffel bags and water bottles sat. Naru turned and followed him, dragging her own raquet, her legs feeling oddly shaky.
She sat down as far from him as she could on the small bench, and watched him down a long drink of water. He looked drawn and pale, as though he had been worrying through the nights since the Ball. “Sanjouin-san,” she said timidly. Speaking up right now was one of the hardest things she had ever done, but if he was stressed out this badly it was her fault. He didn’t look at her, but lowered his water bottle and sat, waiting for her to continue. “Sanjouin-san, I’m sorry. I know I failed. I didn’t do what I was supposed to at the ball. If you’re in trouble or something, it’s my fault. I’m sorry.”
It took him a few moments to answer, as though he were carefully selecting the right words. “No, it isn’t your fault. It was my miscalculation. There are those who are angry with my… wasting time, as they see it. I had other plans in place, and they failed before your part even came into play.” Now he looked directly at her for the first time this afternoon. Naru was startled to see something almost ... sad in his eyes, something trapped inside him that was struggling to get out. “It isn’t your fault, Naru-chan. I’m sorry you thought so.”
“Oh.” Now it was her turn to look away. The look she had seen in his eyes was too unsettling. “But even if it isn’t my fault, I’ll still do anything I can to help you. Anything at all.”
“Help me find the ginzuishou.” A simple statement, but full of desperation, as though it were a matter of life and death.
Naru looked at him again, straight in the eyes. “I will,” she promised.
* * * * * * * *
He had apologized, Nephrite thought to himself, back in the cavernous main hall of his earthly base. He had blamed himself, and taken pity on her feelings of guilt. What was wrong with him?
No matter, he told himself firmly. He couldn’t let himself get distracted. This was his last chance, a difficult bit of magic, certain to draw the attention of others whom he didn’t necessarily want to learn of the existence of the object he was about to create. But he couldn’t see any other way.
He gathered in his powers and called upon the stars.
* * * * * * * *
The kurozuishou. The black crystal he had formed of his own power and the power of the stars, for one purpose only. It had been a costly effort. Trembling with fatigue, Nephrite rotated the glassy black cylinder between his thumb and forefinger, focusing his concentration on the glow deep within the crystal’s dark depths. “Show me how to find the guinzuishou,” he commanded it.
Light flared out from the kurozuishou, and an image formed before Nephrite’s eyes. Osaka Naru, sitting on the ledge of a swimming pool, wearing a turquoise-blue bikini, smiling and blushing as she spoke to an unseen companion.
Who was she talking to? Nephrite wondered. What was she saying? Then it hit him – the kurozuishou had just confirmed that Osaka Naru was indeed the key to finding the ginzuishou. But how...
She must know something. Buried somewhere in her mind, perhaps without her even realizing it, was the piece of information, however tiny and insignificant it might seem to her, that would lead him to the silver crystal. One way or another, he would have to pry that information from her.
Nephrite relaxed his concentration, and the image of Naru faded away. Stars, his head was killing him, after the huge effort it had taken to create the crystal and then to use it. He needed a drink.
Upstairs, in his dim, dusty living quarters, he poured himself a glass of red wine. As he sipped at it, willing his headache to go away, a plan came to him. He pick up the telephone and dialed Naru’s number.
* * * * * * * *
“Naru-chan! Telephone for you!”
Naru, sitting miserably in her room, heard her mother calling her. She didn’t want to answer, she didn’t want to talk to anyone. All she wanted to do was figure out how to help Masato-san. He had seemed so sad, frightened even, earlier that day. But if she didn’t respond, her mother would come into her room, ask what was wrong, and there was no way Naru could possibly explain. Listlessly, she got up and opened her door. “Who is it, Mama?”
“He says he’s that millionaire, Sanjouin Masato. Do you know –“
But Naru was already running down the hall to the table where the phone sat. “Masato-san?” she gasped into the phone.
“Naru-chan. I urgently need to speak with you. Can you meet me at the park near your home in a few minutes?”
“I’ll be right there!” Naru slammed the phone down, kicked off her houseshoes, slipped into her yellow pumps at the door and hurried downstairs. Behind her, her mother called, “Naru-chan, where are you going?” but Naru didn’t pause to answer. Something must be wrong, for Masato-san to want to meet her like this, he had never done this before, or maybe something had happened, maybe he had found the ginzuishou or discovered Sailor Moon’s identity...
He was already seated on a bench, waiting for her, when she got here. Naru sat down beside him, trying to catch her breath after her anxious run to the park. “Masato-san. What is it?”
“Naru-chan.” He gave her a small smile in greeting. “Yes. Thank you for coming here. I wanted to say farewell before I leave.”
“Leave?” Naru’s stomach turned into a block of ice. “You’re leaving? But –“
“I’m sorry. But it’s getting to be too dangerous. I think that Sailor Moon’s evil masters have discovered what I’m doing, and there are also those within my own organization who are becoming extremely displeased with me. I don’t want you to be exposed to the danger that I face. I thank you for your help, and I’m sorry that our efforts did not bear fruit. I’m glad to have known you. Goodbye.” He stood up to leave.
“Masato-san! Wait!” Naru cried. Her mind was working desperately. She had to stop him from leaving, she didn’t know how she could go on if he was gone.
He stopped walking away, but didn’t turn around. “Yes?”
“Wait! I – I might – There might be something, I just remembered –“
Now he turned around. The intensity in his face, his eyes, almost frightened her. “What is it, Naru-chan?”
“A long time ago, almost a year ago, my mother showed me something. A jewel, that had come from the estate of a very rich person. My mother said it was the only one like it in the world. It isn’t really crystal-shaped, it’s more like a pearl, but it glows silver –“
“Can you bring this jewel to me, Naru-chan?”
Naru hesitated only briefly. Her mother would never give her the jewel; she would have to sneak it out of the safe. But her mother didn’t know what it really was. If it truly was the ginzuishou, it could be dangerous to keep it. It would be better if Naru gave it to Masato-san for safekeeping. “Wait here. I’ll be right back.” She turned and ran towards home, her eagerness to finally truly help Masato-san giving her a second wind.
She didn’t let herself think about what she was doing, or what she would say to her mother if she was caught. Quietly, hardly daring to breathe, Naru slipped into the apartment over the jewelry shop. Her mother was in the small kitchen-family room, watching a game show on TV and going over the day’s sales figures on her computer. Naru slid her shoes off and silently went to her mother’s bedroom. Holding her breath, moving as carefully as she could while still trying to be quick so she could get out of there without getting caught, she took the keys to the safe from their hiding place under her mother’s dresser. Then she made her way back down the hallway, pressing herself close against the wall so that her mother wouldn’t see her if she happened to look up.
Once safely out of the apartment, carrying her shoes in her hand so she could still move silently, Naru went downstairs, disabled the alarm, unlocked the back door of the shop, and went into the storeroom. She fumbled with the keyring until she found the one for the safe. Her hands trembled so that it took several tries to fit the key into the lock; finally, it fit, it turned, the door opened.
In the dim illumination of the security lights, Naru could see, up on the top shelf, the distinctive mother-of-pearl box which held the gem. She couldn’t quite reach it, so she slid the stepstool over and climbed up. There it was, the jewel, the answer to all of Masato-san’s problems, the thing that would make him happy....
Lights came on. “Naru-chan! What are you doing?”
Naru froze at her mother’s voice. She turned around to see her mother staring at her, shocked.
“Naru, what --?”
“I’m sorry, Mother.” Naru bowed briefly in apology, not knowing what to do. “I’m, I’m sorry.” She rushed past her mother and out the door, the box in one had, her shoes in the other, and ran as fast as she could back to the park.
* * * * * * * *
Nephrite sat waiting on the bench, staring into the depths of the black crystal, willing the jewel Naru had gone to fetch to indeed be the ginzuishou. It had to be. The kurozuishou couldn’t be mistaken – it was his last, best idea for finding the treasure that Queen Beryl desired so strongly.
An uninvited presence brushed at his mind. Nephrite sat up, suddenly alert to his surroundings. His senses, physical and otherwise, scanned the park, trying to detect who was there. Did the presence have the faintest tinge of Zoisite about it? Possibly; it was so faint, and had come and gone so quickly. Zoisite, you little rat, he thought, keep your nose out of my business. Go find somewhere else to play. The last thing he wanted was for Zoisite to find the ginzuishou first, or to discover any of his secrets.
Nephrite tightened his grip on the kurozuishou, wondering whether he was more worried about Zoisite finding the crystals or finding the girl.
* * * * * * * *
return to Index / go to Chapter 7
The Nephrite and Naru Treasury