* * * * * * * *
Naru arrived back at the park, out of breath. “I’ve got it,” she gasped out to Sanjouin-san as she ran, stumbling in her heels, towards the bench where he waited.
“Good.” He took the round jewel from her, then reached into his pocket and pulled out a second crystal, black and rectangular, pointed on both ends. What was that for? Naru wondered. He had never shown it to her before. He held the black crystal near the jewel she had brought him for a moment, then frowned. “Nothing,” he muttered. “That isn’t it.”
Naru’s heart sank. She had let him down again...
“But then, why...?” he said, and held the black crystal out in Naru’s direction. It began to glow, and Naru felt an answering warmth grow inside her body. Sanjouin-san pocketed the black crystal again, along with the silver jewel, then walked up to her. “Come with me,” he said, and put an arm around her shoulder. “Let’s go.”
Naru was mystified. She had failed him again; what did he still want with her? What was the black crystal for? But the warmth of his hand on her bare shoulder quickly distracted her from her questions. She suddenly felt like she didn’t care where they were going, as long as she was with him and he had his arm around her like this. He had never been anything but kind to her, even when she failed in the assignments he gave her, and he certainly didn’t seem angry now. She had nothing to fear from him.
* * * * * * * *
Nephrite wasn’t sure what he meant to do. All he was sure of was that he was going to find that crystal no matter what it took. The black crystal had confirmed again that Osaka Naru was the key to finding the ginzuishou, and by the stars he was going to find it. He had no choice. Even if it meant the loss of his servant.
Even if... He faltered, then shook himself. If she failed to provide him with at least one of the things he needed from her, then she was a useless servant, and expendable. At least he would be sure to take all of her rich energy before he was finished with her. Her energy had been so pleasing to Beryl last time; maybe it would save him again.
...It was her energy that had saved his life before, the night he took her into his service.
The night she told him she loved him.
No. He shook himself again. A useless servant had to be disposed of...
...Exactly like Beryl would do...
* * * * * * * *
“Stop right there!”
Naru and Sanjouin-san both turned around abruptly at the sound of Sailor Moon’s voice. “Sailor Moon!” Naru gasped.
"You who take advantage of a young girl's feelings, I will punish you!" the Sailor Senshi challenged.
“Do not interfere,” Sanjouin-san said threateningly.
Sailor Moon ignored him. “Naru-chan, listen to me. His name isn’t Sanjouin Masato; it’s Nephrite, and he’s a member of a very evil organization. Get away from him!”
“Sailor Moon, no!” Naru spoke up, eager to set the situation straight. “No, Sanjouin-san isn’t evil. It’s the ones who are controlling you – the ones looking for the ginzuishou – They’re the ones who are evil! I know you didn’t realize that – but now –“
“So that’s what he told you? Naru-chan, he’s lying –“
"He isn't lying! Sanjouin-san, tell her you aren't evil –" Naru stopped, staring at Sanjouin-san. She could feel the aura, the power, emanating from him, swirling around him like wind, lifting his long hair as he raised a hand and aimed it at Sailor Moon. The look on his face was one she had never seen before – hard, focused, almost cruel. A blinding light blasted out from his hand towards Sailor Moon. Naru heard the girl-warrior scream.
When the light cleared, Naru could see the gouge that Sanjouin's attack had left along the sidewalk. Sailor Moon sat trembling on the ground, just beyond the trail of broken concrete. Before Sailor Moon could react, Sanjouin crossed his arms in front of his chest and produced another glowing ball of power. "Starlight Attack!" he shouted, and a second, even more powerful blast shot towards Sailor Moon.
Watching all this from a short distance behind Sanjouin-san, Naru was too stunned to move. She hadn't suspected that Sanjouin-san was capable of such magic. She believed in magic, now – after everything she had seen, all the attacks by monsters in the city, she had to believe. And certainly Sanjouin-san was involved in it. But she hadn't thought that he was capable of fighting in the same way. He was trying to destroy Sailor Moon, that was clear. Naru hoped he wouldn't – she hoped it wasn't necessary, that there was some way she could convince Sailor Moon that the Senshi were the ones being manipulated by evil people.
"Is that all you can do, Sailor Moon?" a feminine voice called out. The other two Sailor Senshi, Mars and Mercury, stood at the boundary of the park, where Sailor Moon sat shaking and whimpering at the edge of the destroyed swath of concrete.
Sanjouin laughed and crossed his arms again, preparing to unleash another attack at the three heroines, but Sailor Mercury cried out, "Mercury Bubbles Spray!"
A cold mist surrounded Sanjouin. He swore loudly. "Where are they?" No sooner had he spoken than a second cry came, from Sailor Mars. "Fire Soul!" and a blast of flames shot towards him. "Damn!" he cried, and leapt out of the way. When Naru's vision cleared again from the brilliance of the flames, she saw Sanjouin-san crouched on the ground just in front of her. Before he could do anything, came the third, terrifying attack, from Sailor Moon. "Moon Tiara Action!" Naru gasped when she saw the blinding golden disc tearing through the air towards Sanjouin-san. She remembered the monsters she had seen torn apart and turned to dust by it. And there was only one possible thing to do...
* * * * * * * *
Nephrite's mind went blank with terror when he heard the words "Moon Tiara Action." He had felt that attack before, second-hand through his shadow. The agony of it gave him nightmares whenever he had tried to sleep during the days since then. And now it was coming again, aimed at him instead of his shadow; this time it was real. He mentally screamed at himself to get out of the way, but he couldn't move –
"Sanjouin-sama!" The girl's scream shook him out of his terrified paralysis. Naru appeared in front of him and stood, arms outstretched, between him and the tiara.
"That's crazy!" he gasped.
"I'll protect Sanjouin-sama!" Naru cried. She turned her head as the Tiara flew close, closed her eyes against the approaching doom, but stood fast.
"NO! STOP!" Sailor Moon screamed. "Don't hurt Naru-chan!"
The Tiara clattered to the ground. Naru didn't move.
"Naru-chan, why?" Sailor Moon asked. "Why are you defending him?"
"Because I love him." From his crouched position behind her, Nephrite stared up at her. She...she really does care for me... Even from here he could see the tears flowing down her cheeks, hear the sobs in her voice. "I love him so much. I'll defend him even if I lose my life."
He hadn't meant for it to go this far... A servant who was willing to die for him, the best kind of servant – even Beryl's servants didn't have that kind of loyalty...None of Beryl's servants loved her.
The kurozuishou glowed brilliantly in his hand, an answering glow came from the girl where she stood, arms outstretched, defending him.
"Is that the Crystal?" a new voice screeched. From his side, a youma in the form of an ancient woman flew towards Nephrite. He fought her off. Unnoticed at first, the kurozuishou fell to the ground.
The girl stooped and picked it up.
"Give me that!" the youma shrieked.
Naru looked up from the black crystal, screamed as the youma flew towards her –
"Naru-chan!" The cry, the attack, tore themselves from Nephrite almost before he knew what he was doing. The youma was knocked flying across the park. Nephrite stared at his hand, as though it had acted on its own. What had he done? That was outright treason, attacking a Dark Kingdom youma. What was he thinking?
The girl fainted.
"Curse you, Neprhite! You're going to take the humans' side?" the youma cried. She flew into position above him, ready to attack. He simply stared up at her, knowing that death was the only possible consequence for what he had just done. It was inevitable. He didn't even flinch when he heard Sailor Moon call out "Moon Tiara Action" again.
The Taira flew at the youma, destroying her in a cloud of dust. It hadn't been meant for him, after all.
Sailor Moon had defended him.
Suddenly nothing was the way it was supposed to be. Nephrite didn't understand what had happened, when everything had changed, only that things had changed, he was on shakier ground than he had ever been before, and he had no idea what was going to happen next.
The three Senshi knelt around Naru where she lay unconscious on the ground. Nephrite walked over to the group and looked down at Naru. The damp marks of tears still showed on her cheeks. He stooped down and put the round jewel in her hand, gently closing her slender fingers around it.
"Nephrite, can't you see how she feels about you?" Sailor Moon demanded.
"Don't you have a heart?" Sailor Mercury added.
"Forget about it. You know he doesn't," Sailor Mars said.
"Please stop lying to her and using her," pled Sailor Moon. "Even if you don't care about her, at least stop hurting her."
Nephrite stood. "She's of no use to me any longer. I will find a way to bring about the Dark Kingdom's victory without her. The Dark Kingdom will win this war, and then all your talk of caring will be for nothing. Goodbye." He turned his back on them, and faded into the night.
* * * * * * * *
Naru stirred, and saw Sailor Moon's face hovering above her. "Naru-chan, are you all right?" Sailor Moon asked anxiously.
"He protected me," Naru said weakly. "After all the times I failed him, he still protected me."
"Naru." Sailor Moon sounded like she was about to start crying. "What's he done to you?"
"He asked me to help him. He said you were being controlled by an evil group of people, even though you don't realize it. He said he needed me to help him find the ginzuishou, the silver crystal, before you found it, or else the world would be destroyed."
"And you believed him?" Sailor Mars demanded.
"Naru, how can you believe that?" Sailor Moon asked. "Didn't you see what he was like when he was attacking me? How can you believe he isn't evil?"
"I just know he isn't, how could he be?"
Sailor Moon closed her eyes and sighed. Then she glanced at Sailor Mars and Sailor Mercury; Naru didn't understand the look that passed between them. All three of the Senshi nodded. "Naru, look at me," Sailor Moon said. She sounded very tired.
Naru watched as the hair jewels and tiara disappeared, the short-skirted sailor uniform faded into everyday clothes... And Usagi sat there. Usagi, her best friend, who had been so alarmed at the idea of Naru taking tennis lessons from Sanjouin Masato. All this time, Sailor Moon had been right in front of her, and she had never known it.
"Naru, it's me. Usagi. Do you really think I'm the one who's evil? I'm your best friend, Naru. How can you believe I’m evil?"
Naru sat up. Her head hurt. She realized that the round jewel she had stolen from her mother was in her hand. She rested her head on her knees and gazed down at the jewel. "He was always so kind to me. And he protected me from that scary woman."
She got to her feet. It was time to go home and face her mother. Usagi and the other two Senshi started to follow her, but she stopped them. "Don't," she said. "I need to be alone. I just don't know what to think. Please leave me alone."
But she could tell they followed her at a distance, watching over her as she walked back home.
* * * * * * * *
return to Index/go to Chapter 8
The Nephrite and Naru Treasury