The Gift of Love

by LadyKeren


* * * * * * * *

Usagi was racing to school, desperately trying to at least make it before the bell rang. 'Oh why does this always happen to me? Thank God it's Friday again!' She was running so fast she dropped the satchel that contained her lunch and was out of breath. She picked it up and continued running, bumping into some people. She nearly jumped a mile when she heard a couple of gruff male voices yell, "Watch where you're going, you big oaf!" and gave a yelp of pain when they shoved her down. Trembling and whimpering, she slowly looked up to see who she had bumped into. There were three young men glaring down at her. And they were tall, imposing and very muscular, enough to snap people smaller than them like twigs. 'Oh great. Outrunning these guys will be tough…they look like thugs. Something tells me that's what they are.'

The blonde stared up at the men, still trembling. Their facial expressions were so fierce she was almost afraid to say anything to them. But she knew she had to find some way to appease them before things got extremely ugly. "I'm so sorry," she managed to squeak out.

"Sorry isn't good enough!" The three men studied the young teen girl sitting on the ground. They sneered at her quivering form. "What do you say we have some fun with her?" suggested one of them.

"Good idea!" answered another thug. "What do you have in mind?"

"Well based on her school uniform she has to be the age of consent. She certainly looks easy, even though she probably won't give us much pleasure. Not that we need it."

"No we don't need it." The young man started to smirk. 'I know where he is going with this, and I like it.'

The third gentleman (used loosely) had a smirk on his face as well. "Let's do it!" He and his pals started to approach Usagi.

Usagi didn't like where the men's conversation was going, nor did she like the way they were looking at her. She knew what they planned to do — take her virginity. 'I'd better get a move on. At this rate not only will I be in detention forever, but I'm about to become a sex slave to these creeps.' Having been frozen by fear before, she could feel a bit of adrenaline inside of her that was enough to give her the strength to rise to her feet. She rubbed her sore backside and marched away as fast as she could, but one of the three men blocked her way and grabbed her, tightly wrapping his arm around her neck. "Going somewhere?" he asked with a smirk.

"Yes!" snapped the young girl. "Now let go of me, you creep!" She squirmed and struggled to free herself, but it was no use for he was much too strong.

The young man and his buddies just laughed at the blonde. "Or else what? You don't have the guts to do anything about it! If I were you I would keep my mouth shut and behave before things really get ugly!"

"You won't get away with this!" Usagi bit the thug's arm as hard as she could and stepped on his foot just as hard, forcing him to let go of her. He gave a yelp of pain and started hopping around, glowering at her.

Usagi turned to run whilst the man was reeling from her little assault, but the two other bullies grabbed her in a chokehold once again. 'Oh no, not again!' She knew it was no use trying to escape since there were two of them, and both were much stronger than her.

"So you wanna play rough, huh? Well we'll show you what we do to feisty girls like you!" Before Usagi could say anything, one of the men kicked her in the shin, causing her to land on her rear end once again. The other man kicked her in the middle of her back, which caused her to cry out in pain. He lifted his foot, about to stomp on her back when all of a sudden he felt a rock hitting him in the back of his head and a husky female's voice yelling, "You've got some nerve pushing a young girl around!" He swore loudly and turned around to see who it was. Standing there was a girl by the name of Makoto who had long brown hair pulled back in a high ponytail, dressed in a uniform consisting of a white shirt and a tan colored skirt. The thugs glowered at her. "Who the hell are you?"

Makoto came closer, tossing the rock she was holding into the air and catching it. "All you need to know is that I am someone who despises bullies! If I were you, I'd get away from that girl before you end up in a world of hurt!"

Usagi eyed this unknown person, who was apparently her rescuer judging from her words. One thing she noticed about the girl was that she was fairly tall, slightly taller than her mother Ikuko. She quickly looked away before the girl lashed out at her for the scrutiny.

The three bullies shot the brunette girl a murderous glare. "Another wench who thinks she's tough," mocked one of them.

"Yeah. We need to show her what being tough is all about," said the second bully. He and his two friends looked the girl up and down, smirking and licking their lips. 'I must admit this chick is a cutie. Having fun with her would be icing on the cake.'

Makoto felt all of the stares from the bullies and stared back at them. "Why don't you guys take a picture? It'll last longer. "

"Oooh a sharp tongue, it's a real turn on...I like it," said the first bully.

"I should tell you the same thing for meddling in our business!" retorted the second bully. "However, just to show you what nice guys we are, we'll spare you and not teach you a lesson for that stunt you pulled just a moment ago. " He slowly trotted over to Makoto and pulled her by the shirt collar. "You're so cute. Why don't you show me a good time, hmm babe?"

Makoto's emerald colored eyes narrowed angrily as the comment lit a fuse. 'Ugh! His touch is so filthy! I wanna scrub my skin clean!' "I sure as hell am not your babe! Take your filthy, grimy paws off of me!" She grabbed the thug by his arm and threw him down, then turned to the other two bullies and body slammed them too. They let out groans of pain as they landed on their backsides. Their feelings of smugness were immediately replaced with dread as she approached them with a glare on her face.

"Now apologize to this young lady right now and remove your sorry carcasses or else it'll be worse!" threatened Makoto.

The three bullies got up, rubbed their backsides, yelled an apology to Usagi and ran away as fast as they could before the brunette could say anything else.

Makoto stared after the men, giving a sigh of exasperation. 'Such losers.' She then walked over to Usagi, who was still sitting on the ground. She knelt down in front of her. "Hey there. Are you all right?"

Usagi glanced up at Makoto and saw that her eyes were full of concern and kindness despite her feisty exterior. 'I definitely should thank her for saving me.' She also noticed the girl's uniform. 'I wonder what school she is from...I will need her to help me get to school but I don't want to make her late.' "I have felt back is killing me." She let out a groan of pain, and rubbed her sore lower back.

Makoto's blood boiled with rage as she knew who the culprits were. 'If I ever see those thugs again, they'll be sorry!' She proceeded to tremble with rage, but took a few deep breaths to calm down. "Oh wow. I guess those good-for-nothing scumbags must have done quite a number on you."

Usagi gave a bitter chuckle. "Yeah...they did. And what's worse is I am extremely late for school. I was already running late before I ran into them." She started shaking uncontrollably, as if she were having a panic attack. "Miss Haruna will kill me! How will I convince her I have a very good excuse for being late this time?"

Makoto rested a hand on the blonde girl's shoulder, trying to give her a sense of reassurance. "Calm down. Don't worry so much. I'll help you. "

Usagi's eyes brightened a bit and she gradually stopped trembling. "You will? Thank you!"

"Don't sweat it. Which school do you go to?"

"Juuban Junior High. "

Makoto smiled slightly. "Well, you're in luck because that's where I am headed to. I'm a new exchange student there."

"Awesome!" That was a relief for Usagi because she hated the thought of making Makoto late. 'There's one thing that puzzles me though. If she will be going to my school from now on, how come she's wearing the uniform from her old school? I'll have to ask her about that, even though curiosity kills the cat.'

Makoto's smile faded and she looked serious. "I guess. Now come on and try to get up. I'll help you." She held out her hand for Usagi to take.

"Okay…" Usagi wasn't sure about this, since the injury was bad enough while she was sitting down, but she knew she had to if she wanted to get to school. She picked up her small satchel and placed it in a pocket of her backpack. 'My food must be all mushy by now. Fabulous.' She took Makoto's hand and slowly stood up. A sharp pain tore through her lumbar muscles, making her cry out in pain. 'I wish I could stay home today. Those chairs in the classroom will only make my back worse.' Just standing in one place was a chore for her and it was all she could do not to collapse from the pain.

Makoto frowned, realizing Usagi was in no condition to walk to school. "Climb up on my back. I'll carry you. "

Mystified, the moon senshi painstakingly did as she was told. 'This girl must be really strong in order to offer to do something like that.'

With very little difficulty, the brunette pulled Usagi onto her back by the knees. "Be sure to hold on tight. You wouldn't want to fall off, especially in your condition. "

"Oh of course not!" quipped Usagi, wrapping her arms around Makoto's neck, holding on tightly, but not to the extent where she would strangle the girl.

Makoto proceeded to walk the remainder of the way to school, her pace slower than usual with Usagi on her back. 'Ugh, this girl is kind of heavy. If I weren't so strong my back would also be out of commission.' She had been so intent on rescuing the blonde that she neglected to give a proper introduction. 'Gee, where are my manners?' "By the way, my name is Makoto. Makoto Kino."

"Oh nice to meet you. I'm Usagi Tsukino. Thanks again for saving me and going through all this trouble to help me get to school."

Makoto briefly turned around, giving Usagi a "don't be silly" look. "It's no problem at all. I always help someone who's in need."

"Oh, me too. I'll do the same for you, when the time comes." Usagi paused, thinking of a way she could ask Makoto about her uniform without sounding nosy or offensive. "Um, Mako-chan? May I ask you something?"

'Mako-chan. Only my close friends call me that. Does it mean she considers me a friend?' Makoto smiled at the thought of being Usagi's friend already, and then looked thoughtful. "Sure. What is it?"

"If you'll be attending the same school as me, how come you're wearing a different uniform?" asked Usagi.

Makoto's cheeks flushed with embarrassment as she explained, "There doesn't seem to be any uniforms for girls who are five feet six inches tall, which is my height."

"Oh ok. Gotcha." 'Poor girl. I hope she doesn't get teased too much. As much as I think my height is too short for my age, in this case I don't feel so bad.' Usagi thought of other questions she wanted to ask Makoto. There were lots, but she thought they could wait. She closed her eyes and passed out from the pain.

Soon, Makoto arrived at school. 'I'd better take Usagi to see the nurse. She can't be in class with her back like this.' She entered the office where the principal was waiting.

"Ah, Ms. Kino. I have been expecting you, "said the principal, smiling. "I see you also have Ms. Tsukino with you as well. She is known for her tardiness."

"So I have noticed. However, she does have a good excuse this time. She was apparently attacked by bullies and I had to rescue her. Nothing too serious but she did sustain a back injury and is in extreme pain."

The older man adjusted his glasses, looking thoughtful. "I see. Well under those circumstances, I suppose I could let her lateness slide. "

Makoto looked relieved that the principal was lenient. She hated for the blonde to end up in detention for being late when there were circumstances beyond her control. "Thank you."

"My pleasure," answered the principal. "Will you be able to find your classroom all right?"

"Yes, I think I can. But I need to know where the school infirmary is."

The principal nodded. "Of course. It's the first door to your left."

"All right. Thank you again." Makoto exited the office with Usagi in tow.

* * * * * * * *

For the first time in a couple of months, Ruby made herself invisible and appeared in Beryl's throne room to spy on the witch queen again, only this time it would be for a better cause. She wanted to see what was next on the agenda as well as what she, her comrades and Nephrite would be up against so they could find a way to help the senshi and still survive deserting the Dark Kingdom. She grinned to herself, proud of the fact that she had entered Beryl's throne room invisible many times and her presence had never been detected. 'I intend to keep it that way, too.'

Having warned Zoisite and Kunzite about what their fates would be if they committed treason, Beryl decided it was time to move on to more important matters—the next phase in her plan. She remembered she still had the energy Nephrite had managed to gather during his mission, which would give Queen Metallia an immense power boost. Despite her anger towards the reformed shitennou for his treachery, she was secretly grateful to him. 'I must admit, I commend him for his accomplishments although he has proven to be just as worthless as his predecessor, Jadeite. He's a fool if he thinks I will allow him to thwart my plans.' She grabbed the ball of gathered energy and fed it to the evil entity. Metallia, who had long been dormant, woke up to the extent where she would be able to communicate with Beryl and her minions.

The wicked queen knelt down in respect for her great leader. "My master, after 1000 years of dormancy, you are awake. It is I, Queen Beryl, who have come to seek your wisdom in order to obtain the ginzuishou. I am about to move on to the next phase in our plan to destroy the universe. I regret to inform you that one of your most faithful servants Nephrite, along with his worthless underlings, has deserted the Dark Kingdom. "

The mass of darkness pulsated as if to show how enraged she was. "I am quite aware of Nephrite's treachery, Beryl. However, assassinating him would take a lot of energy and must be done methodically. It is not to be your main priority right now."

Beryl nodded, recalling she had told Kunzite and Zoisite the exact same thing—there were more important matters to worry about.

"In regards to the next phase of the plan, it is time to awake the seven shadow warriors who have been sealed away 1000 years ago. We will need them in our quest to destroy this miserable planet!"

"Of course." The red head queen gripped at her crystal ball tightly as if to show how displeased she was that Queen Serenity managed to lock her and the minions away before she could finish what she started those years ago. She had an idea of what had happened to seven warriors, considering that all the moon kingdom inhabitants had been reborn on earth. "So how do I go about this?"

Metallia seemingly smiled. "The ginzuishou has broken into smaller fragments. You will have to find seven earthlings that possess nijizuishou in them. Once all seven nijizuishou are gathered together, they will combine to form the legendary ginzuishou. "

The corner of Beryl's lips curled into a smile. For the first time in millennia she felt like she was making progress in the mission. 'I think I know just what I need to do in order to obtain the seven nijizuishou. However, finding someone competent enough to accomplish the task is another story. Hopefully Zoisite will do an exceptional job, for he has shown his potential and I have no choice but to promote him. I trust that Kunzite will give him words of wisdom when necessary.' "I thank you, my master."

"Of course. I wish you success."

"Thank you. I promise you won't have to wait for too much longer. I am losing patience as well." Queen Beryl gave an evil grin. 'If Kunzite and Zoisite fail at this mission they will face severe consequences.' "Zoisite! Kunzite! Present yourselves!"

The two young men appeared before the queen and bowed respectfully. "Yes Queen Beryl-sama?" asked Zoisite, looking very humble and sweet.

Beryl smiled at Zoisite's eagerness. 'Perhaps he won't be such a challenge to control after all.' "Well well, I have excellent news that I know you will be pleased to hear. First of all, due to Nephrite's treachery, your rank as shitennou in training will be promoted to a full-fledged shitennou. However, you will still have Kunzite as your mentor, for you have not learned all the ways of the shitennou yet."

Zoisite started to smile. This was the moment he had been waiting for, to be given the recognition he felt he deserved. Although he usually felt patronized when his rather low-ranked position was pointed out, he didn't this time, for he loved Kunzite's mentorship and considered it an honor to be working alongside him. "Thank you, my queen. I pledge my word that I will do my best to succeed."

Beryl gave Zoisite a tiny smile. After awhile, her smile faltered and turned into a stern expression. "I will hold you to that, Zoisite. However, I will not hesitate to punish you if you fail me."

It was all Zoisite could do not to shudder at the thought of facing Beryl's wrath. He bit his lip to hold back a gulp and gave another respectful bow. "Yes, Queen Beryl-sama."

" onto important business. I am happy to say we're on the way to finding the ginzuishou after all this time. I have consulted our great leader, and she has given me a clue. It turns out we had gone about it the wrong way. We must first find seven humans who possess nijizuishou among the people of Earth."

Zoisite listened attentively, but had a confused expression on his face. "My queen, Earth is a vast planet with millions of people. It could take forever to find them."

Beryl frowned heavily at the tawny-haired shitennou. "If you would just keep quiet and let me finish explaining, you will have the answer to your question."

Zoisite nearly cringed at the hint of exasperation in Beryl's voice. "I apologize, my queen."

Beryl didn't acknowledge the apology, but went on as if she were never interrupted. "Once the nijizuishou are extracted from these humans, the seven shadow warriors that fought alongside us during our attack on the moon kingdom will be free to wreak havoc once more."

"But how can we free them?" inquired Zoisite. "Where are they now?"

Beryl scowled as she answered," When we were banished here by that miserable Queen Serenity, she sent all of the fallen humans to Earth to be reborn." She clenched her fist and grasped at her crystal ball as she thought of the humiliating defeat the queen of the moon had dealt her. 'Sailor Moon won't be so lucky once she faces me.' "You will need a special honing crystal in order to track them down." She waved her hands around her crystal ball a bit, then placed her hands next to it, releasing a small cylinder shaped black crystal, which Zoisite caught with ease. "That kurozuishou is yours. It should easily help you with your task. I trust you know how to use it."

"Of course. It will be a piece of cake to snatch the nijizuishou from those mortal imbeciles." Zoisite smiled to himself, thinking about how he would work hard to be a better shitennou than Nephrite was. 'Eat your heart out, Nephrite. You're more foolish than I thought if you think you and your worthless underlings will live in peace.' He held up the kurozuishou in front of him. "Black crystal, I order you to show me the first nijizuishou carrier!" At the sound of the sakura king's voice, the kurozuishou gave a bright glow, revealing an image of a young man with very short hair that was covered with a blue cap worn backwards. He wore a yellow shirt and blue jeans as well as glasses. "This man will be the first. I shall not fail you, my queen."

Queen Beryl smiled one of her deadly smiles. "You had better not or there will be hell to pay. Proceed at once."

"Thank you, my queen." Zoisite gave one last respectful bow, and left with Kunzite to make plans.

Having gotten an idea of what the next part of the scheme would be, Ruby retreated back to the mansion just as discreetly as she had appeared in the throne room. As painful as it was for her to listen to Beryl, especially when the witch queen hinted Nephrite's days were numbered, she had to stifle a giggle when Zoisite was berated for interrupting and when he sweated nervously. 'I wonder what Master Nephrite will decide to do. As much as I would love to aid the senshi, I don't think it would be a wise decision to do so openly.'

* * * * * * * *

Nephrite was in the planetarium with Miki and Yukari, waiting for Ruby to return and wondering what the Dark Kingdom was up to now, considering they hadn't tried anything ever since he had killed off Zoisite's youma to save Naru. Although he appreciated the peacefulness, he didn't trust it since they could be plotting against him and his youma that very moment. He had scheduled his promised outing with Naru for the upcoming Tuesday after school, hopeful that the pain in his sprained ankle will have faded completely by then. He sincerely hoped he would be able to enjoy the date in peace.

Ruby returned with an unreadable expression on her face. She bowed respectfully before the reformed shitennou. "Master Nephrite, now that enough energy has been gathered, Beryl is now in the process of locating the ginzuishou."

"I see. Were you able to discover just how she intends to do that?"

"Yes. It turns out the ginzuishou had broken into seven fragments—nijizuishou. They are found in the bodies of seven mortals. Beryl has recruited Zoisite and entrusted him with the mission of gathering the nijizuishou, giving him a kurozuishou that would hone in on the seven humans."

Nephrite furrowed his brow. He had gotten the feeling he was on the right track when he created his very own kurozuishou, and the old him would have been furious that it had not done what he created it to do. As of now, though, he decided it didn't matter anymore, for the stars had known about the emotions he had buried deep inside of him and were urging him to find a better life.

"Zoisite in charge?" Yukari repeated. "Very interesting." A part of her wanted to laugh at the thought of that since it was hard for her to picture the sakura king performing such an important task efficiently, but she thought better of it. After all, he proved he had a very dangerous side to him and was starting to learn to back up his threats. 'I still have yet to take him very seriously.'

"Interesting indeed," agreed Miki. "Chances are he will have Kunzite helping him, and those two may prove to be a dangerous combination, given how much stronger Kunzite is. However, he needs to brush up on his mentoring skills."

"Most agreed." Although Ruby still had absolutely no respect for Zoisite, she learned not to dismiss him so easily after he proved he could be bad news when determined to have what he wanted. "So Master Nephrite, what do you plan to do? Is there a way we can thwart Beryl's scheme indirectly?"

"I intend to remain in seclusion, that is, until I am positive Zoisite is no threat. There is one possible way and I believe I have found it."

Ruby nodded, showing her agreement with the decision. "Quite frankly I am surprised the Dark Kingdom left us alone for as long as they have. Beryl told Zoisite to let us be, but I still suspect he will try something again. Let's face it, the little weasel is annoyingly persistent. " She cocked an eyebrow, running a hand through her cherry colored locks. "So what is the plan you have devised, sir? Is it anything Miki, Yukari and I can be of assistance with? We're happy to help in any way we can. "

"I know. " The corner of the star shitennou's lips curled up slightly at the fact that his henchwomen were still as helpful as ever, in spite of his leaving the Dark Kingdom. He had now reached the stage where he would freely call them his friends. "Reveal this information to the senshi so they can be prepared for what's to come. And yes, there is something you girls can do to assist."

Miki's head snapped up, from where she was reading a magazine. "Oh I get it. So the girls would be one step ahead, correct?"

Nephrite smiled at Miki's intuitiveness. "Precisely."

* * * * * * * *

return to Index / go to Chapter 5

The Nephrite and Naru Treasury