by Moon Momma

Chapter 11

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Queen Beryl was furious, and Nephrite was none too happy, either. Zoisite and Kunzite had just made an unauthorized attempt to get the last crystal from Tuxedo Mask. The episode had resulted in a fifth Sailor Senshi, Venus, being revealed, and Beryl had had to order Zoisite and Kunzite to return to the Dark Kingdom before they were defeated by the newly-strengthened Sailor Senshi. Of more concern to Nephrite was the fact that Zoisite had stabbed Tuxedo Mask in the shoulder, which would make it harder for Nephrite to convincingly lose the fight for the Rainbow Crystals. But there was no way Nephrite could even mention to Beryl that it would be a good idea to postpone the challenge until Tuxedo Mask had recovered from his wound. To the contrary, Beryl, while she seemed oddly upset about Tuxedo Mask being wounded, was eager to take advantage of his weakness to win the seventh Rainbow Crystal. Soon after Zoisite and Kunzite's ignominious return, Beryl ordered Nephrite to Chiba Mamoru's apartment to issue the challenge. "Just remember, Nephrite, I want him left alive."

"But, Queen Beryl-sama--" Zoisite started to argue.

"I have my reasons, Zoisite." Beryl smiled to herself. "Do not question me!"

Nephrite was amused to learn of Tuxedo Mask's true identity. According to Naru, Usagi/Sailor Moon was madly in love with Tuxedo Mask, but couldn't stand Mamoru. Nephrite earnestly hoped he would be present when Tuxedo Mask's identity was revealed to Sailor Moon. That would be worth seeing.

Focusing on the dark-haired young man's face, Nephrite teleported into Mamoru's apartment. The young man was sitting back on his sofa, his face an unhealthy color, his eyes closed, a hand pressed against his bloodied right shoulder.

"You should see a doctor about that shoulder, Tuxedo Mask."

Mamoru jumped. "Nephrite," he sneered. "Come to gloat?"

"That particular scheme of Zoisite's was not authorized by Queen Beryl. You should not have been wounded. It makes me reluctant to carry out my assignment. Unlike my colleagues, I do have a sense of honor and fair play."

"Get to the point, scum."

"I've been sent to issue you a challenge. You and me, one on one, for the crystals, winner take all. Tomorrow afternoon at five o'clock, at the Starlight Tower. Come alone. Agreed?"

Mamoru scowled, moved a little, winced at the pain in his shoulder. "Agreed."

"Good. And do see a doctor. I have no intention of going easy on you just because you're hurt." With that, Nephrite teleported from the apartment.

He reported to Beryl that Tuxedo Mask had accepted the challenge, then went to Naru. As he had hoped, she was greatly entertained by the revelation of Tuxedo Mask's identity. "Usagi is going to totally freak out! She's in love with Mamoru's secret identity? And when Mamoru finds out that Dumpling Head is really Sailor Moon...!" She lay back on the floor, laughing. Nephrite, laughing too, bent over her to kiss her. Something tugged at his memory, something he had been meaning to think about, but he really couldn't remember it right now, and anyway, right now, he didn't want to think about anything but Naru.

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Nephrite was waiting on the observation deck at the top of the Starlight Tower at the appointed time, watching through the windows for Tuxedo Mask. Zoisite and Kunzite stood in the shadows, watching him. They had strict orders from Beryl not to intervene unless Nephrite did something that looked treacherous. Far below, Nephrite saw Mamoru approaching with Usagi. Mamoru was walking stiffly, as though in great pain, and Usagi appeared to be arguing with him. It made no difference to Nephrite if Sailor Moon was present at the fight, as long as she didn't start throwing that tiara of hers around. Well, maybe if she threw it at Kunzite and Zoisite, that wouldn't be so bad. Nephrite sent out a beam of teleportation power and transported his guests into the tower.

He opened the doors of the elevator at the bottom of the tower, and projected his voice to the young pair. "I see you've brought company, Mamoru. I suppose that's all right. The girl is no threat to me. I'm waiting on the top floor. And don't worry--I have no intention of letting the elevator fall this time."

He listened in on their argument as it continued in the elevator. Usagi demanded to know what business Mamoru had there; Mamoru insisted it was none of Usagi's concern. Finally Usagi said, "Mamoru, I know who these people are. They're very bad and dangerous, and I can't let you get mixed up with them."

"What do you know about it?" Mamoru demanded.

"I guess I've got no choice," Usagi said softly. Then she called out, "Moon Prism Power!"

A few seconds later, Mamoru gasped. "It can't be! No way! You're Sailor Moon?"

"I am. Mamoru, I can't let you get mixed up with these evil people. Let me handle them, please."

The elevator arrived at the top of the tower. Sailor Moon and Mamoru stepped out of it, and stopped when they saw Nephrite. "So, Sailor Moon," he said, "you've decided to join our little gathering. But it isn't you I'm interested in. It's Tuxedo Mask."

"Get real, Nephrite. He isn't even here."

"Oh yes I am."

Usagi made a funny little choking noise, and looked at Mamoru. "What? No way!" The young man smiled and took a red rose from inside his jacket. Light swirled around him, then cleared to reveal Tuxedo Mask. Usagi's face had gone blank from shock and it looked like her jaw might unhinge itself and fall to the floor. She stared at her hero. "So cranky old Mamoru is really Tuxedo Mask," she finally said in a hoarse voice.

"The one and only, despite my many imitators. And I have business with this piece of Dark Kingdom trash. Did you bring the crystals, Nephrite?"

"Of course." Nephrite held out the velvet-lined box that held six of the seven crystals: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo. One hollow was still empty; this was for the seventh crystal, the violet crystal that Tuxedo Mask had. Nephrite set the open box down in the middle of the floor, and stepped back. "Put your crystal in the empty space," he instructed Tuxedo Mask, who obeyed, then took up a position across the room from Nephrite.

Nephrite spoke. "Here are the rules. No attacks barred, including hand-to-hand fighting. No outside assistance. First one unable to continue fighting loses. I have no appetite for a fight to the death today. Agreed?"

"Agreed," Mamoru said.

"Sailor Moon, please tell us when to begin," Nephrite said,

Sailor Moon was wringing her hands and looking at Tuxedo Mask unhappily. "Do it, Sailor Moon," Tuxedo Mask said.

"Okay," Moon said. "Um, one, two, three, go."

Nephrite guessed that Tuxedo Mask's first move would probably be to try to blind him with a rose to the eyes. He deliberately misfired an energy ball just slightly to Tux's left, while dodging the rose and covering his eyes with his arm. He fired off another blast of energy, again deliberately missing by barely a centimeter, and ducked another rose. He wasn't fast enough; this one tore across his face. Rage clouded his thoughts for a moment; firmly he reminded himself that he wanted to lose this fight.

When his vision cleared again, he saw Tux circling around behind him, his cane gripped in his hands like a club. Nephrite spun around and attacked with another energy blast, this one close enough to knock the younger man off his feet but not really hurt him. Nephrite kept Tux down for a minute with several energy blasts around but not hitting him, then gave him a brief chance to get up.

With lightning speed, Tuxedo Mask leapt around behind Nephrite and swung the cane upside his head with a loud crack. Blinded by pain and shock, Nephrite fell to his knees. Another flare of rage demanded that he destroy his attacker, but he restrained himself, and misfired another energy ball.

Suddenly, Tux cried out in pain and collapsed, blood spreading on his cape. Sailor Moon screamed, "Tuxedo Mask! No!" and ran to his side. Nephrite, still on his knees, still reeling from the blow to his head, heard Zoisite laugh, then saw an ice blade aimed at his own heart. He shifted just in time so that the blade plunged into the right side of his chest, between two ribs. A sharp pain as he gasped for breath told him that his lung had been pierced. As Nephrite slowly collapsed from his kneeling position to the floor, Kunzite ran out from the shadows, grabbed the box of crystals, and teleported away with them. Nephrite tried to cry out, but the stabbing pain in his chest stopped him.

Zoisite stepped out into the center of the room. "That was pathetic, Nephrite. Since when did your aim get so bad? Queen Beryl should have let me have this assignment." He laughed, and held out a hand toward Nephrite, to finish him. Nephrite caught a painful breath and held it, his mind filled with Naru's name.

Before he could teleport away, the Sailor Senshi burst in. "We're too late!" one of them cried. Zoisite cursed and spun around at this interruption. The Senshi gathered behind Sailor Moon, who was kneeling with Tuxedo Mask's head on her lap. She was crying, begging him to not die...

A tear crystallized on her cheek. The crystal floated into the air and shone with a brilliant light. Nephrite watched, stunned, as the Rainbow Crystals shot into the room in streaks of light and formed a circle around the crystalized tear. One at a time, the Rainbow Crystals melded with the crystal made from Sailor Moon's sorrow, and a glimmering silver jewel slowly formed. The Silver Crystal...

The crescent-topped wand that Sailor Moon had used to track the crystal-bearing cat floated into the air. The wand and the Silver Crystal slowly rotated around each other, then the crystal nestled itself into the bottom curve of the crescent moon. The wand hovered above Sailor Moon. Blindly, as though under a spell, she stood and turned--and turned, ribbons of white light swirling around her. The light drifted away, revealing Usagi in a long, flowing white dress. The Senshi were murmuring; Nephrite couldn't make out the words because of the painful rushing in his ears, but he knew who stood before him. "Serenity," he whispered. The Moon Princess, his lord's beloved, who because of his own treachery had not lived to see her wedding day.

Zoisite was the first to emerge from the shock of seeing the Silver Crystal and Usagi's transformation. "I want that crystal, and I'm going to have it!" he shouted.

Usagi said nothing, but grasped the wand in both hands and held it up high. A blinding beam of power shot out of the crystal and hurled Zoisite back against the wall. He screamed, then collapsed onto the floor.

Usagi knelt again, taking Mamoru's head onto her lap. The two of them spoke softly. Again, Nephrite couldn't hear their words, but he knew what they were saying to each other. He knew who Mamoru was, now. Prince Endymion, his liege lord, whom he had betrayed. He struggled up to a kneeling position, pressed his right fist to his heart, and bent forward. "Endymion," he whispered. When he straightened up, he saw Sailor Mercury's gaze slide away from him. Then he collapsed, blackness swirling before his eyes. "Naru," he groaned, and used the last of his strength to teleport to the safe haven of her arms.

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Sailor Moon fainted. Kunzite reappeared, raised Zoisite from the floor, captured Mamoru in a field of dark energy, and teleported the three of them away. Amidst the Sailor Senshi's shock and despair, Mercury walked over to where Nephrite had been. She crouched by the pool of blood on the floor, dipped a fingertip of her white glove in the blood, brought it up with a crimson stain. She went back to the others and showed them the blood. "Nephrite's. It's red now, not green. I saw him bow to Mamoru. He's been on our side all along."

"We've got to help him," Venus said.

Jupiter shook her head. "What do you think will happen to him and Naru if we reveal him? We have to just hope that Naru can take care of him, and try to defeat the Dark Kingdom as soon as we can." The other Senshi nodded in agreement. That was all they could do.

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Naru looked up from her magazine, startled, when Nephrite suddenly materialized on the bed. He was nearly unconscious. His jacket was soaked with blood, and blood matted the hair on the left side of his head. "Nephrite, no!" she cried, running to him. Frantically, she pulled off his jacket and shirt to reveal the stab wound in his chest. "Oh, Nephrite, did Mamoru do this to you?"

"Zoisite. Treacherous bastard." He coughed, and wiped blood from his mouth with his fist.

He was bleeding inside. Naru had no idea what to do. She gathered him in her arms and wept. He would not die, she would not let him die, even if she had to give her own life to keep him alive. All the times she had had her energy drained by servants of the Dark Kingdom, including Nephrite, and now that she wanted to give away her energy, what could she do?

Deep inside her body, she felt a warmth grow into a force that nearly vibrated. The opposite of when her energy had been taken--she was giving willingly, rather than it being stolen from her. She let go and let the energy flow through her hands into Nephrite's body. His heartbeat and breathing became a little stronger, and she knew--she didn't know how, she just knew--that she hadn't healed the injury to his lung but she had given him sufficient strength and life-force to survive while the injury healed itself. Quickly she looked at the gash on his head; it was long but shallow, and as far as she could tell the skull wasn't broken. She gave Nephrite a little more of her energy to allow that injury to also heal without danger to him. Then she cradled his head against her breast and gently rocked him back and forth. "You'll be all right, Nephrite, I promise," she said through her tears. "You'll be all right."

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"You have disobeyed me for the last time, Zoisite!"

Kunzite and Zoisite stood trembling in front of their Queen. "Queen Beryl-sama, please, it was--"

"Silence, Kunzite!" The Queen turned her poisonous orange gaze back to Zoisite. "You intervened in Nephrite's challenge against Tuxedo Mask, directly against my orders. As a result of your meddling, the Sailor Senshi now have the Silver Crystal! And you tried to kill Tuxedo Mask when I had ordered him brought here alive!"

"But Tuxedo Mask is here alive now, my Queen, and we can get the crystal from the Senshi!" Zoisite protested.

"Zoisite, I will no longer put up with your disobedience!"

"Queen Beryl-sama, please--" Kunzite cried, but it was too late. A blast of black power from Beryl's hand threw Zoisite backwards and left him a crumpled, broken heap on the floor.

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Nephrite awoke from a deep sleep. He was in his own bed, instead of on the sleeping mat on the floor. His right lung felt like it was on fire, but the wet, raspy feeling and the tang of blood in his windpipe were lessened. He looked at Naru, curled up beside him in a kitten-printed nightgown, sleeping peacefully. What had she done, what power had she used, to give him the strength to survive his injury? Carefully, in deference to his pain, and not wanting to disturb her, he put his arms around her and eased her closer to him.

He had nearly dozed off again when a sudden disturbance in the air of the room made him sit up. Pain exploded through his chest and head. When his vision cleared, he saw Kunzite standing near the bed. He was shocked to see tears on the silver-haired man's face. "Kunzite!"

"Nephrite, you traitor!" Kunzite's voice thick was with hatred and bitterness. "What right do you have to lie here with your lover in your arms when my Zoisite is dead?"

"Zoisite--dead?" Nephrite tried to think clearly, to remember everything that had happened in the Starlight Tower. His head pounded fiercely. "The Sailor Senshi?"

Kunzite looked away, his mouth pressed in a thin, hard line as he refused to answer the question. Then Nephrite knew. "It was Beryl. Beryl executed him. For trying to kill Mamoru."

Still Kunzite refused to say anything.

"Beryl killed your beloved--are you going to go on serving her?" Nephrite asked softly.

Now Kunzite looked at him, rage in his icy eyes and handsome face. "I know you're betraying us, Nephrite. I don't have proof, but I'll get it, and then you and your human whore will be dead. It should have been you that Beryl killed, not Zoisite." He turned away again and added, in a voice choked with grief, "It should have been me. You'll pay for this, Nephrite!" Then he teleported away.

Nephrite stared into the dim room. He didn't like feeling afraid. All the proof that Kunzite would need was in the pool of crimson blood Nephrite had left behind in the Starlight Tower. Then he realized that Naru was sitting up beside him, crying, her face buried on her knees. "What is it, love?"

"He called me a wh--a wh--" She couldn't get the ugly word out.

"Naru, no. Don't believe that. You're everything that's sweet and good." Gently, he made her lie down, then, biting his lip against the pain that flamed up his side, he lay down beside her and put an arm around her. She was still trembling.

"Is there something else?" he asked.

"He's dead, isn't he?"

"Zoisite? It would appear so."

"Then I don't have to be afraid of him anymore?"

Nephrite remembered Naru the handmaid, impaled on Zoisite's sword, her eyes clouding over as she slid lifelessly to the floor. "No, love," he said, pulling her as close as he could, ignoring the pain that flared in his side. "He can't hurt us anymore." He didn't say anything about the danger posed by a grieving and vengeful Kunzite, or his own, unexpected, compassion for the other General.

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return to Index / go to Chapter 12

The Nephrite and Naru Treasury