The Shi-Tennou Return
by SanjouinDaCapo

Chapter 6

* * * * * * * *

Masato wheeled himself out of the mansion over to his red sports car. It had been recently adapted for disabled drivers, and he had just gotten his license renewed, along with the wheelchair placard.

With some effort, Masato transferred himself out of the chair and into the driver's seat. Reaching over to the small push-wheelchair, he detatched the wheels one at a time and stowed them in the back seat. The therapy did pay off, enabling the auburn-haired Earth lord to do almost everything people with full-use of their bodies could.

Closing the car door wasn't much of a problem, as Masato did have some use of his fingers. There was some feeling regained below the lesion, mostly pressure, which aided the transfers greatly.

For the car, he had a handle on the steering wheel and special manual controls for the break and accelerator pedals. The ignition had a lever attached to it so he could turn the key with greater ease. In a pinch he could do it the usual way, but Masato still had trouble with his grip. At least the numbness in his hands subsided to a degree since that first night.

The auburn-haired Earth lord started up the car and pulled out of the driveway, turning on the radio to listen to the news. Several things were making him quite antsy the mental breakdown of his first therapist, new evil 'sailors', the short reunion with his old co-workers but it was nothing compared to this new organization called the 'Happy Hub'. Naru had somehow gotten involved in it; that much he knew, and it worried Masato to no end. There were other responsibilities, however.

Masato had founded a center which specialized in mobility and occupational therapy for people with spinal cord injuries and other disorders which affected their ability to move. So many people viewed those with disabilities like his own as helpless despite the fact that they could do most of the things people with full use of their bodies could do. Masato could bathe himself just fine, for example all he needed was a specially-designed shower and tub with a transfer-bar.

He drove to a tall building surrounded by flowers and maple trees, and made his way to the parking garage. Transferring to his wheelchair, Masato wheeled himself up the ramp to his office. He would be meeting with a new patient, a teenage boy who had recently been injured in a fall.

When he arrived, the family was waiting in the lobby. Their son was sulking in his wheelchair, listening to a CD player and looking like he wanted to be anywhere except this place. That look was becoming familiar, since people who needed wheelchairs often were seen as unable to do anything, and the loss of feeling was incredibly disheartening. Masato knew that all too well, and wanted to help others come to terms with this change.

"So, is this the Takashi family?" he asked, taking out a business card and presenting it to the father.

"Yes," the man replied, taking the card and reading it, "Sanjouin Masato?"

The auburn-haired Earth lord nodded, reaching out to shake the father's hand. The boy's father hesitated a little, not knowing how to react.

"Don't worry," Masato laughed, "I promise I won't steal your life energy... much."

Chuckling nervously, the man took Masato's hand and shook it.

"Well now," the Earth lord said as he turned to face the boy, "Yoshi? Welcome to the Sanjouin Rehabilitation Center. I'm Sanjouin Masato."

"Go away," the boy mumbled.

"I know how you feel right now," Masato explained, "I went through this as well being so wrapped up in what I can't do. That is the point of this center; to teach people to overcome their challenges and focus on what they CAN do."

"Go away," Yoshi repeated, turning his chair so he faced away from Masato.

"I thought he would respond better to you," the father sighed, shaking his head.

"We all need time to adjust," Masato replied, "Being suddenly robbed of so much is very hard, and it will take awhile before Yoshi is finished grieving. I know I can help him haven't lost a patient yet!"

He glanced over at the sullen boy, who was still listening to his music and trying to drown out the world.

"Though we do need to take some drastic measures," the auburn-haired Earth lord continued, giving the parents a sly grin.

Masato pushed himself off the seat of his wheelchair, then carefully worked his way down to the floor. He got into a sitting position, using his head and arms for balance, and then scooted backward to where the boy was. He would pull his legs toward himself, then push himself away, until finally he was right next to the chair. Then Masato looked up at the parents, who were staring as though he had just grown a pair of antlers.

"What?" the Earth lord chuckled, "You look like you've never seen a man get out of his wheelchair before!"

"Well, what are you trying to do, Mr. Sanjouin?" the mother asked.

"This," Masato replied, reaching up and grabbing the CD player and pulling it out of the boy's lap.

The player disconnected from the headphones and fell to the floor. Yoshi, robbed of his entertainment and shelter from the world, yelled "Hey! Give that back!".

Grabbing the player, Masato placed it in his mouth and scooted his way to the other side of the lobby to a nearby seat, ignoring the protests of Yoshi and his parents.

"Give it back!" the boy yelled, moving his wheelchair toward the thief.

"Mr. Masato!" the father pleaded, "Just give him his CD player!"

Masato just watched as the very angry Yoshi approached. He pulled his legs close and held one against the chair and the other he held in place with his chin. Reaching up to the seat, Masato braced himself on the floor and then pushed his body up into the lobby chair, then took the CD player out of his mouth and nonchalantly picked up a magazine, which he began to read.

"Give it BACK! NOW!" Yoshi demanded, trying to ram his wheelchair into the seat, an action which was fortunately thwarted by his mother.

"Mr. Sanjouin," the mother asked, incredulous at the man's apparent callousness, "Why are you doing this? What do you hope to accomplish?"

Masato just read through the rather boring magazine, pretending not to hear, and stowed the CD player under his legs.

"We brought Yoshi here to be helped, not to have some weirdo upset him!" the father yelled.

"Upset him?" Masato asked, looking very annoyed, "Why? Is he made of glass? Will getting him a little angry and upset kill him?"

"Please, Mr. Sanjouin," the mother begged, "Our son has been injured and the doctors said he will never walk again. Don't be so mean to him!"

Masato lowered his magazine and gave her a look like that of a sensei whose student was getting close to solving a riddle.

"Do you notice something?" he asked.

"Notice?" the mother asked, a little offended, "All I notice right now is someone is being a bully to my son! Now stop it or we will cancel the whole thing!"

"My point is," Masato explained, "Do you know that I'm a quadriplegic?"

"Well... yes..." both parents replied, puzzled at his question.

The auburn-haired Earth lord put down the magazine and showed them his hands, flexing his fingers as best as he could.

"My fingers have limited movement," Masato continued, "Though I am learning to move them better since my injury is so low. I still have trouble sitting up because I have no control in my abdomen I have to rely on balance. "

They were all at loss for words.

"What did you see?" Masato asked, "How did you see me?"

"You're a jerk!" Yoshi replied, eliciting a chuckle from the long-haired man.

"A jerk, yes," Masato added, "But also a person. You didn't see my disability. You saw someone who was being a jerk!"

"I can understand that Yoshi-chan needs to listen, but-" the mother began, only to be interrupted by her son yelling "MOM!" in frustration.

"Please," Masato requested, "Let your son speak for himself. We are disabled, not helpless."

"Heh, right," Yoshi grumbled, "Easy for you to say!"

The Earth-lord's expression softened, and he looked up at the irate boy.

"Look," Masato said, "I know it's tough. I used to be a tennis-player, and my legs were strong enough that I could leap tall fences like an Olympic athlete. Those days are over now."

"So?"

"Here, we focus on what we CAN do," the Earth-lord explained, "There are so many ways we can improvise with our muscles. Note my shoes."

He lifted up his right leg and indicated a shoe with laces. Placing the leg back down and waiting out the spasticity-induced bouncing, Masato then used his arms and head to swing forward. He reached down and untied the shoe, then tied it again, grasping the laces between his thumbs and forefingers. Once finished, Masato pushed himself back up and smiled at his audience.

"Everyone is led to believe that once you break your neck, the world has ended and life will suck forever," he continued.

Yoshi nodded, but listened along with his parents as Masato spoke.

"Life sucks for me as much as it does for someone with working legs," the auburn-haired man concluded, "No more, no less."

Cracking a smile at the boy, he then asked, "So, when shall we begin our first session?"

Yoshi nodded, then looked down at the CD-player which was still tucked under Masato's leg.

"Can I have that back now?" he asked, still understandably annoyed.

* * * * * * * *

After several appointments and some office work, Masato rolled back to his Ferrari and got in. The day had been quite busy as usual, and at times infuriating. A lift malfunctioned during a demonstration on transferring to a bed, leaving Masato hanging until a few nurses-in-training helped him down into his chair. Next, during a class on physical therapy, one of the students almost dislocated Masato's leg(resulting in a stiff chewing-out from the auburn-haired Earth lord). He was glad the day was finally over, despite enjoying helping people with disabilities.

Driving around for awhile, Masato decided to stop at the park where he met Naru. It had been a little over two years, two years since they met, and since he spoke his last words to her.

Naru was a very interesting girl. Before he met her, Masato never knew a human could be so kind and compassionate, even to a stranger who was just using her for his mission. She even saved his life, when Sailor Moon tried to finish him off with her tiara. The second time Naru tried to save him however, it was too late; the poison thorns had already weakened him too much, and Masato Nephrite faded and died in her arms. He wanted to have that chocolate parfait with her so much... to just for once tell her the truth.

Now he had another chance, a chance to make up for everything. Naru was in danger, however, and Masato had to keep his wits about him. He wasn't going to make that mistake again.

Getting out of his car, Masato re-assembled his light wheelchair and then transferred into it. He didn't know what Naru would think, and only hoped she would recognize him.

Wheeling himself over to a nice, sunny spot, Masato closed his eyes. He took in the sounds of birds chirping, the voices of children at play and the occasional passer-by, the warmth of the sun on his face and the fresh smell of trees and grass. What a perfect place to just relax. It was so quiet and peaceful, that Masato almost fell asleep.

Two familiar voices woke the Earth-lord from his meditation, and he decided to investigate. Masato wheeled himself over to a park bench and saw Usagi Sailor Moon comforting Naru. He couldn't make out what they were saying, but Naru sounded worried. She seemed alright for now, but Masato needed to know what was wrong, so he came closer to listen.

"I know, Usagi," Naru said, "But Umino hasn't called me at all lately. I wonder if he's angry with me or something."

"He's probably just worried about the upcoming exams, Naru. Don't sweat it. I know he loves you."

"I've seen him a few times and he's just blown me off," Naru insisted, "He told me that he needed to work harder and stop slacking off."

Those words made Masato's hair stand on-end. Was Umino part of this Organization? He wheeled himself closer, making an effort to stay hidden.

"I can't stop worrying about Umino," the red-headed girl continued, "He helped me out so much after... after Nephrite's death. I used to be so annoyed by his silly Tuxedo Umino Mask antics, but he's such a sweetheart, you know. And without his glasses, he looks so different."

"Whatever it is," Usagi told her, "I'm sure he'll snap out of it pretty soon. If not, I'll pound him to the pavement! Nobody breaks my friend's heart and lives!"

Hearing this, Masato reached in the pouch attached to his wheelchair, taking out a notepad and a pen. He put the pen in his mouth and held up the pad, writing a quick, slightly-clumsy note. Masato usually wrote with the pen in both hands, using the one to keep the other steady, but there was no table and he didn't want to risk dropping anything. Satisfied that the kanji was readable, he ripped the note off of the pad and crumpled it up, throwing it in the direction of the girls. It hit Usagi in the head, startling her and interrupting the conversation.

Before the girls could reach him, Masato turned and started toward his car, looking to see if the girls had recognized him. Usagi read the note, then handed it to Naru, who looked very confused. She then started after Masato, holding the rumpled paper. He had to get back to his place, though. It didn't feel like the right time to show himself to Naru, and the Earth-lord felt a strange aura now, one that unsettled him. Even if Naru was in danger, Masato felt that she would at least be safe if he was not around.

As he made his way to the car, Masato bumped into someone.

"Excuse me," he apologized, "Sorry about that. Was in a bit of a hurry."

The person he had bumped into, a woman in a blue uniform, looked down her nose, giving the Earth-lord a suspicious look.

"Don't worry about it," the woman replied, "Just stay safe. Accidents happen."

Not liking the tone of her voice at all, Masato wheeled himself away from the park, leaving his car. He had a feeling that using it now would be a very bad idea. Masato glanced over his shoulder, watching Usagi and Naru laughing about something. He hated leaving her behind like this, but somehow the Earth-lord had been marked, and it would be better if he stayed as far away from Naru as possible, in case she was used as a pawn yet again.

* * * * * * * *

Naru looked at the note again and sighed. Whoever that strange man was, he looked somewhat familiar. Maybe she was just seeing things. It had been two years since that night, since Nephrite had died and faded away in her arms. Seeing that man in the wheelchair brought back so many painful memories, and questions.

Did he go to heaven? Did he find happiness? Did he miss her as much as she missed him? Did he come back?

"No," Naru mumbled to herself, "He's gone."

"Naru, what's worrying you now?"

"Oh nothing important," Naru sighed, "Just some old memories coming back."

"Old memories?" Usagi asked.

"You weren't there," Naru replied, "You wouldn't know."

"Y-you mean," Usagi began, catching herself before she could blurt anything out.

"Two years ago," Naru explained, "A very handsome man saved me. Remember when I called you and told you about this guy named Sanjouin Masato... that he was in trouble and stuff?"

Usagi nodded, shedding a tear despite herself.

"Well, he saved me from these three monsters and an evil man. Then we went to the park and I bandaged his arm... he got hurt protecting me. Then those three demons attacked us again but he pushed me out of the way, and got stabbed."

Sniffling, Naru wiped a tear from her eye, then continued: "He got hurt saving my life again... just after he told me he would take me out for a chocolate parfait. It was my dream to have a chocolate parfait with him. Why are you crying, Usagi?"

"Oh... n-nothing," Usagi lied, "Just some dirt in my eye."

"I see," Naru said, not entirely convinced, "That man in the wheelchair... I couldn't get a good look at him, but he reminded me of Nephrite. This hasn't happened for such a long time, Usagi. I wonder if something's wrong with me."

"Naru," Usagi replied, "Nothing's wrong with you. Bad memories never really go away. But you do have good memories of him, don't you?"

The redhead girl nodded, smiling a little.

"Yeah, you're right," she said, "But still, that man in the wheelchair seemed to be in a real hurry. I just want to know if he was the one who gave me this note. I want to know if this was a prank or something."

Naru looked around to see if the man was still there, but there was no sign of him.

"I could go this way," Usagi offered, pointing to her left, "While you go the other way. We might find him."

Smiling, Naru nodded and ran to the street, then spotted a familiar-looking red sports car.

"Nephrite?" she breathed.

Resuming her search, Naru ran down the right side of the sidewalk, past a few cosplaying girls and some teenagers in uniforms that looked like they were from the military. Soon, she caught sight of the strange red-haired man, who was speeding down the sidewalk in his wheelchair.

"Excuse me, sir!" she yelled, trying to catch up with him.

As she drew closer, Naru noticed that the man's foot was dragging. Was he paralyzed?

"Sir!" Naru called, "Sir! Your foot!"

The man turned to glance at her, then let out a cry of surprise as his wheelchair tipped over.

That face... it had to be Nephrite.

Running over to the fallen man as fast as she could, Naru saw him sprawled on the pavement, right in front of an approaching freighter truck.

"Oh my god!" she shouted, rushing to the unconscious man's side and grabbing his arms and trying to lift him up, "Somebody help me!"

Naru managed to drag the man unceremoniously out of the swerving truck's way, and over to the kerb next to his overturned wheelchair.

"Mister... are you alright?" she asked, patting the man's cheek.

The auburn-haired man shook his head and moaned, then opened his eyes. He blinked a little, then looked straight at Naru and yelled, "You're in danger! Get away from here!"

"It's alright," Naru said, trying to reassure the man, whose outburst baffled her and brought back more memories.

"No!" the man insisted, "You need to stay away! You're in danger!"

"You were in danger just now!" Naru shot back, "A big truck almost ran you over when you fell!"

"Ugh..." the man groaned, reaching for the side of his head, "I... fell?"

"Yeah," Naru replied, "Looks like you need some help. I could call 119 if you need a doctor."

She reached into her purse and pulled out a cellular phone, one which her mother had just bought in case of emergencies. It was gray and rather large, with a big antenna sticking out of its top barely fitting in the small purse. Quickly dialing the emergency number, Naru waited for the operator.

"119, what is your emergency?" the operator asked.

* * * * * * * *

Naru watched as the man was lifted onto a gurney and carried into the ambulance.

"Oh I hope he's okay," she sighed, looking at the note again.

"I think he'll be fine," Usagi said, "It's probably just a bump on the head or something."

"That poor man," Naru mumbled, "Having to use a wheelchair and then falling like that."

"I'm sure it was just an accident," Usagi reassured her, "Accidents happen to everyone, even to those who can walk."

"Yeah, but I bet it's a real drag not being able to get up again."

"Maybe, but everyone can find a reason to be happy."

"He even sounded like Nephrite," Naru continued on, not paying much attention to Usagi's words, "I wish I could've helped him."

"Oh Naru," Usagi said, wrapping her friend in a comforting hug, "Why don't you come over to my place and we can talk there."

"I can't do that tonight," Naru replied, "I gotta go to one of those boring parties with my mom. It sucks that you can't come with me."

"A party?" Usagi asked, "Who's the lucky celebrity this time? Is it Gackt or some idol group?"

"No, it's a charity concert for some guy who came here from the Middle East. He's trying to raise awareness for this disease that I can't pronounce. Something to do with not being able to go outside during the day."

"Oooh!" Usagi chuckled mischievously, "You mean like vampires? I vahnt to suck your blood! Bleh! Bleh!"

"Not like that," Naru groaned, "Honestly, sometimes you're so immature. Anyway, I gotta hurry up and get ready."

* * * * * * * *

"We have him."

The tone of the ambulance attendant's voice alarmed Masato. He had to escape somehow, or possibly suffer the fate of his first nurse. If only he could reach the carnation...

The straps on the gurney, however, kept Masato from moving at all. Despite all his struggling, he couldn't get his arm free.

"Kunzite... Zoisite... Sailor Moon... help," he whispered.

* * * * * * * *

Zoisite was practicing on his synthesizer keyboard for the benefit concert. He knew it was not very smart to keep practicing for so long without rest, but public performances demanded perfection and attention to detail. Those idiots just didn't understand it, thinking that any mistake could just be ignored. The shoddy pop music had dulled their senses.

As he worked on a particularly difficult song, Zoisite heard a familiar voice whispering to him:

"Help... Zoisite... help me..."

"So," the sandy-blond Earth-lord chuckled, "You finally need my assistance. I shall have to think about it."

Then he felt someone touching his hand. Looking up, Zoisite saw the ghostly form of Serenity looking at him with pleading eyes.

"He needs you now," the moon queen said, as she faded away.

"Heh. Well if you say so," Zoisite grumbled, reaching into his shirt and pulling out the zinnia.

With the sharp end of the flower, he pricked his finger and let the green light envelop him. Zoisite welcomed the refreshing infusion of energy, and ran up the stairs looking for Kunzite. In their room, he saw the older Earth-lord holding his white chrysanthemum. The freckles on Kunzite's skin glowed white, and his shadow crept up his body, enveloping him and transforming into a tuxedo with white trim.

"I see you already got the message," Zoisite noted with a sly smile, "Let's get going!"

* * * * * * * *

As she watched Naru leave, Usagi heard the voice of someone from the past, and saw a familiar face that of a man with dark red, wavy hair.

"N-nephrite?" she whispered.

"He needs your help, Mama."

Startled, Usagi turned around to see none other than Chibiusa looking up at her.

* * * * * * * *

return to Index / go to Chapter 7

The Nephrite and Naru Treasury