Slow Process to Redemption
by Keren Olivero

Chapter 14

* * * * * * * *

Usagi had left her house late - again. She was sprinting as fast as she could, but her legs began to ache. This forced her to stop.

"Oh how my legs are killing me. That's why I hate running," the blonde wailed. "But then I can't be late again." 'Naru must have left me behind - not that I blame her.' She looked around and saw a bunch of cars lined up. Also, there seemed to be a bunch of cones blocking a part of the road. "What's up with the traffic? Is there going to be some type of important event for VIPs?"

Contrary to Usagi's fears, Naru showed up. 'Looks like she was running late, too. How dopey of me to think she would leave me when she promised we would walk together.' "Hiya, Naru-chan!" the blonde said brightly.

Naru stopped walking. "Oh. Hi Usagi-chan." She didn't sound too happy. She sounded tired and depressed.

'I wonder if Naru-chan is mad at me or something... what have I done?' "Naru-chan, what's the matter? You sound sad. Did something terrible happen?"

Naru barely heard her best friend. Her mind was on Masato Sanjouin and the last time she had seen him.

*Flashback begins*

"No need to apologize. You are the one girl I would love to spend my evening with."

(that night)

"You're a fool if you think you can deceive me!"

*Flashback ends*

'Oh, what does Masato-san really think of me? He is so hard to read... one moment he is so kind but that night he was furious with me. The thing is I don't remember much...must have been just a dream.' The red head thought the latter was quite possible, for she had been dreaming about Nephrite, ever since she met him.

"You can tell me later if you don't want to talk about it now. We don't have time anyway. We had better go or else we'll be late." Usagi grabbed Naru by the hand and pulled her along to school. Just as they were entering their classroom, the bell rang.

"We made it on time, but just barely." Usagi collapsed into her seat.

Just then, Umino burst into the classroom. "Good morning, my two favorite ladies! I have very exciting news!"

The two girls groaned. 'So what else is new? Nothing ever gets past him.' "Well, what is it?" asked Naru, pretending to look interested. 'He'd better not make me regret asking.'

Umino grinned as he answered, "There will be a dinner party this evening and the first princess from the Diamond Kingdom will be there."

Usagi looked puzzled. "Diamond Kingdom?" she repeated. She wondered why she never heard of the place.

"Yes," answered Umino. "Princess Diamond will be there unveiling some sort of rare jewel." 'Hmm. I wish I could meet her but I don't have an invite, and besides, I have cram school and a Science Club meeting.'

"I wish I could go. I want to meet her," said Usagi dreamily. 'Meeting her should be cool, plus there will be all that great food.'

"I will go to it and let you know how it is," said Naru.

Usagi's eyes widened. "What?! You're going? You're so lucky!" She couldn't help but feel a little jealous of her best friend. She wondered why the red head sounded so unenthusiastic.

Naru gave her friend a funny look. 'The girl can sure get overexcited.' "Oh, I wouldn't say that," she said. "All the jewelry store owners in town were invited but my mom gave me her invite because she has to work late tonight. If I could, I would give the invitation to you but my mom wouldn't want the store to go unrepresented. "

"Oh. I understand." The blonde had no idea that was the case. She thought of how she would feel if she were in Naru's shoes. 'Given how much I really want to go right now, I would probably jump at the opportunity. So I appreciate Naru thinking of me.'

* * * * * * * *

Luna noticed the newspaper Usagi's father had left on the table that morning. She crawled onto the table and read the headlines of the article on the page. "PRINCESS DIAMOND TO REVEAL THE MOST VALUABLE JEWEL AT DINNER PARTY TONIGHT," it read.

'Hmm,' thought Luna. "Very interesting. Could this Princess Diamond be our moon princess? And does she have the legendary ginzuishou?" The feline guardian realized what this possibility meant. The quest for finding the princess could be over, after searching for what seemed like an eternity. And there were two more senshi to be awakened.

'Just to be sure, some investigation will be needed. I will meet with the girls after school.' She didn't want to be hasty in coming to such a conclusion just yet, when she wasn't sure if the princess was the one she and the senshi had been looking for.

* * * * * * * *

(Dark Kingdom)

The news about the princess' appearance at the dinner party reached Queen Beryl, and she summoned her minions for a meeting. Zoisite appeared instantaneously.

"Yes, my queen?" The blonde sakura king-in-training bowed deeply.

Beryl didn't seem to care Nephrite hadn't even showed up yet. She knew that he always took his time and she wasn't about to waste her time calling for him to come. "There is a princess travelling from the Diamond Kingdom. I am very interested in her. The family heirloom can very well be the long lost legendary ginzuishou which we need to unleash our great leader, and take over the universe."

'Finally,' thought Zoisite. He hadn't been having any luck searching for the crystal and his rival rubbing it in didn't help matters at all. A smirk formed on his face. 'Well Nephrite, it looks like I won't be losing to you after all.'

"Leave this task to me," a familiar deep voice said.

Zoisite turned to the side sharply. Nephrite appeared in a swirl of reddish light. The sakura's smirk disappeared. He gave the older shitennou a dirty look. "Don't interfere with my mission," he warned.

"Have you forgotten that Earth is my base of operation?" retorted Nephrite.

"It doesn't matter. Finding the ginzuishou is my job!" said Zoisite indignantly. He scowled at the fact that the star shitennou even thought about snatching his job from him. "What are you doing here, anyway? I am surprised you would want to show your face after those humiliating turn of events with your "so called" strongest battle youma."

"Queen Beryl summoned her warriors, so I came!"

The tawny haired shitennou burst out laughing. "You call yourself a warrior?"

"And you're one?" Nephrite decided to ignore the annoying little weasel. He turned to face the witch queen. "You called, Queen Beryl-sama?"

"Yes, Nephrite," answered Beryl. "There is a Princess Diamond who is going to reveal a special jewel which is a family heirloom. It could be the legendary ginzuishou we have been waiting to obtain for so many years. If we get it back, only the Dark Kingdom will reign supreme!" The queen looked Nephrite square in the eye. "Since you've done an exceptional job gathering the energy and want a chance to become even more successful, I will hand over this assignment to you, Nephrite."

"Queen Beryl! You can't do this!" protested Zoisite. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. It just couldn't be happening to him. He clenched his fists. 'That Nephrite will pay dearly!'

Beryl ignored Zoisite's protests. "Tell me, Nephrite, how do you plan to go about this?"

Truth was, Nephrite hadn't hatched a plan yet, but he didn't want Beryl to change her mind. "Not to worry, I will come up with the perfect scheme before Princess Diamond makes her appearance. " He disappeared from the throne room.

Zoisite stared at the spot where Nephrite had been standing, then turned to Beryl. "Queen Beryl-sama, Nephrite has already had his time to be in the spotlight and he failed at part of the task. Why are you allowing him to continue?"

Even though Beryl had warned Zoisite not to question her, she was in a fairly decent mood. All she said was, "You're not ready yet. You still have to complete your training. Nephrite's desperation will motivate him to succeed entirely this time. "

Zoisite didn't want to hear any more. Not only was he bitter towards his adversary for making a fool out of him once again, but he also felt insulted that Beryl thought he couldn't accomplish an important task. But he dared not show it. He could also feel tears at the corner of his eyes, but he blinked them back. No way would he let Beryl see him cry. "Yes, my queen," he said meekly, and then disappeared. He couldn't get out of there quickly enough. 'Kunzite-sama will not be pleased at all.'

* * * * * * * *

Kunzite was sitting outside his castle, in the garden. The hideout was extremely dark and gloomy, with just a few flowers blooming. It was no fun being on the sidelines, given that he was the strongest shitennou, but he decided it was in his best interest to be patient so he would be a good example to his pupil.

All of a sudden, Zoisite appeared and sat next to his teacher. "Oh Kunzite-sama, I am so glad to be in your company once again."

The white haired young man smiled; that was always the case. But something about Zoisite's voice didn't sound right. He sounded as if he had been crying or might be going to soon. "Likewise. How did the meeting go? Has Queen Beryl given you any hints to where the legendary ginzuishou is located?"

"Yes she did. But... ." Zoisite wasn't totally sure how to break the news. But Kunzite's voice was so soothing and the indignity of the entire situation made him unable to hold back the tears any longer. He rested his head in the older general's lap and began to weep bitterly. His shoulders rose and fell. 'Oh I feel so pathetic...crying like this at age seventeen... but I cannot help it.'

Kunzite couldn't remember the last time he saw Zoisite cry like this, but it made his heart ache. "I presume it didn't go so well," he commented. "Tell me, why are you so sad?"

By this time Zoisite's tears had subsided somewhat. "Nephrite snatched my assignment and Queen Beryl gave it to him. She thinks I cannot accomplish anything important just because I'm only a general in training," he said, sniffling. "It's not fair at all. Oh Kunzite-sama, when will I get a chance to prove myself?"

Kunzite gently stroked Zoisite's head, which felt very comforting. He felt the younger man's pain. He also felt rancor about the disrespect shown but he always believed that openly showing negative emotions was a sign of weakness. "Shhhh, Zoisite, calm down. You will get your chance soon enough. Just wait patiently. The impatient always lose."

The blonde young man raised his head a bit. "But what if Nephrite does succeed? I will never be promoted to rank as general!"

"Now now, Zoisite, don't talk like that," Kunzite scolded gently. "We can always oust Nephrite for his treachery. But for now, let's see what he can do. And remember not to question Beryl's orders."

* * * * * * * *


"So how did the meeting go, sir?" Miki asked Nephrite. She noticed he had a smile on his face. "I see you look very pleased."

'Nothing gets past you, Miki.' "Well girls, I have wonderful news that I know will give you great pleasure," answered the star shitennou.

"Oooo. What is it?" asked Yukari.

"Beryl has handed the assignment of finding the legendary ginzuishou to me," answered Nephrite. An idea of how to carry out the scheme was slowly coming to him.

"That is wonderful news!" commented Ruby. "It is also the wisest decision Beryl has ever made. Zoisite is not worthy of such a complicated task." 'Taking out the trash in the Dark Kingdom would be a better job for the vermin.'

"That he isn't." From the way the henchwomen were so thrilled, it wouldn't be necessary for Nephrite to tell them he had something to do with Zoisite's job being handed to him. He was sure they would figure it out for themselves, considering how intuitive they were.

"So do you have any idea where to find the ginzuishou?" asked Yukari, brushing a strand of hair away from her eyes.

"I do. It is quite possible that Princess Diamond of the Diamond Kingdom may be in possession of it."

"Now that you've mentioned it, someone stuck an invitation in the door not too long ago, while you were at the meeting," said Yukari. She handed her master an envelope she had been holding.

"Thank you." Nephrite took the envelope, and then opened and skimmed the invite. "YOU HAVE BEEN CORDIALLY INVITED TO THE DINNER PARTY OF PRINCESS DIAMOND," it said. The time and location were also listed. 'How very kind of the humans, and foolish too. Saves me the trouble of having to infiltrate the party.' "Well ladies, how would you like to help me with this scheme?"

The henchwomen's eyes brightened, like someone who had been given permission to open a gift one day early.

"Of course!"

"I would be honored!"

"Just tell how we can help."

Nephrite knew he was lucky to have minions so cooperative... and efficient too.

* * * * * * * *

Usagi had arrived home from the senshi meeting, with Luna walking by her side. "Hello! Anybody home?" the blonde girl called, coming inside and shutting the door. She took off her moccasins.

"Welcome home, Usagi-chan!" Mr. Tsukino greeted, poking his head out of the bathroom he shared with his wife.

Usagi saw that he was dressed in a black tuxedo, and was puzzled. "Dad, why are you all dressed up?"

"I will be going to the dinner party. I received an invite at work," answered Kenji ecstatically. He gave his hair one last combing and headed towards the door.

'I guess Mom has already left too... man that meeting didn't help at all. If I miss this tonight, I'll die!' "Oh Dad, may I go with you? Please? " the blonde teen begged. "I'll be ready in a flash."

"I know you will, honey. However, you cannot go without an invitation. I will tell you all about it tomorrow." He exited the house and shut the door.

"Oh no! Everyone is going except for me! Staying home by myself while everyone will get to meet the princess and have dinner will be no fun at all! I told Rei we couldn't go!" Usagi whined. 'Not to mention I won't know if Princess Diamond is our moon princess. There has got to be some way I can go.' Then it came to her. "I know!"

"What? You've come up with a plan?" asked Luna. The black cat knew when the blonde used those words she often had an idea that was very questionable. She was afraid to ask what it was.

"Yup." Usagi took out her Luna Pen and laughed. 'Oh why didn't I think of it before? I'm such an idiot!'

Luna groaned. "Not again."

Usagi barely heard her guardian. "Moon Power! Turn me into a beautiful princess!" The young teen's school uniform changed into a pale lavender, off the shoulder, strapless two layered gown. The top of the dress was decorated with red roses. She wore dainty high heels and her odangos were held in place with scrunchies made of roses. She opened her parasol and spun around. "Oh I feel so glamorous!"

"You do look lovely," said Luna. "However, the Luna Pen is not to be used as a toy."

"But I'm not, really!" Usagi rubbed the bridge of her nose. It was so frustrating when Luna would think low of her. "Don't you remember the sailor senshi meeting we just had? It was agreed we would find a way to see the princess. I plan to meet her after I eat and talk to some of the guys. I'll be working very hard."

"I suppose. When you're not eating."

"Exactly right."

Luna began to have a bad feeling. 'There is no doubt that the Dark Kingdom would try to make an appearance. We should be prepared.'

* * * * * * * *

Mamoru had been taking a small cat nap before the ball. As quiet and peaceful his apartment was, he was having trouble sleeping. He had a dream.

*Dream begins*

After another battle with the Dark Kingdom, Tuxedo Kamen was about to head for home. A silhouette of a princess with very long pigtails and a ball gown appeared.

"Tuxedo Kamen-sama, please find the ginzuishou! My heart is aching without you,' the princess said, her voice barely above a whisper.

Though Tuxedo Kamen couldn't see the princess' face, something was vaguely familiar about her, "Mine does, too. Not to worry, I will keep searching for the crystal so we can be together again.'

*Dream ends*

Mamoru sat up with a start. The intensity of the dream caused him to sweat profusely. 'It's that dream again. And I have no idea why, but I feel like I have a connection to the girl. She bears a close resemblance to Usako.' The raven haired young man wasn't sure what to make of the dream. 'It really bothers me.'

* * * * * * * *


Ruby had just finished preparing for the ball. She was dressed in a black spaghetti strapped gown with ruffles at the bottom. Her long, wavy thick cherry colored hair was pinned on the top of her head, with the exception of one curly strand hanging on the side. For jewelry she wore dangly red leaf-shaped earrings and a choker. Her choice of shoes was black flats. She took one last look in the mirror, to make sure neither her eye makeup nor lipstick was smeared. She gave a look of distaste, as if she were uncomfortable in the attire. 'Oh well,' the red head youma thought. 'This is just going to be for a little while... it won't hurt.' She went to see if Miki and Yukari were ready.

Miki was finishing up applying her sister's makeup for her. Yukari sat still for a few more minutes.

"All right, sister, all finished now," said Miki. She handed Yukari a mirror to take a look at the handiwork.

Yukari took a look and was amazed by what she saw. She could barely tell she had makeup on. 'How did she do that? Every time I try to do it I make a mess of it, making me look like a clown.'

"So what do you think, Yukari?" asked Miki. "Do you like it?" 'I hope her silence doesn't mean she is unhappy with it.'

"That I do," answered the twin. "You're a professional!"

Miki's face flushed with embarrassment. "No I am not. It just takes practice."

"If you say so."

Just then, Ruby appeared in Yukari's bedroom. "Hello, girls. I see you're ready. "

"Oh, hi there Ruby. Yes we are." Yukari wasn't startled by Ruby this time, as she had sensed her presence. She turned to face her comrade, and was in awe. 'Oh, why is it that Ruby could pull off the formal look better than I can?' was what came to her mind. "You look fabulous."

"Thank you." The younger woman blushed. She eyed the twins in their halter neck gowns. "You two look marvelous as well. I see you are wearing your hair loose, Miki."

Miki looked embarrassed. "Yes, well... " Wearing her hair out of braids was a rarity for her and something she considered a supreme sacrifice. "It's only because of this party."

"I know. Well your hair is very pretty."

"Thank you. I am glad you think so." 'Maybe I should wear it this way more often.' "Let's see how Master Nephrite is coming along, shall we?"

"Yes. Knowing him, I am sure he is waiting for us," agreed Yukari. She and the others teleported to the planetarium. Sure enough, he was there, seeming to be deep in thought about something. They were not sure what to do, as they didn't want to interrupt him. They discreetly admired him in his tuxedo.

'Oh he looks so snazzy in his tuxedo,' thought Miki. Another thing she noticed was the color of the tux he had chosen - navy blue. 'Good on him for daring to be different from Cape Boy.'

"Excuse me sir. Sorry for keeping you waiting," said Yukari, curtsying.

Nephrite turned to face his henchwomen. "Not to worry. You girls are just in time."

Yukari looked relieved. She was afraid she had spent too much time primping.

Ruby just thought of something. "So, Master Nephrite, do you suppose you'll see that little girl you had asked me to take to the hospital a few weeks ago?" It wasn't the fondest memory she had.

"Her name is Naru. Perhaps I will." Nephrite wasn't sure why, but he found himself hoping he would see the girl. 'This will be the perfect task to use her "love" for. She saved me from Beryl's wrath before and I am sure she will again.'

"So that is her name," said Miki. "I wouldn't mind meeting her myself." 'I especially want to see if she is worth Master Nephrite's time... if she isn't, I will not step aside.'

"You will have your chance soon enough." Nephrite put on the masquerade mask. First order of business after his work was done was to dispose of the mask.

"So what are the plans, Master Nephrite?" Yukari inquired.

Nephrite smiled... he considered this scheme to be his most full proof one yet. "If Naru is present, I will soften her and use her to turn Princess Diamond into my servant."

Miki caught on. "Oh... your shadow self?"


"I thought so." 'To be honest I prefer that method. These humans are so fragile, dealing with them harshly isn't worth the effort.'

"I want you girls to mingle at the party and I will alert you when the time is right," continued Nephrite. "Try to remain on guard as much as possible."

"Yes sir."

Nephrite and the henchwomen teleported to the Diamond Kingdom embassy.

* * * * * * * *

Having remembered their master's orders, the trio of youma decided to head off to the refreshment table whilst Nephrite decided to go look for Naru. There were so many people at the party that finding Naru would be challenging, for the girl could be anywhere. He finally spotted her in a corner, looking very lonely. 'Hmmhmmhmmhmm... so she is here. Excellent. It seems destiny has caused us to cross paths once again.' He proceeded to walk towards her.

Naru seemed to be in her own world. 'Oh, this party is soo boring. And I wish I had a more grownup dress... this one is so babyish.' She mentally kicked herself for not choosing something more sophisticated than the aqua one.

"Hello, Naru-san," said Nephrite in his smooth Masato Sanjouin voice. "It is a pleasure to see you again."

'That sounds like Sanjouin-san... or am I just dreaming? He has no time for a little girl like me.' Naru looked up and gasped. 'Oh, so it is him. I should have known he might be here.' "It's good to see you too."

Nephrite took off his mask, realizing Naru might not have recognized him with it on. "You do remember me, don't you?"

"Of course I do. You're Masato Sanjouin." All of a sudden she felt shy. 'Okay. That was pathetic. Why am I being so quiet when I want to get to know him?' "My mom is busy this evening, so she sent me in her place."

"So I see," said the star shitennou. He took her hands in his. "May I have this dance?"

Naru felt slightly weak in the knees. "Yes. I'd like that very much," she answered shyly. "I must warn you though, my dancing skills are horrible."

"You don't really expect me to believe that. Someone as lovely and graceful as you?" "Nephrite placed an arm around the girl's waist.

Naru's face turned bright crimson. "You really think so?" She placed a hand on his shoulder and proceeded to waltz around the ballroom floor with him. It went much better than expected. With the ballroom music adding to the mood, she felt like a princess who had met her Prince Charming. 'I don't want this moment to end. It's like a dream come true.'

"I was right. You were just being modest." Nephrite had to admit, he enjoyed the feeling of the red head's touch. It was so soothing he nearly forgot that he had a very important mission.

Usagi watched Naru and Nephrite dance. "Wow, Naru already has a partner. Lucky her." Unbeknownst to her, Naru's dancing partner was her archenemy. 'I wish I had someone to dance with... I hope Tuxedo Kamen-sama comes.' "I think I'll go find Dad."

Mr. Tsukino was taking many different pictures of the dinner party so he would have some to show his daughter. He spotted his daughter standing within just a few feet from him. "She looks just like Usagi-chan. Could it be that she found some way to attend the ball?" 'Nah. Security is much too tight.' "Maybe she is a Usagi look-alike. I have to take a picture of her. Usagi will have a hard time believing this!"

Usagi just shrugged her shoulders. "I guess he doesn't recognize me after all. This is just as well, because I don't know how I would explain to him that I got passed security."

Just then, a woman carrying a glass of wine came towards Usagi. She proceeded to hand it to a friend of hers standing behind the blonde. The lady spilled it on Usagi's gown by mistake.

"Oh no! My dress!" There was a huge stain on her gown. 'Oh this is just great. Now everyone is going to make fun of me.' Fearing her dress would be ruined, she headed for the bathroom to attempt to mop the stain up.

* * * * * * * *

Tuxedo Kamen was standing outside the embassy. He went towards the main entrance, but saw that it was heavily guarded by security guards. 'It looks as if I will have to find an alternate entrance inside. Going through the main way is out of the question, for I don't have an invitation.'

Just then, Usagi came wandering outside the embassy. "Which way should I go to the restroom? Huh?" She had no intention of wasting the entire party looking for it. She proceeded to climb up the flight of stairs she spotted. 'Who would have thought it would be hard just to find that stupid bathroom? At this rate, the stain is never gonna come out!'

The masked man's mind had wandered a bit. It took hearing Usagi's voice to alert him. "Huh? Who is that?" he wondered. He glanced at the blonde climbing up the steps. 'I feel like I have seen her before.' Looking at Usagi made him recall the dream he had that afternoon, about the princess asking him for the ginzuishou. 'She looks identical to the princess in my dream. Could she be that girl?' Tuxedo Kamen noticed that there didn't seem to be any guards on the staircase Usagi used. 'Of course! Why hadn't I thought of using that passage before?'

Meanwhile, Naru and Nephrite had taken a break from dancing and were now standing outside on the balcony. Naru was glad to come outside because although she enjoyed the dance, from the corner of her eye, she could see people looking as if they were jealous, not to mention her feet had been becoming sore. 'Maybe he has something to tell how he feels about me,' was what went through her mind. For her, it could be the only reason why he would want to be with her alone.

'I know... he is going to tell me he likes me,' thought Naru.

"Naru-chan, it has been a pleasure seeing you again. I enjoy your company," said Nephrite. "Your eyes are more beautiful than the stars in the heavens." He took her hand and proceeded to lead her away from the balcony window.

The red head blushed at Nephrite's flattery, and his touch made her feel butterflies in her stomach, and she felt warm and tingly inside. 'Oh Masato-san is really a wonderful man... I wonder if he wants to ask me out. If he does, this is how I would want our date to be. Or better yet, maybe he is going to kiss me.' She closed her eyes and imagined what it would be like to kiss him. She was almost certain she would feel the way she was feeling at the moment.

The star shitennou noticed that the red head seemed distracted. "What's the matter? Do I make you feel uncomfortable? Come on. Look at me." He lifted the girl's chin slightly.

"Oh Masato-san." Naru looked up at Nephrite a bit more. 'So he is going to kiss me! Why else would he raise my chin the way he did?' She closed her eyes once again and puckered her lips.

"That's much better." 'You naïve fool. You will be my pawn.' All of a sudden Nephrite proceeded to laugh evilly and his hair started to blow in wild ringlets, as if there were a strong hurricane wind. He placed an arm out in a supernatural manner, creating a shadow youma. He then transferred the youma into the young teen, possessing her. "From now on, you will become a servant to the Dark Kingdom and I will be your only master!"

"Yes," agreed the possessed Naru. Her voice was crackled and choked and her complexion turned purple. She gave Nephrite an evil grin.

"Now go find Princess Diamond!" the chestnut haired young man barked.

"Yes Master." The possessed Naru went back inside.

Nephrite gave an evil chuckle. 'Thank you very much, Naru. Thanks to you, the ginzuishou will be mine.' He telepathically summoned his henchwomen, letting them know it was time to put the main part of the plan into motion. They appeared instantaneously.

"What shall we do now, Master Nephrite?" asked Miki.

"I have sent Naru to call the princess. For now we will wait for the princess here. When she comes, that will be when I seize the crystal. I want you girls to remain on guard just in case those meddlesome senshi interfere." It was true that the senshi didn't have any invitation to the event, but he couldn't be positive they wouldn't find some way to appear. Not after the previous battle when he nearly lost Castor and Pollux.

"As you wish, sir," said Ruby. 'Destroying those girls would be a piece of cake.'

* * * * * * * *

Naru finally found Princess Diamond's room. It seemed to be a large one, with two doors. 'This place is definitely fitting for a princess... too bad it will all be destroyed.' She walked towards the princess' room to knock on the door, but two men who were guarding the door blocked her way. "Sorry, this area is off limits for guests."

'Stupid weakling humans... they can't stop me.' "I am friends with the princess. She asked me to come up here." 'Of course that's not true but what does it matter?'

"Well, all right then. If you say so." The men sounded doubtful, but there was nothing they could do but take her word for it.

Princess Diamond had blunt cut brown hair held in place by a yellow crown with a large jewel in the center. She also wore glasses. Her dress was red with a pink sash tied around the waist as well as a frilly collar.

The princess was preparing her speech for when she presented the crystal. She placed the crystal inside its case, a purple colored one. She looked frightened and nervous. "Oh why can't Daddy present the crystal himself?" she pondered aloud. "I hate talking in front of people. Besides, I'm not very pretty. All those people will make fun of me!" All of a sudden, she heard knocking on the door. "Come on in."

The two men opened the door. "This girl said she is a friend of yours and that you asked her to come up here," one of them explained, leading Naru in.

The princess had a funny look on her face. She didn't recall making such a request, or meeting the girl. 'Is the pressure getting to me? Am I going crazy?' "Leave us to talk alone."

The gentlemen left and closed the door.

Naru looked around the room and saw that she was correct about her guesses of how the princess' bedroom looked. It certainly was very regal, with teal colored curtains and a lavender wall lined with gold, a dark pink rug as well as a stage with a red throne. 'How magnificent for a human dwelling place.'

The brunette princess turned to face Naru and gave her a warm smile. "Well you seem like a nice person. What's your name? And how do you do?"

The possessed Naru looked at Princess Diamond with disdain. 'She is so sweet it is making me sick. Well not for long.' "That's none of your business!"

The princess didn't expect to hear that. "Oh I'm very sorry."

Naru cackled evilly as she passed the youma she had been possessed by, into the princess. The princess shrieked as if she were in pain. However, the action was too much for Naru's body that she collapsed.

The possessed Princess Diamond laughed menacingly. "Sweet dreams, foolish human." She grabbed the box that encased her crystal. Just as she was about to leave the room, the two security guards opened the door again, this time accompanied by her father. "Are you all right, princess? We heard you screaming."

The princess just laughed and exited the room, shoving past them. "Get out of my way and rid the castle of all those security guards!"

The father watched his daughter go, looking bewildered. "What's the matter with my daughter? Why is she so aggressive?"

"I'm not sure what happened," answered one of the men. "But it does seem like she is not in her right mind."

* * * * * * * *

Rei and Ami had been keeping an eye on all the events at the ball and had not noticed anything suspicious going on until that very moment. Rei and Luna felt what seemed like a sinister force nearby.

"My fear seems to have come true. I have a bad feeling the Dark Kingdom may have heard about this crystal. You girls had better prepare yourselves just in case the worst happens. "

"Right," agreed Rei. 'We have to make sure Usagi knows about this as well. Knowing her, she only came to this party to goof off.' She and Ami went to find somewhere to transform.

Princess Diamond went outside and stood on the balcony. It was as if the shadow youma had been telling her where to go. 'Master, I am happy to serve you in any way that I can.'

"Princess, down here!" yelled an unfamiliar male's voice gruffly. "Throw me the ginzuishou!" The star shitennou laughed. 'If all goes according to plan, the power of the ginzuishou shall be MINE!' He knew this was his last chance to completely please Beryl.

"Yes Master!" Princess Diamond lifted the jewelry box, about to toss it to Nephrite.

Contrary to what Rei had thought, Usagi rushed outside and had an expression of horror when she saw what the princess was about to do. She thought about what would happen if Nephrite got his hands on the crystal. "Princess Diamond, no! You can't give that to him!"

The words barely left Usagi's mouth in time. In response, the princess gave the blonde a scathing glare and shoved her off the balcony.

"AAAAHHHH!" shrieked Usagi as she fell, thinking this would be the end of her. She braced herself for serious injury or death, whichever came first. Tuxedo Kamen quickly reached down and grabbed her arm before she hit the ground.

Ruby gritted her teeth at the fact that the blonde dared to interfere with Nephrite's plan. "Silly human girl, if you think I'm going to allow you to stop Master Nephrite, think again! Say goodbye!" The cherry haired youma fired a barrage of crystal shards at Usagi and Tuxedo Kamen. The razor sharp projectiles merely nicked the masked man's hand, but pierced the blonde's forearm, causing it to bleed. It stung like hell, but she was too busy thinking about her near death experience to cry out in pain.

"Well done!" Diamond congratulated Ruby. "Now where was I before I was so rudely interrupted? Oh yes. "She held out the jewelry box. "Give this to Master."

"Sure thing." Ruby levitated off the ground, towards the princess and took the crystal case from her, then floated back to the ground. She handed the jewelry box to Nephrite.

"NOOOO!" screamed Usagi. However, she was hanging on for dear life so there was nothing she could do. All she could do was think of how she would deal with Nephrite and his henchwomen if she weren't in such a predicament. 'Please hurry, Rei and Ami.'

"Excellent." Nephrite gave an evil grin as he held the box. 'Finally... the universe will be doused into darkness.' He also got the satisfaction knowing he outsmarted Zoisite again. All of a sudden he got a feeling that he should check inside the case, to make sure the crystal was the correct one. He opened the box and instantly knew why he had such a nagging feeling. His grin turned into a frown. Inside was a large white figurine. The terrible realization hit him; Beryl had sent him to check out the wrong crystal. 'What a waste of my time.'

"Master Nephrite? Is something wrong?" Ruby asked, noticing her master's displeased expression.

"This isn't the legendary crystal," answered Nephrite. The more he thought about it, the angrier he felt. He was fighting the urge to just smash the statue on the ground, but knew it would be unbecoming of him to do so. Instead, he handed the box back to Ruby for her to see.

"Well I can't say I'm surprised," said Ruby.

"WHAT?!" yelled Yukari. "You mean Beryl sent us out here for nothing?!" 'Not to mention how much these shoes make my feet hurt.'

"It appears so," said Miki. "Why does that surprise you anyway, Yukari? You know Beryl is an idiot."

"True." Yukari patted her pincurls hairdo.

Princess Diamond decided to have some fun with Tuxedo Kamen. "Prepare for your imminent death!" She pushed him over the balcony but he used the upper part of his body to stop from falling. Luna pounced on the princess. "AAAH, you rotten fleabag!" the girl screeched.

Nephrite glared at the cape hero. "Tuxedo Kamen, you have interfered with my plans for the last time. As punishment, you and your princess will die a painful death!" The young man prepared to launch an attack.

"Fire Soul!"

The fireball swirled towards Nephrite. Ruby saw it coming, teleported in front of her master and created a reflective force field. She dropped the jewelry box in the process. The attack was redirected back at Mars and knocked the senshi of fire to her knees.

Under normal circumstances, Nephrite would be surprised at being shielded that way, but he wasn't this time. His henchwomen had proven their loyalty ages ago. 'Would Naru-san do the same for me?'

"What the hell?" Sailor Mars got back on her feet and glowered at Ruby. "It doesn't matter! Tuxedo Kamen will live on forever!"

"I don't think so!" Ruby shot another barrage of crystal shards, this time at the masked man. Yukari and Miki launched their attacks as well.

Tuxedo Kamen was so taken off guard at the attack that he lost his grip on Usagi. Her glove started to come off and she fell along with Tuxedo Kamen.

"Usagi-chan!" The feline guardian grabbed the blonde's parasol and tossed it to her.

"Thanks!" Usagi caught the umbrella. She opened the parasol and it helped steadied her and the caped hero. They floated safely to the ground.

Usagi heaved a sigh of relief. "Whew. That was close."

Nephrite looked extremely disgusted. He turned to face his female minions. "Well girls, there is no reason to remain here. Let's go."

"All right, sir." The women knew not to question their master, especially when he seemed to be in a foul mood. They turned to face Mars, Usagi and Mercury. "You got lucky this time, girlie girls, but soon we will find that crystal and when we do, your world will fall!" said Ruby. She gave an evil laugh and disappeared along with the twins and Nephrite.

* * * * * * * *


After changing into more comfortable clothing, Miki went to check on Nephrite. Her twin and Ruby had decided to give him some time alone.

Nephrite didn't seem to mind Miki's presence. After all, he always appreciated concern from his henchwomen.

Miki bowed respectfully. "I want you to know that I, as well as the others feel your anger, Master Nephrite. Tonight was a total waste of time." 'Though I have to admit, the food was acceptable.'

"That it was. I failed. Queen Beryl won't like this." Nephrite clenched his fists at the thought of being turned into an ice sculpture.

Miki narrowed her eyes. "Oh, forget Beryl. If she punishes you for failure when she sent you after the wrong crystal, then she is more of a has-been than I thought. Yukari, Ruby and I will help you in your quest. No need to worry. "

Of course, knowing Beryl, she would never accept that excuse. Even so, Nephrite's displeasure was appeased. "You are right. And I appreciate your assistance." 'From this day forward, I shan't be taking any more orders from Beryl.'

* * * * * * * *

return to Index / go to Chapter 15

The Nephrite and Naru Treasury