Slow Process to Redemption
by Keren Olivero

Chapter 15

* * * * * * * *

Several weeks had passed since the Diamond ball, and Naru had found herself thinking about Nephrite more and more, to the extent where he was almost constantly on her mind. She dreamt about him more frequently. Not even going to the private pool with her best friend was enough to take her mind off of him. She especially found it weird that while she had been waiting for him to kiss her, it felt like everything went into pitch-blackness and the next thing she knew, she had been laying on the floor.

Naru heaved a sigh as she sat on the edge of the poolside and placed both of her feet in the water. 'Oh I haven't seen Sanjouin-san in three weeks...I hope I see him again soon.' She proceeded to daydream again.

*Daydream begins*

It was an extremely windy day. It was so windy that an assortment of leaves was blowing everywhere. Nephrite happened to be standing in the midst of it all.

Naru showed up at the park. She smiled when she saw her new ideal soulmate. She walked a bit closer to him.

Nephrite saw the red head, and smiled. He stretched out an arm, as if he were telling her to come to him and take his hand. "Naru-chan."

Naru placed her hand in his, which sent a shiver through her. She realized how much she loved holding his hand. 'Oh do have love for me after all.'

Nephrite embraced Naru around her waist. He leaned over, preparing to kiss her.

*Daydream ends*

The dream was interrupted by Naru being splashed in her face. 'What the heck?' She looked up only to see it was Usagi splashing her. "There, there, now you are awake!" the blonde was saying.

The red head sighed. Usagi and her childish antics. "Oh Usagi-chan, grow up, would you? You're so immature."

"Oh, I am working on it." Usagi pretended to look offended. "Since when have you become so mature?"

Naru dreamily placed her chin in her hands. Her heart proceeded to pound just thinking about what was going on. "I am involved in a mature romance with my ideal soulmate."

'Oh. So that's what's up, why she was spacing out.' "Oooo,"teased the blonde. "Is it Umino?"

Naru gave her friend a funny look. Date Umino? Never in a million years. "Oh no. He's much more sophisticated than him. He's an older guy, at least college aged. He's very handsome and kind."

'College aged...could it be...' Usagi's expression turned into one of dread as she thought of all college aged guys she knew. "It had better not be Tuxedo Kamen-sama or Motoki oni-san. They belong to me!"

"It's neither of them, so no need to worry," Naru reassured her friend. "To put you out of your misery I'll just tell you. It's Masato Sanjouin."

That was a response Usagi didn't expect to hear. "AAAHHH!" she shrieked.

'She's not in love with him, so what is the problem?' "Usagi, why are you freaking out about it? I know he's a few years older than I am but age difference doesn't matter when it comes to true love."

The age difference was of little importance to Usagi. 'If she only knew.' "Just stay away from that guy! He's no good for you!"

Naru bristled with anger. She didn't think her friend knew who he was, so she hadn't felt it was Usagi's place to say anything. "Usagi-chan, you're just jealous! Forgot I told you!" She stormed off.

'Oh brother,' thought Usagi. 'What am I going to do? I don't want her to be mad at me, but I don't want her to be in danger.' She got out of the pool, wrapped a towel around herself and went inside the bathroom to change. That done, she headed for home. 'Perhaps Luna and the other girls can help with this.'

* * * * * * * *

After a quick shower and a change of clothing, Usagi hurried off to meet her friends at the Hikawa shrine. Although Rei hadn't said anything, Usagi could tell the senshi of fire was annoyed at her tardiness by the facial expression. There was so much tension in the air. "Hi everybody!" She sat on the temple porch opposite Ami and Rei.

"Hi there, Usagi-chan," answered Ami.

Rei grunted in reply. "Hello yourself," she grumbled. "So what's the big crisis?" 'Knowing Usagi it is probably nothing.'

"Um..." Usagi wondered how to say what she had to say, for she knew the girls would not be thrilled to hear the news. 'Oh Rei is going to blow a gasket. I'm sure of it.' She decided to just say it flat out. "Naru-chan is in love with Masato Sanjouin."

"What?!" Ami and Rei exclaimed. Rei looked like smoke was going to come out of her ears. 'Is she crazy?! He would kill her!'

"Oh dear," muttered Luna. All she could think about was what could possibly happen to Naru: The Dark Kingdom youma coming after her, Nephrite possibly killing her himself...the fears were endless.

"Yes. I tried to warn her about him but she just blew me off and accused me of being jealous of her."

"Hmm," said Luna. "It certainly is a problem. "

"Major problem," agreed Usagi glumly. "What do we do?"

Rei felt a bit calmer. "We simply have to tell Naru who Masato Sanjouin really is, even though it will hurt her," she said. "Also, we have to keep an eye on those strange women we saw with Nephrite at Princess Diamond's party. Who knows what they will do to Naru if she gets too close to him."

"That's true." Ami looked thoughtful. "I mean, of course those women are obviously our enemies, but they didn't seem to have respect for Queen Beryl. We don't know how they will react, nor do we know how Nephrite will respond to her love. I think we should just wait awhile and see what happens."

Luna thought Ami was making sense. 'However, we cannot take such a chance where Naru's safety is involved.'

Usagi, however, wasn't too sure about what Ami said. "Well she is my best friend so let me decide how to handle this situation." She started choking after hitting her chest by mistake.

Luna groaned. "Too bad we have to leave anything up to Usagi. "

* * * * * * * *

Meanwhile, Ruby was in the living room, showing Miki and Yukari a recipe. She had told Nephrite where she and her friends would be if he needed them, and to let them if he came up with a scheme to find the ginzuishou. "Looks good, doesn't it?"

Miki smiled. Ruby knew her food weaknesses all too well. "It most certainly does."

"We should try it one of these evenings," suggested Yukari.

"Don't worry. We will. That's why I wanted to show you guys first." All of a sudden Ruby could sense someone summoning her and it wasn't Nephrite, either. 'Oh, what could that ugly witch want with me now?'

"Ruby? What's the matter?" asked Miki, concerned.

"Beryl is calling me. I have no idea why. I'd better go see what she wants." She disappeared from the living room.

Miki shook her head. "That Beryl hasn't changed a bit."

A terrible thought struck Yukari. "Do you think she is going to force us under her service once again?"

Miki gave a repulsed look. "No way in hell. I would rather eat worms than work for that hag again. Besides, if she had planned to take us back, she would have done so long ago."

"Very true. Well I hope everything will work out."

* * * * * * * *

(throne room)

Ruby appeared before Beryl without even bowing respectfully before her or looking her in the eye. Now that she had absolutely no respect for the evil woman whatsoever, she wasn't going to hide the disrespect anymore. "Yes?" 'I hope she makes it quick because right now I feel like I'm gonna puke.'

"Where has your wastrel of a master, Nephrite gone to?" Beryl demanded. "No matter how many times I have called him, he refuses to appear!"

At first, Ruby looked surprised. 'I had no idea she had been calling for him.' Then her face turned bright red with fury at the fact that Beryl would dare to insult her master that way. She looked Beryl straight in the eye. "I don't know. Maybe he is weary of hearing your grating voice or boring lectures. If that were the case, I certainly do not blame him." 'Did I just say that aloud?'

Beryl was speechless. That was a slap in the face. 'I guess Nephrite didn't teach his youma how to respect me. He is more worthless than I thought.'

Some of the lower ranked servants gasped at the way Ruby spoke to Beryl and began whispering amongst themselves, things like, "Wow! I could never build up the nerve to say something like that!" and "She is so stupid. Does she not have any respect?"

"SILENCE!" Beryl roared.

The youma instantly quieted down. Ruby cringed at the sound of Beryl's voice. 'I will need some eardrops after this. Dang, do my ears hurt.'

The nefarious queen glowered at Ruby. "How dare you speak to me that way? As a result of your disrespect, you and your little friends will face the same consequences as Nephrite when he experiences my displeasure!"

Ruby was tempted to say, "Oooo. I'm so scared," but found Beryl to not be worth those words. She tossed her hair over her shoulders. "Whatever." She disappeared from the throne room in a flash.

Over in a corner, Zoisite was hovering in midair, and found the whole thing amusing, and gratifying too. It seemed his wait was nearly over. 'What an insolent little wench...she deserves death. It's a pity Nephrite will join her.' He gave an evil cackle.

* * * * * * * *


Nephrite could hear Beryl calling him, but he wasn't interested in hearing what the witch queen had to say. Plus he knew he would be in trouble for not retrieving the crystal even though it hadn't been his fault.

'Now that my task for collecting energy is complete, I have to somehow find a way to seize the legendary ginzuishou,' thought the star shitennou. He was beginning to feel hopeful.

Just then, Zoisite appeared in the mansion, laughing incessantly.

Nephrite's deep in thought expression turned into a scowl. He was not in the mood for his rival's annoying antics. "You again! What do you want?"

"Oh, you really shouldn't be so hostile towards me, my dear," said the tawny haired shitennou. "Not when I have only come to give you some friendly advice. Beryl is in a rage and demands your presence at once."

Nephrite rolled his eyes. "Did you come to tell me that on your own or are you merely a messenger for Kunzite?"

Zoisite looked shocked. 'My my, such combativeness!' "I am guessing from your attitude you do not have a plan, nor do you seem to care what your fate will be. Oh, and if I were you, I would teach your chief henchwomen to have respect for Queen Beryl."

Nephrite was not about to allow Zoisite to give him any guilt trips. Firstly he had taught them to at least hide their disrespect towards the queen and secondly, if they decided not to anymore, it wasn't his problem, for he no longer had respect for her either. "It is not your concern! Now get lost!"

Zoisite feigned a hurt expression. "Why must you always yell at me? I am only trying to help you not to face the wrath of Beryl. You would be doing yourself a favor if you stepped aside and let me take over."

"Hold your peace," barked Nephrite, seeing red. "Once I find the legendary ginzuishou, she will have nothing to complain about." 'And shutting you up once and for all will be the icing on the cake. You will never measure up to my rank.'

Zoisite caught on to what the older shitennou was trying to do, and did not like it one bit. "You're very offensive! Finding the ginzuishou is my job!" He balled his hands into fists and started trembling with fury.

Nephrite was amazed by the sakura king's seemingly selective memory. "Have you forgotten Beryl has given the job to me? But if you insist, the first to find the ginzuishou will possess its power."

"How dare you! Don't think you'll get away with this!" Seething, Zoisite disappeared from the mansion.

Nephrite rolled his eyes again. "Pathetic," he muttered, both towards Zoisite's little threats and the fact that he lost his temper with someone as petty as the sakura. 'His cherry blossoms are no match for my star power. Now, I must clear my mind.' "The stars know everything. When the sun makes a sinister perpendicular angle between Neptune and Mars, a kurozuishou will be created - which will lead me to the ginzuishou. I will be its master."

The star shitennou concentrated deeply and he clasped his hands together as he tapped into the stars' powers. Energy ribbons pulsated from the stars and a little while later, a small cylinder shaped black crystal dropped. Some energy crackled around the stone. Nephrite picked it up.

'This will be my guide to the ginzuishou.' All of a sudden, the kurozuishou decided to glow, and it revealed an image of Naru in her bikini. "Huh? Naru-san is in possession of the ginzuishou?" Nephrite thought this was just his luck. During the past few weeks he was thinking about the girl, if he would ever need her assistance again, and now here was his chance to cross paths with her again. 'Coming up with a scheme will be simple. The ginzuishou will soon be mine.'

* * * * * * * *


Zoisite was so distraught that he couldn't even think of a plot for revenge. Instead he had just let out tears of anger. Having a good cry about the situation made him feel a bit better, but he was still in distress. He cuddled close to his mentor and lover.

"Tears do not suit you, Zoisite," said Kunzite.

"I know." The sakura sniffled. "Oh Kunzite-sama, this is so distressing. He has humiliated me for the last time."

"Let Nephrite do as he wishes," said the white haired man. 'Considering how incompetent he is, I doubt he will succeed.'

Zoisite had a feeling Kunzite would say something like that. 'How could he say something like that so calmly, as if Nephrite's haughtiness does not bother him?' "But what if he does find the ginzuishou?"

"If he does, then just steal it."

Zoisite started to beam. "Oh Kunzite-sama, you're a genius!"

The older man smiled. He was glad he was able to make his pupil feel better. "Meanwhile, make sure Yasha keeps a close eye on him."

"Yes, Kunzite-sama." The sakura shitennou turned around. "You heard him. Do as you're told, understand?"

A strange looking figure clad in white appeared from the shadows. "Yes, I understand perfectly, Zoisite-sama."

* * * * * * * *


Nephrite had thought of an idea to lure Naru into handing over the ginzuishou. He summoned his henchwomen...they appeared at once.

"Yes sir." Ruby bowed respectfully. She didn't know if that moment was a good time to tell her master about the big blowup with Beryl, so she didn't say anything else.

"We're at your service, Master Nephrite," said Miki.

"Any luck locating the ginzuishou?" inquired Yukari. 'Such a task can become very long and drawn out.'

"Yes there is." Nephrite smiled. He showed the young women the kurozuishou he created. "According to this black crystal, Osaka Naru-san is the key to finding it."

"Congratulations," said Yukari. "This was an easier task than I thought."

A part of Ruby felt a bit uneasy at the mention of the young girl's name, but at the same time being influenced by the girl's generosity didn't seem to be such a terrible thing under the current circumstances. "I know you have concocted the perfect scheme to retrieve it from her. And it shouldn't be too difficult either, considering what a naive girl she is."

"Is there anything we can do to help?" asked Miki. "Or would you be fine by yourself?"

Nephrite considered doing this task on his own, since it would be simple to get it from a girl who was too kind for her own good, like Ruby said. But he learned from experience about how the senshi were so troublesome that they made a very simple task extremely difficult. 'Some extra backup will not hurt.' "Yes. Stay hidden and keep watch just in case those pesky senshi interfere."

"All right." Although the job didn't sound like much, Miki didn't mind, as she knew she and the other women could attack if they had to.

* * * * * * * *

Visiting Motoki at the arcade as well as getting some advice from him gave Usagi the courage to talk to Naru. She headed over to her best friend's home.

"Okay...remember what Motoki-san told you...the worst that can happen is that she would be angry with you," Usagi said in a pep talk to herself. 'I can't thank Motoki-san enough for giving me the strength to go through with this.' She reached out and rang the doorbell.

"Coming!" called a teen girl's voice. A few seconds later, the door opened. It was Naru. "Hi Usagi-chan! What's up?"

'Just talk,' said a voice in Usagi's head. She drew in a deep breath. "Naru-chan, I need you to listen to me and listen well. I've wrapped up every ounce of courage to tell you that Masato Sanjouin is not good for you at all. In fact, he is very evil and not even a human. Getting involved with someone like him will only get you in trouble. So just wipe him from your mind and pretend you never met him. I want you to understand that I am not saying this because I am jealous. I am only saying this because I want the best for you."

It took awhile for the words to sink in. Masato-san, evil? It just couldn't be true. Ever since Naru had met him, she couldn't remember him being anything but kind. 'She's been making this up since this afternoon and she didn't give me proof on this stuff she is saying.' "No you don't! You are just being judgmental of him. Listen, if you don't like him, fine, but don't make up lies when you don't even know him!"

Usagi's jaw dropped open and she felt like she had been punched in the stomach, even though she had been warned that this was a possibility. "But Naru-chan!" she started to plead.

"Just forget it!" The red head went inside and slammed the door shut. She didn't want to see her friend for awhile.

"Great, she hates me," Usagi muttered. Tears of frustration stung at her eyes and she left for home.

* * * * * * * *

"So how did it go?" asked Luna, when Usagi returned and glumly sat on her bed. "Were you able to tell Naru all about Nephrite?"

'Rats! I've been hoping she wouldn't ask that. But I can't lie about it. She will find out sooner or later.' "Yes. It was hard but I told her the entire truth. But it didn't go so well." That was an understatement, but she didn't want Luna to know about the severity of the situation.

"Why do you say that?" asked Luna, looking concerned. "How did she take it?"

The small fight with Naru was the last thing Usagi wanted to talk about, but she could use some advice. 'It sucks feeling like I did something wrong when I know in my heart I did the right thing.' "Well...she's mad at me...I don't think she'll ever speak to me again."

Luna didn't look too happy to hear that, but she wasn't too surprised, given how much Naru loved Nephrite.

Usagi gave a sad sigh. "I should have just kept my big mouth shut."

"No, you did nothing wrong. She is just in a state of shock. Give her time; she'll eventually realize you are only looking out for her. I should have gone with you to help confirm."

"Oh I hope you're right, but at this point I doubt it." Even though Usagi had eaten a large meal not too long ago, she went to drown her sorrows in some jelly buns her mother had made.

* * * * * * * *

Naru was sitting at a desk in her room, trying to study for an English test. However, she was unable to concentrate because all she could think about was Nephrite and the fight she had with her best friend. 'Maybe I overreacted with Usagi-chan...but what she said about Sanjouin-san cannot be true. He has always been nice to me.' She proceeded to daydream the recurrent dream she had been having about him lately, once again. She stopped when she heard her mother calling her name.

"Telephone, Naru-chan! It's Masato Sanjouin!"

Naru's face lit up. 'That dream must mean we are destined to be together!' Quite a few questions entered her mind, like what could he want? She excitedly ran downstairs and grabbed the phone. "Hi Sanjouin-sama...yes I know Sankaku Park, it's around the corner. All right. I will meet you there in a few minutes." She hung up. She took off her bedroom slippers and slipped on her orange shoes. "Mom, I'm going to the park for awhile. Sanjouin-sama wants to see me." She stepped out the door.

"What? This late?" Mrs. Osaka stood by the door, looking worried as she watched her daughter go. 'I hope she will be safe.'

Naru picked a red rose off the rosebush in the garden, placed it in a pocket of her skirt, and then raced off to the park. She felt a bit scared as she knew weirdos were out at such a late hour. But luckily, nothing happened. She didn't slow down until she finally arrived at the park and spotted Nephrite sitting on the park's bench, waiting for her. She sat next to him. "Hi Sanjouin-san." She reached into her pocket, pulled out the rose and handed it to him. "This is for you."

Nephrite looked surprised at such a gesture, but took the rose anyway. "Thank you." He placed the rose in the pocket of his yellow shirt. "Forgive me for calling you so late."

Suddenly the red head felt like she was too far away from Nephrite. She scooted a bit closer to the chestnut haired young man. "Don't worry. I am so happy to be out here with you, no matter what time it is. And thank you for calling me."

The star shitennou gave a small smile. He had to admit, he was pleased to see her, and not just because he had a "favor" to ask, either. He felt rather calm and warm inside, which was how he had been feeling around her lately. 'No room for have work to do,' scolded a voice inside his head. "Naru-chan, I have come to say goodbye to you."

Naru's mood took a nosedive. 'I am such a fool. How could I think he would be interested in a fourteen year old?' "What? Oh I see. I guess you've finally gotten tired of a lowly teenager like me bothering you."

The star shitennou secretly swore for disappointing the girl. But it was exactly how he planned. "You're no bother at all, Naru-chan. I just don't want to see you get hurt."

"What?" Naru was relieved in a way but still confused. "Then what is the matter?"

"I am being threatened by very dangerous people and I like you far too much to involve you in a dangerous situation. Unless I can have your assistance, we will have to part ways."

Naru's heart broke when she heard that. 'Oh no this is terrible. I have to save him somehow. I cannot bear to say goodbye to him, ever.' "Of course I'll help! What do you need?"

'Good. She is falling for it.' "It's the ginzuishou. If I have the ginzuishou, I'll be a free man. Now let's see - sorry. I have said too much."

"Ginzuishou?" repeated Naru. She recalled a time her mother had ordered a rare gem for the Osa.P store. 'That has to be it, considering its value! And Sanjouin-sama needs it badly.' "Good news, Sanjouin-sama! I think I know what you're looking for. I'll be right back!" She dashed back home.

Nephrite gave an evil chuckle as he watched the girl go. 'This task is much simpler than I thought. A pity this world will be destroyed.'

* * * * * * * *

(Osa.P shop)

Naru was searching for the keyset for the door to the safe. 'I have to hurry! If Mom finds me here, she will kill me!' She found the keys on a nearby table. 'I am certain one of the keys on this ring is the one for the cabinet.' She tried several of the keys, but neither of them fit. 'Oh, it must be the one.' The red head tried the remaining key and the door opened easily. Sure enough, there was the gem. "Oh how beautiful," she commented.

All of a sudden, Naru heard footsteps, then a voice asking," Who's in here? And what are you doing?" She nearly fell over with fright.

'Oh no, that's Mom! So much for trying to get this jewel without her knowing.' The red head froze, realizing she had been caught. 'I should have kept my mouth shut and wait till I got outside to admire the gem.' The keys fell out of her hand.

Mrs. Osaka entered the shop and had a look of horror when she saw her daughter holding the store's most valuable gem. "What are you doing, Naru?"

"Um..." All of a sudden, Naru's mind went blank. How was she going to explain to her mother that the man she loved was in danger and she needed the gem to help him? 'No I couldn't. Mom would never understand.'

"Tell me," pleaded the older woman.

"Oh Mom...I am so sorry. Please forgive me!" She ran out of the store with the gem in her hand`.

"Naru, wait!" Mrs. Osaka called after her daughter. "Oh Naru, what is going on with you?"

* * * * * * * *

Usagi was on her way to Naru's house once again. This time, Luna was with her. The blonde was so worn out that she was dragging her feet the entire time. She stopped by a pole. "Why are we out here so late? Do you know this is the time when muggers and robbers are out? "

Luna sighed. 'Must I explain everything to this girl?' "I am well aware of that, Usagi-chan, but you have got to patch things up with your friend and make sure she understands about Nephrite. The last thing we need is for her to fall victim to him and learn the hard way, which is bound to happen if he is still on the hunt for the crystal."

"Oh's no use," said Usagi. Thinking about the spat was extremely depressing and she would have gone crazy worrying about what happened. It was only when she saw someone who seemed to be approaching her she decided not to. She gasped when she saw who it was. "That's Naru-chan's mom."

"Usagi, have you seen Naru?" asked Mrs. Osaka, looking worried.

"Oh no. I haven't seen her since our fight," answered Usagi. "Sorry."

"Yes," said Mrs. Osaka, putting a hand on her forehead. "I do remember her telling me about a spat, but she hadn't told me the details."

Usagi breathed a sigh of relief. She didn't want her friend's mom to think she had been mean. "Did something happen to Naru-chan?"

"She took a jewel from the safe and ran away!"

Usagi frowned...stealing didn't sound like something her friend would do. What was going on here? "What? Why did she do that?"

"I don't know. She just ran out when Masato Sanjouin had called."

That was all Usagi needed to know. It was all she could do not to grit her teeth. "Oh he is a very evil man! Don't worry Mrs. Osaka, we will find her." She proceeded to sprint to the park. "Oh Nephrite is gonna pay for toying with Naru's feelings!"

"You must transform into Sailor Moon!" said Luna.

Usagi stopped in her tracks. "I'm on it! Moon Prism Power, Make Up!" Once transformed, the blonde and Luna continued their way to the park. 'Perhaps Naru will listen to me as Sailor Moon.'

* * * * * * * *

Naru gave the gem she stole from the store, to Nephrite. "I hope this is what you need," she told him. "It is the rarest gem in our shop."

The deep auburn haired man took the gem from the young teen and examined it. 'Now this looks more like the ginzuishou.' He tested the gem with his kurozuishou, to see if it was the right one. 'If it is, then my theory is correct.' However, nothing happened at all. 'This gem is worthless,' he thought, disgusted. 'On the other hand, I appreciate your effort, Naru-chan.'

Naru smiled. 'I am so proud. I actually helped Sanjouin-san with his problem. Perhaps we can be together forever.'

Nephrite was about to hand the jewel back to the red head when all of a sudden, something unexpected happened. The kurozuishou proceeded to glow. 'Strange...the kurozuishou is reacting, but not to this gem.' He was showed an image of Naru surrounded by an extremely powerful crimson colored aura. 'I sense something about Naru-chan that is worth investigating.'

Naru chuckled softly. 'Oh he is so adorable when thinking about something.' The small argument with Usagi was the furthest thing from her mind at the moment.

Nephrite glanced up at the red head. "I need your assistance once again, dearest Naru-chan. Will you come with me, just for a little while?" He placed an arm around Naru's dainty shoulders. "Let us go, shall we?"

Once again, Naru's skin tingled and she got butterflies in her stomach. "Sure." Side by side, she and Nephrite walked away. 'I wonder where he is taking me.'

Unbeknownst to the couple, there was a small youma with long black hair with a mask as a disguise soaring in the air, watching them from a distance. She proceeded to follow them. The star shitennou's henchwomen were in the shadows watching too, just in case something happened.

"Master Nephrite seems to be happy with that girl, doesn't he?" Yukari whispered to her twin.

"That he does," Miki whispered back. 'I am beginning to know what he sees in her, as fragile as she might be. She is certainly helpful. It's a shame her kindness will be her undoing.'

'I admit I am beginning to become fond of that girl. At first I was concerned about her seducing Master Nephrite, but at this point I won't complain if he chooses her over the Dark Kingdom,' thought Ruby. "Hey girls! It's Yasha!" she whispered loudly.

Miki and Yukari looked up, and saw the small youma. "What is she doing here?" asked Miki. "And she is so hideously ugly I feel like I am going to lose my dinner."

"I agree," said Ruby. "I don't know, but I have a hunch this is Zoisite's doing. I wouldn't put it past that sleazy vermin."

"Well, we will just have to keep an eye on her as well," spoke up Yukari. 'I wonder what she wants with Master Nephrite, anyway.'

"Stop right there!" a familiar female voice called after Nephrite and Naru. They stopped short and looked to see who it was, Nephrite doing so sharply. Standing there was Sailor Moon with her hands on her hips.

"Shame on you for toying with the emotions of young girls! You deserve to be arrested for romance fraud!"

Nephrite glared at the moon senshi for daring to interrupt his scheme - although he had forgotten about it for a millisecond and was taken by Naru's warmth. "Don't interfere with my affairs if you wish to survive," he warned.

"I am the pretty senshi of love and justice, Sailor Moon! And in the name of the moon, I'll punish you!"

For a moment, Naru was unsure of what to say, since she had resolved not to be explosive about the situation anymore. "Sailor Moon, what are you talking about? I'm not in danger."

Sailor Moon looked her friend in the eye, knowing this was her last chance to convince her. "Oh yes you are. You are in more danger than you think. This man's real name is Nephrite, and he wants to destroy our world! Get it?"

Naru heard that claim before, from her best friend. 'I hope it wasn't a coincidence. But even so, I still cannot fathom that possibility.' "But how can you say that when you don't know him?" she protested. She turned to face Nephrite for backup. "Please say she's lying, Sanjouin-sama."

'It is time you see a small sample of my true nature, little girl.' Nephrite gave a battle roar and shot a pale blue burst of energy at the blonde senshi. It swirled towards her, dealing her a direct hit.

"AAAAH!" Moon screeched as the attack sent her flying several feet. 'Geez, so much power. And I thought Jadeite was bad.' She stooped up on her knees.

"Stars, give me power," Nephrite softly chanted. He placed his hands together and more swirls of pale blue energy shot through his hands and the bursts of energy fell out of the sky like a rain shower, destroying the concrete.

"Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!" Although Moon hadn't taken a direct hit from this attack, she was paralyzed with fear, and incapacitated.

Luna groaned. She wondered if the blonde had lapsed back into her wimpy self. "Sailor Moon, pull yourself together!"

Naru looked on in total shock. She never suspected the man she loved was capable of such power. 'This is worse than the monsters that tried to attack me. Usagi-chan was right.' As frightened as she was, she somehow knew in her heart he would never harm her in such a way.

"This is the beginning of the end for you, Sailor Moon!" taunted the star shitennou. He folded his arms across his chest, creating a small planet with a star on each corner. "Starlight Attack!" He launched it at the frightened little girl.

To avoid the force of the attack, Moon kicked back several feet. The sidewalk was annihilated instead.

'Darn it!' "You may have escaped my attack, but I won't miss next time," vowed Nephrite. He hoped Naru took the hint and fled.

'That was too close.' Moon quivered and whimpered with fear, biting her hand.

"I beg to differ!" yelled another female's voice.

"Need some help, Sailor Moon?"

'I know those voices. Are they really here or is this just wishful thinking?' Sailor Moon hoped she wasn't going crazy. After all she did need some assistance. She looked around happily and saw her two fellow senshi. Their voices gave her the strength to rise to her feet.

"Sailor Mars is here!" announced the raven haired girl.

"Not to mention Sailor Mercury as well!"

'Great. An annoying interruption.' "Three senshi altogether, how convenient! I will send you all to hell together!" He proceeded to generate his attack once more. Surely the destruction of all three senshi would be enough to get Beryl off his back.

"Shabon Spray!" The barrage of bubbles had come toward the chestnut haired young man so suddenly that he was caught off guard and had no chance to dodge the attack. He swore under his breath. "Where are they?"

"Fire Soul!" The fireball swirled towards Nephrite, only Naru saw the attack. "Sanjouin-san, look out!" The red head dashed in front of the shitennou and pushed him out of the way. The fireball dissipated. "I hope you're all right."

Nephrite was absolutely dumbfounded. "Naru-chan, you're still here."

"Yes I am."

The senshi were speechless, Mars especially. 'Dang it, I can't believe she did that. What was she thinking?'

"Don't worry, Mars. I'll get him for you!" Moon reassured the frazzled senshi of fire. She took off her tiara and tossed it. "Moon Tiara Action!"

"It can't be!" Nephrite didn't even bother evading the attack as he saw the tiara coming for him. He saw what it did to his battle youma and he knew it would at least severely wound him, if not kill him on impact.

Naru's heart pounded with fear even more than before. "Masato-san, nooooo!" Fortunately, the adrenaline fueled her body enough to move in the tiara's trajectory. She stood in front of Nephrite and spread both of her arms to the sides.

The senshi gasped as they watched the red head do this. Nephrite was even more surprised than before. 'She is a mere human. She will never withstand the attack.'

"Naru-chan, what are you doing?" asked the star shitennou. "Don't be a fool!"

"Protecting you!" answered Naru.

Moon screamed with fright as she watched the tiara travel closer and closer to her best friend. "Tiara, please stop!"

Naru wrinkled her brow and looked away as the tiara headed for her. To everyone's surprise, the tiara weapon fell on the floor. Moon picked it up. "I can't believe it stopped."

"I won't allow you to hurt him!" said Naru in a no-nonsense tone.

"Naru, we can't let him escape," said Mercury.

"Step aside right now!" ordered the raven haired senshi.

"Not a chance!" replied the red head stubbornly. "You will have to kill me too!"

'Why would she protect someone like me?' wondered Nephrite. Sure, Ruby had protected him before but this was different when coming from a human.

"Why would you protect such an evil man?" asked the senshi of ice.

Tears streamed down the red head's face as she answered, "Because I love this man with all my heart. I will protect him at all costs, even if it means my own death."

"Oh Naru-chan..." the moon senshi began. She really didn't know what to say to that. 'This romance certainly IS mature...not some puppy love. Naru seems so much older than me in that respect.'

All this motivated Nephrite's henchwomen to come out of hiding. They were flabbergasted by what they had seen. They heard of human love before but had never seen it shown to such an extent. They appeared in front of the girl. Ruby stepped forward."So you are Naru," she said.

"Yes," answered Naru a bit shyly. She stepped back a bit...although the lady seemed to be nice enough, one could never be too careful. "Who are you?"

"I'm Ruby," answered the woman. "And this is Miki and Yukari. "

"Nice to meet you all." Naru took a good look at the young woman and believed the name was quite fitting for her, with her deep red hair which was much redder than hers.

"We have been watching you," said Miki.

Naru was a bit freaked out by that. She hoped they didn't intend to kidnap her. "You have?" she managed to squeak out.

Miki nodded. "We saw how you protected Master Nephrite, and are moved by it. I can see you care very deeply for him."

"I do." Naru blushed. She hoped it wasn't a problem, like one of them being jealous of her or something.

"Well, for what you have done, I thank you," said Yukari.

Ruby placed a hand across her chest. "I am forever in your debt."

Before Naru could answer, Nephrite's kurozuishou proceeded to glow once more. "It appears the kurozuishou is affected by Naru-chan's presence alone. Could it be reacting to her kind heart?" he wondered. He thought back to when it had first reacted. It had not reacted to her gem, for it was not the right one, but rather the kind gesture of bringing the gem.

All of a sudden, Yasha appeared in front of the chestnut haired shitennou and saw the black colored crystal in his hand. "Is that the ginzuishou?! Give it to me!" The small statured youma tried to snatch the crystal away from Nephrite, but he knocked her hands away. He dropped it by mistake.

Naru picked up the kurozuishou and prepared to give it back to Nephrite.

Yasha altered direction and lunged at Naru. "I want that ginzuishou!"

"AAAAAH!" shrieked the red haired girl. There was no time to run.

"Naru-chan!" Nephrite cried out, shooting a blast of star energy at the youma. The attack knocked her back and split her mask in two.

Sailor Moon was in total shock. "Naru-chan, he just saved you. I can't believe it!" 'Could I have been wrong about him?'

"I knew Sanjouin-san cared about me," said Naru. "He protected me from that creepy monster." The intensity of the entire incident made her collapse.

Nephrite examined his hands. 'What have I done? It appears to have been an impulsive action on my part. Is this the way humans live?'

Yasha covered her damaged face with both of her hands. She turned into her true form - a hideous monster with shaggy white hair, sharp teeth and horns that could be used as a drill bit weapon. "How dare you attack me in defense of a human? Whose side are you on?! For that, I shall destroy you!" Her horns turned into drill bits and she flew towards the star shitennou, intending to create a flesh wound in the area of his abdomen.

Nephrite took the youma by her horns and tossed her into the air.

"Destruction of the traitor!" taunted the small youma.

"Not if I have anything to say about that!" said Yukari. "Take this!" She threw one of her glass fans at Yasha. The fan weapon shredded the monster's dress and blood started spouting. The brunette youma turned to face the moon senshi. "Finish her off, Sailor Moon!"

Moon found it rather odd for one of her supposed enemies to be giving orders to destroy someone on the Dark Kingdom side, but she was glad to do it. "I'm on it! Moon Tiara Action!" The youma took the full brunt of the blow.

"AAAAH! You have destroyed me!" With that, the youma disintegrated.

'I could barely believe it!' thought the moon senshi. 'I, Nephrite and his cronies actually fought on the same side today!' Was this the beginning of a change? If so, she welcomed it.

* * * * * * * *

Nephrite reached into his pants pocket, took out a pen and a small piece of paper, scribbled something on the sheet and placed it as well as the gem into her hand, balling her hand into a fist. He turned to leave.

"Nephrite, I gotta say, you sure surprised me when you saved Naru-chan's life," said Moon. "Thank you so much."

Nephrite looked at the moon senshi and her two friends. He still wasn't sure why he rescued Naru and why he thought of her instead of his kurozuishou. "No gratitude is necessary, Sailor Moon. I simply returned the favor. And just because we have joined forces this time, don't think it's going to happen again."

"But Nephrite..." Sailor Moon started to protest. The words she wanted to say escaped her. 'Oh great. No wonder he doesn't take me seriously. '

"Ruby, please escort Naru-san home," said Nephrite. 'I am sure her family is very worried.' He disappeared from the site.

"Yes sir." The cherry haired youma bent over and gently picked up the girl's unconscious form whilst the other two henchwomen followed their master.

"Sanjouin-sama," Naru mumbled, regaining consciousness for just a minute. A star shot out of her forehead. Ruby teleported away with the teen's body in tow.

Sailor Moon saw the shooting star and took it as a good omen, because she had a wish in mind. She closed her eyes and clasped her hands together. 'Oh shooting star, my wish is that if Nephrite genuinely cares for my friend, help him to completely conquer the darkness within his heart.'

* * * * * * * *

Nephrite decided it would be a good time to find the answer to his question, now that there wouldn't be any interruptions this time. He was on his way to figuring out what was causing his kurozuishou to react when he had been rudely interrupted - twice. He transported himself to the girl's room. Even better, she appeared to be asleep. He smiled at how beautiful she looked while sleeping.

The star shitennou took out his kurozuishou and once again, it proceeded to glow. 'How strange. Why would the crystal react to her when I created it for the sole purpose of finding the ginzuishou? It doesn't make sense. Unless..." Nephrite thought of one more possibility. Maybe the ginzuishou was actually inside of the girl's body. That had to be it.

Using the power of the kurozuishou, Nephrite took a look under the sheets and into Naru's body. The kurozuishou had provided x-ray vision, but there was no luck. 'There is no ginzuishou inside her.'

Nephrite frowned with confusion. The stars had no reason to lie to him. Or had they known the condition of his heart, and the real reason Naru had been on his mind?

Considering the previous moments the kurozuishou reacted, Nephrite now knew without a doubt that it was responding to the girl's unwavering love for him. However, the course of action he planned to take was still uncertain.


Note: To be continued in the thrilling conclusion to the Nephrite series, "The Gift of Love"! Stay tuned!

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The Nephrite and Naru Treasury