by Moon Momma

Chapter 2

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Osaka Kimiko woke up with a prickling feeling that something was wrong. Stress, she told herself as she plumped the pillow and rolled over, trying to relax. Between all the strange things happening in the neighborhood lately and Naru's sudden rebellious behavior, it was no wonder she was on edge. She turned the bedside radio on to a classical music station and tried to go back to sleep. But the prickling feeling wouldn't go away. Finally, with a sigh of resignation, she got up. She would take a look around the apartment, maybe even peek downstairs in the store, even though the alarms were set and the night guard was on duty, just to reassure herself that everything was okay.

She pulled her robe on over her pajamas and slid her feet into her slippers. First she would check on Naru, to make sure her daughter wasn't staying up all night talking on the phone to Usagi or to this Sanjouin Masato who had suddenly captured her attention. Kimiko wondered, not for the first time, if putting a phone line in Naru's room had been such a good idea.

One glance in Naru's room revealed the reason for her unease. Naru wasn't there. The bedcovers were pulled halfway off the bed, as though Naru had been forcibly taken from it, and the window was open, the curtains fluttering in the night breeze. Kimiko ran to the window and looked outside. Though the apartment was only on the second floor, it was a high second floor, because of the high ceilings of the shop downstairs, and it was a long drop to the pavement below. Unless whoever had taken Naru had a ladder or had jumped, they couldn't have gotten out that way.

Kimiko ran to check the front door. Maybe someone had managed to get past the lock and alarm downstairs and unlock the apartment door. But the deadbolt was still fastened and the chain on the inside was still in place. Could a monster like those that had been seen in the city recently have taken Naru? A long drop from the window to the ground wouldn't deter such a creature. Panic gripped Kimiko's chest, squeezing her breath from her body and making her heart pound like a drum. If monsters had taken Naru, the police wouldn't be much help, but no one knew who Sailor Moon was or how to contact her.

Before Kimiko could make up her mind who to call for help, a dark whirlwind appeared in the middle of the hallway. It cleared to reveal a scantily-clad woman with dark purple skin and horns on her head, elbows, and knees, hovering a foot or so above the ground. "Where is she, human?" the monster screeched. "She belongs to you; where are you hiding her?"

"I don't know!" Kimiko cried. "One of your people took her!"

"Fool! How dare you lie to me!" Black lightning shot out from the horns and left a circle of scorch marks on the wall behind Kimiko. She ran into her bedroom to hide. The monster followed her, firing more black lightning that shattered and charred everything it touched. Kimiko dove into the wardrobe, but a lightning bolt splintered it around her. She crawled under her bed and dug her fingernails into the carpet as lightning crackled around her, scorching the sheets and blankets.

Through the crackling and hissing she heard a familiar voice. "...who destroys a nice lady's apartment!"

"Usagi!" Kimiko gasped. She had to warn her daughter's friend of the danger. While the monster's attention was distracted by the newcomer, Kimiko scrambled out from under the bed and ran into the hallway. "Usagi, be careful! There's --" She caught herself up when she saw who stood there. Not Usagi after all, but Sailor Moon. Or...

She looked more closely, at the long blonde ponytails and the girl's features, and something clicked into place. "Usagi?"

"Look out!" the blonde-ponytailed girl shouted. Kimiko turned aside, pressing her body against the wall just as Sailor Moon's golden tiara flew past. It hit the monster, who disappeared with a shriek into a pile of ash.

Kimiko stared at the remains of the monster, and then at her rescuer. "Usagi!"

"You're not supposed to know who I am," the girl pouted. "How did you know?"

"I recognized your voice."

"Rats." Usagi-Sailor Moon chewed her lower lip. "That's a problem. Anyway, is Naru-chan here?"

"No, she isn't. I woke up a few minutes ago feeling like something was wrong, so I went to check on her. She wasn't in her room. It looks like someone took her. And then that -- that thing -- appeared and wanted to know where she is." What little strength she had left suddenly deserted her. She slid down the wall to the floor. Sailor Moon gave her a hand up and helped her to the sofa in the living room.

"I was hoping you would know where she is," Kimiko said when she was settled on the sofa.

"I don't." Sailor Moon sat down beside her. "She was with Nephrite -- Sanjouin Masato, his real name is Nephrite and he's part of a group of evil people called the Dark Kingdom, only I don't think he's so evil any more -- anyway, they were in that big park a few blocks away, and they were attacked by some youma -- those monsters -- and right when we got there, he picked her up and said she was in worse danger than we knew, and disappeared with her."

Kimiko felt faint. "He's got her?"

"Don't worry, Mrs. Osaka." The girl patted her arm. "I don't think he'll hurt her. The other night, you know, when she took the jewel from your safe, he protected her from a Dark Kingdom monster. I think he really cares about her. But I want to know why she's in so much danger."

"I have no idea," Kimiko said. "You don't know what's going on?"

"No." Sailor Moon shook her head for emphasis. "I don't know why she'd be in more danger from the Dark Kingdom than the rest of us. Maybe it's something else." She patted Kimiko's arm again. "Would you like me to make you some tea?"

Kimiko thought of Usagi fumbling and crashing around in her kitchen. She wondered if Sailor Moon was any more coordinated. "No, thank you. I couldn't eat or drink anything right now."

"All right. I better go now. I'll tell you if I find out where Nephrite took Naru, and what's going on."

Kimiko nodded. "Please. I'm so worried."

The young heroine stood, but before she could leave, a swirl of red and white light appeared in the room. The light cleared to reveal a man in a dark blue military-style uniform, with long auburn hair. Kimiko immediately recognized him from the newspaper articles about a certain wildly successful young businessman. "Sanjouin Masato!" she exclaimed at the same moment that Sailor Moon said, "Nephrite!"

He nodded to them. "Mrs. Osaka, Sailor Moon."

"Where is Naru?" Kimiko and Sailor Moon asked at the same time.

"She's safe," Nephrite said. He sat down in a chair across from the sofa, and Sailor Moon rejoined Kimiko on the sofa. Nephrite moved stiffly, as though he had been injured in his chest or shoulder. "Tonight, Naru was kidnapped by some of Zoisite's youma, in an attempt to trap me. I rescued her, and we went into a park to recover for a few moments. While we were there, we were attacked by the same youma who had kidnapped her."

Kimiko's head was spinning. Usagi was Sailor Moon, Sanjouin Masato was some kind of evil magical warrior, Naru had been kidnapped by monsters... How could any of this be real?

Sailor Moon nodded in agreement with Nephrite's story. "I pretty much figured out that part. But who is Zoisite?"

"The lowest-ranking of the four Dark Kingdom generals. He's closely allied with Kunzite, the highest-ranking general. Zoisite is sneaky, vicious, and smart enough by himself, but with Kunzite's power and strategic skills behind him, he's very dangerous."

"Thanks," Sailor Moon said. "We'll be on the lookout. So then what happened with you and Naru?"

"I was injured when one of the Plant Sisters hit me with her thorns. When the youma attacked again, Naru attacked them with fireballs."

"She did what?" Kimiko and Sailor Moon both demanded.

"She summoned fire attacks and destroyed the youma. She also used fire to burn away the thorns and cauterize the wounds. A painful but effective technique," he added as an afterthought.

"I'm sure she isn't a Senshi," Sailor Moon said. "If she was, she would have been revealed a long time ago, what with all the times she's been attacked by youma."

"I agree," Nephrite said. "She says she doesn't know anything about her ability. Do you have any idea where it might have come from, Mrs. Osaka? Have there been any indications at all that Naru might possess this kind of power?"

"None. I have no idea where that came from. We're a normal family, she's always been a normal girl --"

"But we're all really normal, too," Sailor Moon said. "Except for Rei's grandpa, he's weird, but I don't think that's the kind of thing you mean." She clapped a gloved hand over her mouth. "Oh, darn! Now I've given her away. Promise you won't tell anyone?"

An amused smile teased at the corner of Nephrite's mouth. "Her identity is safe with me. And with Mrs. Osaka, I'm sure."

Kimiko nodded, wondering how many other young girls in Naru's circle of acquaintances were mixed up in this business. "I'm completely surprised by all of this. Naru doing what you said she did, the monster that came here --"

"What happened?" Nephrite leaned forward, suddenly looking more alert.

"A youma was attacking Mrs. Osaka when I got here," Sailor Moon said. "It was trying to find out where Naru-chan is."

"Damn," Nephrite said. "That's exactly what I was afraid would happen. The Dark Kingdom, or anyone else with similiar ambitions, would be glad to get their hands on someone like Naru."

"Naru would never help anyone like that!" Sailor Moon said.

"Exactly. So they would brainwash or enslave her, or even turn her into a youma in order to control her powers."

"You mean there are people who would turn my daughter into a monster?" Kimiko asked, horrified.

"Yes. That's why I took Naru away as soon as I realized what kind of power she has. I've made a hiding place where I'll train her to use her powers and become strong enough to control her own destiny instead of being controlled by anyone who wants to use her."

"Could we help her?" Sailor Moon asked.

"That would put her where the Dark Kingdom could easily take her. What I need you to do is keep an eye on Mrs. Osaka, in case anyone else comes here looking for Naru. I promised Naru I'd make sure her mother was safe. Will you do this?"

Kimiko watched the long look that passed between Sailor Moon and Nephrite. They were -- or had been -- enemies, but clearly something had changed recently, something, she suspected, that involved her daughter.

"I will," Sailor Moon said. "I promise. Tell Naru I said so."

"I will." He rose to leave, then Kimiko stopped him. "Mr. Sanjouin -- Nephrite, I mean -- what is my daughter to you?"

He looked thoughtful for a moment. "I'm very fond of Naru. She has saved my life more than once, and in more ways than one. For now, my only intentions are to protect her and to train her to use her powers to protect herself."

"Thank you. I believe she's safe with you." And it was true -- she felt, somehow, that this man would see that no harm came to Naru.

Nephrite bowed his head to her, then disappeared in a swirl of red and white light.

"I'd better get going too, Mrs. Osaka," Sailor Moon said. "I need to tell the other Senshi about all of this. We'll keep an eye on you, even if you can't see us, so try not to be afraid." She went to the front door, unlocked it, and left, leaving Kimiko to wonder how she had gotten into the apartment in the first place. Kimiko shook her head; that was the least of the questions this night had left her with.

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return to Index / go to Chapter 3

The Nephrite and Naru Treasury