24 Hours to Life
by Moon Momma

6:00 pm, Dark Kingdom/Tokyo

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Jadeite regained consciousness amidst shards of shattered crystal. Cursing at the sharp points and edges that poked and cut, he carefully pushed himself to a sitting position, then stood. The room he was in, some sort of storage room, he guessed, was littered with rubble. If there had ever been a doorway into the room, it was completely obscured now. No matter; he didn't need doors. He fixed his mind on a vision of his quarters, and teleported.

The suite of cavern-like rooms he had occupied before his punishment was also filled with rubble and debris. It looked like the Sailor Senshi had done some serious damage to the Dark Kingdom when they fought Beryl and Metallia. He went to the trunk where he had stored the various outfits he had worn as part of his energy-gathering schemes on Earth. He wasn't sure why he had kept them; as souvenirs, he supposed, though he didn't know why he would have wanted to keep any mementos of those humiliating failures. Or maybe he had meant to re-use them. Either way, he was glad now that he had them.

He dug through the outfits until he found the suit he had worn for the talent show scheme. It should look normal enough for him to pass without attracting any attention, if he switched out the ruffled shirt for a plain one - he found the white t-shirt he had worn beneath the cruise ship captain's uniform - and left off the bow tie and vest. He took off his shredded uniform, wiped off the dirt and the blood from his scratches as best he could - the erratic supply of running water in the Dark Kingdom, never reliable at the best of times, seemed to have dried up - and dressed.

When he looked as presentable as he was going to, he tried to fix his mind on a part of Tokyo he could remember clearly. Not the airport, though, no matter how vividly it stood out in his mind. He didn't care to risk nearly getting run over by a jumbo jet again. The harborside walk, next to where the cruise ship had set sail from - that was better. Safer, anyway.

Right before he teleported, he remembered that if he was going to be able to survive at all in the human world he would need money. He knelt beside his trunk and rummaged through it again, picking out all the pocket change he could find that he had somehow ended up with during his dealings on Earth. He counted it up; it wasn't much, but maybe he could at least get a meal while he figured out how to contact all the people who had been caught up in his schemes and where he was going to get the money to issue them their refunds, all in the short twenty-four hours he'd been given.

It seemed hopeless, but he'd rather be hopeless on Earth than in the dank, dead Dark Kingdom. With the sparse handful of money in his pocket, he fixed his mind on the harbor walk and teleported.

* * * * * * * *

It was a beautiful early evening; late spring or early summer, he guessed when he materialized among the crowds on the harbor walk. Couples and families as well as people on their own were walking past, intent on their destinations or just enjoying a relaxed stroll. Jadeite found a noodle vendor and bought a bowl of noodles in hot, salty broth. The sticks he was given to eat the noodles with were a challenge, but he managed to eat the whole bowl without spilling food on his one presentable suit of clothing. He supposed he could have dressed in the gym trainer outfit, but that would have attracted too much attention; the women who had signed up for the weight-loss program at his gym had seemed extremely taken by it. He wasn't going to lie to himself and pretend that he didn't know he was attractive to women, but he had been surprised at the commotion that the human females had raised over him. A commotion he'd rather avoid right now.

So. How was he going to reach hundreds of people, very few of whom he'd ever actually met, in twenty-four hours? The answer was obvious - he'd have to place ads on TV and radio and in the newspapers. That was how he'd found his victims before. But in only one day, and without any money, it wasn't going to be easy. And to make things worse, he couldn't do anything illegal or harmful to accomplish his goals. After centuries in the Dark Kingdom, did he even know any other way of doing things?

And how in the world was he supposed to refund millions or even billions of yen when all he had was spare change? Not to mention finding Thetis and convincing her to forgive him. If he had any sense at all, he would just give up now, before he put himself through a lot of trouble, work, and humiliation for nothing. He was a failure, always had been and always would be.

He must not have any sense, though, because the thought of giving up so easily made him want to fight back. He might be a failure, but at least he would fail while trying his best.

He found a bench facing the harbor and sat down, staring moodily out over the water and trying to figure out how in the world he was going to do this.

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The Nephrite and Naru Treasury