24 Hours to Life
by Moon Momma

7:00 pm, Tokyo
Nephrite, Jadeite, Kunzite, Zoisite

* * * * * * * *

Nephrite left his mansion, feeling more confused than ever. The power and internet connection at his house were still working; he'd set them up with a special magical connection, wanting something more reliable than a mundane, earthly connection, and that appeared to have survived his death. But his cell phone was no longer active, and, more worrying, his online banking log-ins showed no sign of his accounts. All his money seemed to have vanished. There were no newspaper articles mentioning him or public business records with his name on them; none of the things he had set up to support his assumed identity of Sanjouin Masato, young millionaire businessman, were anywhere in evidence.

The missing bank accounts could be explained by the fact that they had been inactive so long, though it seemed to him that it should take longer than three years of inactivity for bank accounts and their money to completely vanish to wherever abandoned accounts went. The lack of newspaper articles and documentation could also be explained by his three years' absence. But then, you'd think that if a young millionaire businessman had suddenly gone missing there would be articles about that, gossip about where he had vanished to, police reports, that sort of thing.

But there was nothing. His internet search had turned up not a single mention of "Sanjouin Masato." Something strange was going on, something that the voice hadn't seen fit to mention to him.

Naru-chan had to remember him, though. After what they had gone through together, after what they had shared in the short time they had together, she couldn't have forgotten him. It had to have meant more to her than that. He thought about going to her house, then remembered that Naru-chan had taken a jewel from her mother's safe for him. Sanjouin Masato was probably not welcome at the Osaka home, at least as far as Naru's mother was concerned. He would have to think of another way to meet her. The school day was over, so it was too late to wait for her outside of her school, if he could even figure out which school she was at. She would be in high school now, and he didn't know which one she went to.

Maybe the Sailor Senshi could tell him. But did he really want to meet them? True, at the time of his death they seemed to have softened towards him, but would they really have forgiven him? He had no idea what they'd gone through to defeat Beryl and the Dark Kingdom, or what had happened to them since then. If they'd had to fight more enemies, they might not be friendly towards a former enemy who suddenly reappeared. The last thing he wanted was to lose his second chance at life in a hasty attack by the Senshi.

He drove for a while without paying attention to where he was going or what he was doing except as needed to avoid getting in an accident. Then he caught himself; he was wasting precious time. He looked at his surroundings, and found that he was near the harbor. It was a busy area, filled with couples on dates and families and groups of friends or co-workers on outings. The walkway was lined with trees and benches, and it was a pleasant place for one person alone to walk unnoticed and think about things.

He parked the car along the street, then got out and ambled along the walkway, hands jammed in his jacket pockets, wondering how he was going to apologize to people who didn't remember him and how he was going to make his way in a world where it seemed he had never even existed. He had a place to live, and plenty of cash in his wallet to keep him going for quite some time. But his carefully-prepared documentation, proving his Earth identity, was going to be hard to replace, and his bank accounts seemed to have vanished. How was he going to make amends to the people he had wronged without access to his money and when they didn't even remember that he had ever existed, when he only had twenty-four hours?

A familiar figure sitting on a bench caught his eye. Surprised, he stopped. The clothes were different, tuxedo trousers and jacket, worn with a white t-shirt; a stylish blend of elegant and casual. But the person wearing the outfit was probably oblivious to his fashion-forwardness, and had just put on whatever he could find. Because there was no doubt that the man on the bench was Jadeite.

Well, it made sense. If he had been given a second chance at life, why shouldn't the others have been, too? He supposed, looking back on the friendship and camaraderie they had once shared, he should be glad, and he didn't mind seeing Jadeite again, but he wasn't sure he was ready to renew his acquaintance with Zoisite and Kunzite. Not after they'd plotted against him and killed him.

He sauntered over to the bench. Jadeite appeared deep in thought, a discontented look on his face, and didn't notice him. Nephrite came to a stop right in front of the bench and said, "Jadeite."

"Huh?" Jadeite said, and looked up. His eyes widened in surprise. "Nephrite! What are you doing here?"

Nephrite sat down on the bench next to him. "Same thing as you, I suppose. I take it the voice, whoever it was, freed you from the crystal."

"How did - well, of course. If they, or it, or whoever it was, gave me a chance to come back, I guess there's no reason why they wouldn't have given you the same chance. So, what do you have to do?"

"I have twenty-four hours to apologize and make monetary reparations to the people I harmed with my plans, and also -" He hesitated, then decided there was no reason not to tell the one person in the world who might understand. "Do you remember a young human girl, who seemed to be a friend of Sailor Moon's, or at least she had a talent for being rescued by Sailor Moon? Red-haired girl, always wore a blue or green bow in her hair?"

Jadeite's brows drew together in thought. "Yeah, I think I remember. Cute little redhead. What about her?"

"She... I..." It wasn't easy to talk about after all, and he still wasn't completely sure what had happened. "She fell for me. Hard. And I fell for her, but it was too late; Zoisite found out what was going on, and used her to get to me, and killed me right in front of her. I'll never forget the way she cried... Anyway. I have to win her heart. Which shouldn't be so hard, except that none of the people I've approached so far to apologize to even remember me. I don't think she would forget me, though..."

"What do you mean, they don't remember you?" Jadeite demanded.

It was almost a relief to turn the conversation away from Naru-chan. "They didn't remember me. I approached them in person, and they swore they'd never seen me before in their lives. What's even more strange is I couldn't find any mention of my Earth identity or the things I'd done on any of the newspapers' websites. And they should have been mentioned - I made sure they were newsworthy."

"Nothing?" Jadeite asked. "Are you sure?"

"Not a word," Nephrite said. "And what's even worse, the documentation I set up for my young millionaire businessman identity is gone, and so are my bank accounts. I had a lot of money stashed away, and now it's all gone."

"Well, damn," Jadeite said. "I have to find all the people I took money from in my schemes and issue apologies and refunds. It's hundreds of people. I was thinking I would advertise for them, but that won't do any good if they don't remember what happened. Not that it would do any good anyway, since there's no way I can find them all and come up with the money to give them their refunds in only twenty-four hours. And that's not even considering the two jet planes and three city buses I damaged."

They both sat in unhappy silence for a moment. "It was a nice thought while it lasted, I guess," Jadeite went on. "That we could come back and have a second chance to get it right this time, you and your red-haired girl, and me and..." He trailed off.

"You and Thetis?" Nephrite asked quietly.

"Yeah. I have to get her to forgive me. I'm sure she won't have forgotten me; as for forgiving me, that's something else entirely. After I let her get killed in that cruise scheme, there's no way she'll ever forgive me."

"I believe there's an Earth saying that covers your situation," Nephrite said.

"What?" Jadeite grunted.

"Sucks to be you."

Jadeite let out a huge sigh. "Tell me about it."

They sank back into their unhappy silence, sitting slouched on the bench. A few minutes later, a deep voice exclaimed, "Nephrite! Jadeite!"

Startled, Nephrite looked up to see Kunzite and Zoisite standing in front of them, wearing tattered and singed Dark Kingdom uniforms. "Just what I needed," he said.

"Good to see you again too, Nephrite," Kunzite said.

"Have a seat," Jadeite said. He scooted over to the end of the bench and Nephrite slid over with him, making room for the other two Generals to sit on the other half. "So, I'm guessing the two of you are in the same situation we are."

"A chance to live again if we can fulfill certain tasks within twenty-four hours?" Kunzite asked.

"Apologies, refunds, make amends with old lovers," Jadeite said.

"Or with current ones," Kunzite murmured.

"Do you mean me?" Zoisite asked. "Because I have no idea what you're talking about." He was blushing.

Nephrite decided not to ask; if there was something happening between Kunzite and Zoisite, he didn't want to be involved. He didn't even want to know.

"I'm right, though?" Jadeite asked.

"Yes. Though I have no idea how we're going to go about finding everyone in such a short time," Kunzite said. "The rainbow crystal carriers should be easy; there were only seven of them, plus the girl who owns the cat. We might owe them money for veterinary bills and therapy. But the customers at the hair salon and the princess training school, and the people who entered the snow princess contest -"

"I thought it was Moon Princess," Zoisite interjected.

"Whatever. And the skating lessons..."

"What was all that about?" Nephrite couldn't help asking.

"I was trying to discover Sailor Moon's identity."

"I could have told you that," Nephrite said, not caring how smug he sounded. "Did it work?"

"No," Kunzite growled.

"We thought we could advertise for anyone who lost money or was otherwise harmed in those plans," Zoisite said, carrying on as Kunzite stewed. "But we don't have any money to buy ads, or even poster paper and markers. Never mind giving out refunds. And we're not allowed to steal it," he pouted.

"There's a even bigger problem," Nephrite said. He hated to break the bad news, even to his old nemesis Zoisite, but he felt obligated to let them know the full extent of the difficulties they faced. "None of them are going to remember, anyway. At least, none of the subjects I contacted remembered anything. And none of my documentation or bank accounts under the name Sanjouin Masato exist any more. It's almost as if..." He trailed off as he spotted a pair of teenagers a distance down the walkway, coming towards the bench where he was sitting. He couldn't see them in detail from this distance, but the girl's wavy, bobbed red hair, tied back with a big blue bow, was unmistakable. "Wait here," he said.

He stood up and started walking towards the pair. He was directly in their line of sight; Naru would have to see him. She did seem to glance at him a few times, but mostly she looked at the harbor or the boy beside her, a young man with tousled brown hair and thick round glasses. Nephrite wasn't sure if he had seen him before or not; maybe around the junior high school that Naru-chan and Tsukino Usagi attended. As Nephrite got closer, he realized that the two of them were holding hands.

A painful feeling seized his chest, making it hard for him to breathe. It's okay, he tried to tell himself. She thinks I'm dead. I can't blame her for wanting to move on. It doesn't mean she's forgotten me. But there was another problem; he had the feeling that stealing her from her new boyfriend would violate the conditions of his second chance.

As he and the young pair drew closer together, Naru gave no more sign of recognizing him. Finally, when they were about to walk into each other, Nephrite stopped in front of them. The young couple was forced to stop as well. Naru stared down at her shoes as though overcome with shyness.

"Osaka Naru," Nephrite said, his voice coming tight and breathless.

She looked up, blushing slightly, but otherwise her face was entirely devoid of emotion. "I'm sorry, do I know you?"

Her words hit him like a punch in the stomach. How could she have forgotten him? He wouldn't have wanted her to be overcome by grief all this time, but he had thought he meant more to her than that.

"What do you want with my girlfriend?" the young man asked belligerently, though his challenging tone didn't entirely cover up the nervous tremble and squeak in his voice.

"I'm sorry. It was rude of me to interrupt your date." Somehow Nephrite was able to make himself smile and keep talking. "Osaka-san, I met your mother once, at a jewelers' convention. She told me about her daughter, and how proud she was of you. You look very much like her, so I guessed it was you. Please forgive me for interrupting your evening and causing you to feel uncomfortable." He bowed his head to the young couple and stood aside, allowing them to continue their walk.

They passed by him, and Naru-chan didn't look back.

Feeling angry and strangely foolish, he returned to the bench where the others were waiting, his hands jammed in his jacket pockets. He didn't want to face them after his humiliating failure, but avoiding them would be as great an admission of failure.

"She didn't remember you," Jadeite said, with just the slightest trace of sympathy in his voice, too slight to be worth the effort of taking offense at it.

"No," Nephrite said. "And even if she did, she's with someone else now. I don't know about the rest of you, but I was told I can't do anything else wrong. That probably includes trying to steal her from him."

A long moment of silence passed. "Sucks to be you," Jadeite finally said.

"Shut up," Nephrite replied.

* * * * * * * *

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The Nephrite and Naru Treasury