24 Hours to Life
by Moon Momma

9:30 pm, Tokyo time
Jadeite, Zoisite, Kunzite

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Jadeite, Kunzite, and Zoisite materialized beside a great concrete driveway that curved past the front of the spectacular, brightly-lit casino. They appeared to be in the exact same spot from which the photo in the travel guide had been taken. Good thing it wasn't an aerial photo, Jadeite thought. A long line of shiny, expensive cars was snaking through the driveway, pausing to let out people dressed in the heights of expensive fashion and then continuing on, driven by either chauffeurs or uniformed valets, to wherever they would be parked while the people they had carried here gambled and drank and watched elaborate entertainments. Not all of the men were wearing tuxedos, many of them were wearing expensively tailored sports coats and shirts, with and without neckties, but the women were dressed to the limits in elegant dresses and jewelry, and the whole scene was so outrageously rich and glamorous that Jadeite didn't feel overdressed in his own tux.

They lingered near the grand, brightly-lit entrance, watching the people going into the casino to see what needed to be done to gain entrance. There seemed to be two methods: you could show your ID at a window and pay an admission fee to receive a ticket, or enter as part of a group, apparently as guests or on a group ticket.

"We don't have IDs," Jadeite whispered. So much for this idea; they were never going to get in. Nephrite should have warned them.

"Look." Kunzite nodded quickly down at his own feet, where a discarded ticket lay. He picked it up. Though dirty and a little smudged, it was otherwise undamaged and still more or less legible. It was dated that very day, at one-something o'clock in the morning. With the smudges, it could possibly pass for nine-something p.m. The name on it was male.

Jadeite and Zoisite nodded, then the three of them scattered into the shrubbery and trees lining the driveway. A few moments later they regrouped, each of them holding a few more discarded tickets. They picked out two more likely-looking ones, then scattered the rest.

Still, Jadeite hesitated. "We've got to be breaking some rules by using these."

Zoisite shrugged. "So? It's not like we're hurting anyone."

"You're right, Jadeite," Kunzite said. "But it isn't as bad as using false IDs, assuming we could get any, or bribing the people at the door to let us in, or stealing a ticket from someone who's still using it."

"If we just give up now," Zoisite added, "we won't have a chance of getting our lives back anyway. We've got nothing to lose, the way I see it. Besides, we're picking up trash and recycling. It's good for the environment."

"All right," Jadeite said. He hated to admit it, but Zoisite and Kunzite were right. Using the discarded tickets was their best chance, and the least wrong of all their possible choices.

They fell in behind an especially large and noisy group and entered, quickly flashing their "recycled" tickets at the briefly overwhelmed doormen. And then they were in. At a row of windows off to one side of the soaring, marble-floored, gold-trimmed foyer, they cashed in a little of the money they had brought in exchange for the gambling tokens used in the casino. Then they went through an arched doorway and entered the temple to greed and luck that was the casino itself.

The vast room was brilliantly lit with enormous crystal chandeliers. An aisle of polished parquet floor led between two raised floors, covered in red carpet, where scores of tables stood, each table surrounded by gamblers. At each table, a man in a ruffled white shirt and red satin bow tie and at least one woman in a low-cut, slinky red satin gown were running the games. Doors at the far end of the room appeared to lead to private gambling rooms. With a final stern reminder to Zoisite that if he cheated this would all be for nothing, the three of them split up to try some different games and see where their fortune lay this night.

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The Nephrite and Naru Treasury