24 Hours to Life
by Moon Momma
11:00 pm, Tokyo
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Nephrite drove towards the block of upscale high-rise apartment buildings where Tsukino Usagi lived with her new husband, Chiba Mamoru, also known as Tuxedo Mask, the one-time Prince of Earth. The wedding announcement in the local Juuban neighborhood paper was only a few months old. Nephrite had been pleased to find the announcement; maybe he just had a more old-fashioned attitude about young girls spending the night at their boyfriends' houses than a lot of people seemed to have these day. And it was good to see the Silver Millennium sweethearts, tragically separated by war and death, together again. Maybe, also, just a little, it was because he was happy to find out that a seventeen-year-old girl could legally get married. Of course, he was getting a little ahead of himself with that thought. First he had to find a way to get Naru-chan to remember him, and then he had to win her heart without doing anything underhanded to steal her away from her boyfriend.
First things first, he told himself. He parked the Ferrari by the curb and went to the front door of the building where the new Mr. and Mrs. Chiba lived. Inside the lobby, next to the front door, was a bank of buttons with names beside them. He looked until he found "Chiba Mamoru" and pressed the button. There was a buzzing sound, then a few moments later a male voice that he recognized said through the intercom, "Yes? Who is it?"
"Hello, Chiba Mamoru. Or should I say, Tuxedo Mask?" Nephrite said.
There was silence, then the man replied, "Nephrite?" His voice was filled with disbelief. In the background, Nephrite heard a girl's voice gasp.
"Yes. I urgently need to speak with Sailor Moon."
There was another silence. Nephrite desperately wished he could hear what the young couple were saying to each other. Just teleporting in would have been so much easier; even if he hadn't had the vision of the inside of the apartment, fixating on Sailor Moon's face would have gotten him to where she was. But that would have defeated the whole purpose, he reminded himself. The whole breaking-and-entering thing. Plus he might have interrupted them during an awkward moment, and just suddenly showing up out of nowhere might not have made them willing to cooperate. More likely, they would have assumed he was attacking them.
Sailor Moon's voice came through the intercom. "We thought you were dead."
"Well, at the moment I'm not. I'm hoping to keep it that way, but I need your help."
"What about the other Generals?"
"They're not with me. They also have a chance to live again, but they're out on another task right now. We decided I was the one you'd be most willing to talk to, because of..." His voice trailed off. It still hurt to mention Naru-chan's name, after she had completely failed to recognize him.
"Because of Naru-chan?" Sailor Moon's voice softened.
"Have you seen her?" Sailor Moon asked, sounding a little nervous.
"I have. She didn't know who I was. If we - me and the others - are going to get our second chance, I need to know why no one remembers us or what happened back then."
"Okay," Sailor Moon said. "I guess you'd better come up. I'll push the button for the elevator for you."
"Thanks." That reminded him of something. "Oh, and, Sailor Moon? I'd like to apologize for that elevator trick I played on you and Tuxedo Mask. That was cruel."
"Oh." She sounded stunned. "Well. We didn't turn into smashed bean-jam buns after all, so I suppose we can forgive you. See you in a minute."
Nephrite turned away from the intercom to wait by the elevator. It was strange how much better that one apology made him feel. Even if Sailor Moon hadn't forgiven him so easily, just saying he was sorry seemed to have lifted a small weight of guilt from his mind. How much better would he feel once he had apologized to everyone he had hurt during his operations for the Dark Kingdom?
The bell for the elevator dinged and the doors slid open. The button for the seventh floor was already lit up; apparently there were security measures in place where the elevator could only be controlled by residents of the building. The doors slid closed again and the elevator rose smoothly, the lights on the numbered buttons lighting up one after another until they reached number seven. The doors opened again, and Nephrite stepped out into a narrow but lushly-carpeted hallway. Apartment 7-F was just down the hall. He knocked on the door, and it opened right away.
Tuxedo Mask and Sailor Moon stood there in their transformations. Sailor Moon's outfit was considerably more elaborate than he remembered. He supposed he couldn't blame them for being prepared for battle; they had no reason to believe that he meant no harm.
"Hello, Nephrite," Tuxedo Mask greeted him.
"Tuxedo Mask. Sailor Moon." Nephrite nodded his head at each of them in turn. "First, allow me to congratulate you on your marriage."
They both blushed. "Thank you," Tuxedo Mask said.
"Thanks!" Sailor Moon added.
"Now, what did you want to see us about?" Tuxedo Mask asked.
"May I sit down? It's complicated, and might take a while to explain," Nephrite said.
"Oh! I'm sorry," Sailor Moon said. "I think that's okay, don't you, Mamo-chan?"
"Of course," her husband replied.
Nephrite had to wonder how the young man felt about being called "Mamo-chan," and how he himself would feel if Naru called him "Nephy-chan." He decided he might not mind it in private, but he would rather not be called that in front of other people. He tactfully tried to pretend he hadn't heard the nickname. "Thank you," he said, seating himself on the leather sofa. It was of a minimalistic design, but still comfortable. If he had to guess, he would say that the sofa pre-dated the wedding. It didn't strike him as the sort of thing Sailor Moon would pick out.
Tuxedo Mask and Sailor Moon perched on a pair of chairs facing him. "What's this all about, Nephrite?" Tuxedo Mask asked.
"To put it simply, the other Generals - Guardians, if you remember our previous life in the Silver Millennium -"
Tuxedo Mask nodded. "I remember."
"We've been given the opportunity to earn another chance at life. The catch is, we have to make amends for the things we did wrong during our operations with the Dark Kingdom, including personal apologies to all those who became involved in our various schemes and plots, and full refunds and other monetary restitution."
"That sounds reasonable," Tuxedo Mask said, and Sailor Moon nodded in agreement.
"The problem," Nephrite went on, "is no one remembers us. I spoke to the mother of the dollmaker girl, and the photographer, and the tennis player, Saionji Rui. None of them remember ever meeting me. How am I supposed to apologize to people who don't even remember I did something wrong to them? As for Jadeite and Kunzite, they don't even know the identities of the people who were affected by their schemes; there were far too many of them. They had the idea of advertising for the people who had been affected, but that won't do any good if the victims themselves have no memory of what happened. And then there's the problem of money. I'm the only one who has any, but all trace of my bank accounts has disappeared. All I have is the cash in my wallet. I gave each of the others a small amount as a gift, which they are now working to turn into more, but even that might not be enough for us to pay everything we owe. And we only have till 6 o'clock tomorrow evening." He let out a big sigh. "So, you can see our problem. It's as if what happened never really happened, and we need to find a way around that, and fast."
"Wait a minute," Sailor Moon said. "Why are you so worried about Jadeite and Zoisite and Kunzite? From what I could tell, you guys did not get along at all. Well, except for Zoisite and Kunzite. They seemed to hang around together a lot, until Zoisite disappeared, and then Kunzite called out Zoisite's name when he died."
"Kunzite and Zoisite are lovers," Nephrite said.
"Oh." Sailor Moon's eyes went wide with surprise. "Well. I guess that explains a few things. But I still don't understand why you care now about what happens to them."
"There was a time, long ago, when we were the sworn Guardians of Prince Endymion, when the four of us were as close as brothers. When we betrayed our Prince and our duty, that act along with Beryl's poisonous influence destroyed the brotherly love and friendship we once shared. But now that we're more or less our old selves again, that's all started to come back. Getting a second chance to live again won't mean anything if we can't all be here."
"Well, okay," Sailor Moon said, "that makes sense, though it seems so weird compared to how you guys were before. So, anyway. Why no one seems to remember you, or anything that happened. That's easy to explain. When we fought against Beryl and Metallia, we won, but we all died. I didn't want to die, of course, and I didn't want my friends to die either, so I can totally understand why you feel that way about the other Gen - I mean Guardians. I wouldn't have wanted to live if my friends couldn't live either. So as I was dying, I made a wish that we could all go back to being normal girls, as if none of this had happened. And the silver crystal granted my wish. It made it like none of it had happened. We finally remembered, when we had to become Sailor Senshi and fight again, but for everyone else, it really was like it never happened because the silver crystal made it so that it hadn't happened. Except for Naru-chan; she doesn't remember anything, obviously, but sometimes I get the feeling she knows something isn't quite right, like she knows something's missing but doesn't know what it is." She stopped to catch her breath after the long explanation.
"And that's another thing," Nephrite went on. "I'm also supposed to win her heart. I thought it would be easy - I had already won it, before I died, but now it looks like she's in love with that boy. And I can't do anything wrong or hurtful to meet the requirements to get my second chance. So I can't just steal her away from him."
"Yeah, that is a problem." Sailor Moon chewed a fingernail thoughtfully. "They've been together since a week or so after you died -"
"That fast?" Nephrite asked, dismayed. "I'm glad she wasn't sad for very long, but I would have thought -"
"She was still sad. At first Umino was really just a friend. He was there for her when she was so lonely and depressed she couldn't stand it. And he saved her - or tried to, anyway - a few times after that, when she got caught in something Zoisite or Kunzite were doing, so that kind of impressed her and made her feel grateful to him. Anyway, they've been together for more than three years and I think she's happy. We're not as close as we used to be, though, so I really don't know what she would decide if she did remember you."
"Well, there's no point in worrying about it now," Nephrite said, trying to encourage himself. "Now that I know why no one remembers what happened, is there any way you can undo it?"
"Undo what the silver crystal did?" Sailor Moon said. "It's been through a lot of different forms since then, but it still has the same powers, so I guess it would be possible. But that would be an awfully big thing to do, to change history again so that the fight against the Dark Kingdom did happen."
"It would only be putting reality back the way it's supposed to be," Tuxedo Mask said.
"That's true. And the changing things, so it was like it didn't happen, that was really for a selfish wish I made - not the coming back to life part, but the being a normal girl part. So maybe it wasn't right for that to happen in the first place. We still would have been dead, though."
"Maybe not," Tuxedo Mask said, "not with the Black Moon Family threatening Earth. The Crystal would have saved you for that, or brought you back."
"Yeah, you're probably right. Still, I don't think changing what happened is something I should decide to do by myself. I'd better call the rest of the Senshi."
"Then please do that." Nephrite glanced at his cheap new watch. "Remember, we only have till six tomorrow evening, so if you can meet with the others as soon as possible I'd appreciate it."
"Not a problem," Sailor Moon said. A compact pink object, like a bright pink cell phone, appeared in her hand. "I'll call them right away."
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The Nephrite and Naru Treasury