24 Hours to Life
by Moon Momma

12 Midnight, Tokyo
Nephrite, the Senshi

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Before long, the other four Inner Senshi arrived at Mamoru and Usagi's apartment. They appeared in their full transformations; ready for trouble, Nephrite supposed. He remembered Sailor Mars and Sailor Mercury from his operations on Earth; his memories of Sailor Jupiter and Sailor Venus were older, going back to the Silver Millennium. Sailor Moon told him that they hadn't been discovered in these new incarnations until after his death. The girls seemed wary of him but not outright hostile. Of course, Sailor Mars and Sailor Mercury remembered how it had been between him and Naru at the time of his death, and while the other girls only remembered him as the traitor to Earth who had helped bring about the destruction of the Moon Kingdom, they had heard about him and Naru-chan. At least, they all seemed willing to hear him out.

Briefly, he told them about the voice that had come to him and the other Guardians in the afterlife, or whatever that place was where they had been, and the tasks they had been given in order to earn a second chance to live, and the problems they had run into. "No one remembers us," he said. "I looked up a few of the people who were involved in my schemes, and they didn't remember what had happened. And that's just of the people I can identify. I don't even know who all of them were, like the young women who got caught in the modeling scheme. And Jadeite's and Kunzite's plans involved large groups of random people. We thought of advertising to find them, but how will they know to respond to the ads if they don't remember what happened? Even if we could find them, we don't have the money to pay all those reparations and refunds. We would if I had access to my bank accounts, but those have all disappeared, too. The worst part is, we have -" he glanced at his watch "- less than eighteen hours to fulfill our tasks.

"Sailor Moon told me that after the defeat of Metallia and the Dark Kingdom, the silver crystal did something to make it as though those events had never happened. If the other Guardians and I are going to be able to win our second chance at life, whatever the silver crystal did needs to be reversed.

"I know we were enemies in the past," he went on. "I know Jadeite, Kunzite, Zoisite, and I did some unforgiveable things. We know we were wrong; we're sorry for what we did. I know this is no excuse, but we were deceived by Beryl and her promises. We believed that if her vision of a unified solar system came true, it would benefit everyone. She also knew exactly what promises each of us would find irresistable. We never dreamed she had no intention of keeping her promises, or what a nightmare it would be if she ruled the solar system. Still, that's no excuse for what we did. So I've come to apologize and to ask you -" He paused, and swallowed his pride. "No, to beg you to help us get this second chance. Let us have the chance to make up for the wrongs we did, and to serve you -" he looked at Prince Endymion "- the way we should have in the first place. Please."

The five Senshi and Tuxedo Mask huddled together, speaking in whispers. Nephrite wandered away, to show them he respected their privacy, and looked at the dozen or so wedding photos displayed on a bookshelf. As he studied the photos of the happy young couple, he couldn't help imagining himself and Naru-chan in their place. If the Senshi agreed to try to reverse what the silver crystal had done, and if they succeeded, and if Naru-chan remembered him, would she decide she still cared for him? Or would she decide she preferred the young man she was with now?

He didn't want to think about it. He almost didn't want to know. If Naru rejected him, what would be the point in having a second chance at life? He was tempted to tell the Senshi to forget it, and he might have if it was just him. But Jadeite, Zoisite, and Kunzite also had their lives at stake, and it wouldn't be fair to them to rob them of that chance just because he was foolish enough to suddenly be feeling so insecure about a girl.

So, assuming Naru-chan decided she wanted to be with him, she would have to break up with the boy she was seeing now. Presumably, this would hurt the boy's feelings; would that count as another wrong Nephrite had committed? He worried over the question. He wouldn't ask Naru-chan to choose, he decided. He would tell her that if she wanted to stay with that boy, that was fine with him and he would respect her choice. He would probably choke on the words, but that was what he would say. And then if she did decide to break up with that boy, it would be her doing and not his.

"Okay, Nephrite, we've decided," Sailor Moon finally said. He turned to face the group of girls. "We'll try it," Sailor Moon went on. "It'll take a lot of energy, and we'll have to stop if it looks like it's going to be dangerous, but we'll try it."

He hadn't known how worried he had been about what they would decide until now, when relief nearly made his knees give out. "Thank you," he said. It didn't seem adequate, but it was all he could think of. "Even if you don't succeed, I appreciate your willingness to try."

"I think we may have a good chance," Sailor Mercury said. "The main problem is, since the crystal made it so we didn't die, we will have to surround ourselves with a dimensional bubble in order to remain alive until we can adjust the restored reality to the point where the crystal would have revived us anyway."

It hadn't even occurred to Nephrite that he was asking them to revert to a reality where they were dead. "I'm sorry - I can't ask you to -"

"It shouldn't be too difficult. After all, the crystal needs us alive. In fact, it has revived us a number of times since then. Still, it would be better if we can remain alive throughout the process." A small blue screen extended in front of Sailor Mercury's eyes, and Nephrite could see faintly-lit symbols crawling across it. "I calculate an approximately 86% chance of success," she said. "And then if we consider that it might be the crystal's will that we succeed - if, for example, Tuxedo Mask's theory is correct that we will need the Guardians' assistance in the events that are to come - that chance goes up to 97.5%. Aside from keeping ourselves alive, the main problem will be having enough energy. It will take us some time to gather our strength and prepare, but we should be ready in an hour or so."

Nephrite looked at his watch. Another precious hour had ticked away, and another one would pass before the Senshi could begin. But nothing he and the other Guardians did would matter unless the Senshi restored the Earth's reality to include the events of the Dark Kingdom war. If that didn't happen, it wouldn't matter how much time they had. There had been a time when he could have gathered a vast amount of energy quickly, by stealing it from other people. That option was definitely out this time. Feeling helpless, and hating his helplessness, he resigned himself to being patient while the Senshi gathered their own resources in their own way.

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The Nephrite and Naru Treasury