24 Hours to Life
by Moon Momma

5:00 am, Tokyo

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Naru was awakened from dark, formless dreams by a crashing noise. Startled, she sat up where she had fallen asleep on the floor to see a tall, dark, spiky shape standing in the room front of the broken window. The bed was between her and it, and it didn't seem to see her. She tried to stifle a scream, but didn't quite succeed, and the creature turned its head towards her. Small, flame-red eyes fixed right on her and two arms with great taloned fingers reached towards her.

She screamed for real now, and ducked as some sort of dark blade flew towards her and sank into the wall just above where she'd been sitting. Not another monster, she thought in some distant part of her mind. I thought I was done with all that. Another blade flew towards her and she moved aside just in time.

For some reason, all she could think about was drawing the monster away so it wouldn't go after her mother. There was something about her that attracted all those weird monsters, and her mother had been trapped in the fights all too often. She didn't want her mother to suffer any more because of this weird affinity between her and the monsters. She crawled over to her bedroom door, opened it, then stood up. "Come and get me!" she taunted the creature. Then she turned and ran.

She ran out the door of the apartment and down the stairs, unable to see if the monster was following her. When she went out the downstairs door into the street, she saw it standing beneath her bedroom window; it must have jumped out that way and was now waiting for her. Naru turned the other way and started running, in her pajamas and bare feet, in the general direction of Usagi and Mamoru's apartment.

Sailor Moon, she thought. Somehow, in that deep but restless sleep, pieces had come together in her mind. Her best friend was Sailor Moon. For a long time, she had suspected there was something unusual about Usagi. The way Usagi-chan had drifted over to this new set of friends; the feeling Naru often got that Usagi was concerned about things that she would never confide in Naru about; the fact that, now that she thought about it, for all the time she and Usagi had spent together in eighth and ninth grade, Usagi was never in sight when Naru was being rescued by Sailor Moon.

And there was the hair. Naru had never thought about it before, but now, as she ran barefoot through the pre-dawn streets, her feet stinging as they slapped against the hard pavement, her lungs burning and heart pounding, it seemed so obvious. Who else had a hairstyle like that?

The monster was toying with her. It would lag far behind her as she ran, then suddenly appear ahead of her as though it had somehow jumped past her. It looked like it was trying to block her way, as though trying to head her away from her goal, but Naru knew that her only hope of finding help lay in getting to Usagi's place. So she would just put her head down and run past as fast as she could.

Then, suddenly, there were two of them blocking her way. She ran to one side then the other as they threw more of those black blades at her, but she couldn't get around them. She turned to try to find another route to get to where she needed to go, and found three more monsters blocking her retreat. She ducked as five blades of black light flew towards her; they met each other above her head in a tremendous crash of thunder that shook the ground.

She dropped and flattened herself against the ground as much as she could. She was lying in the middle of the street, she realized; she supposed it was a good thing that no traffic could get past the monsters who surrounded her. Why couldn't she have been a girl superhero too? she wondered, squeezing her eyes shut as she waited for another attack. "Help me, Sailor Moon!" she cried out.

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The Nephrite and Naru Treasury